UCU says members will strike unless employers agree to negotiations

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Lecturers at 67 UK universities are today beginning to a work-to-rule as part of a campaign of sustained industrial action in a row over changes to their pension scheme.

By working to rule, an estimated 40,000 staff will refuse to undertake extra duties or work outside their contracted hours. The union has warned that if the work-to-rule does not force negotiations then the action would escalate to rolling strikes and a boycott of student assessment.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Despite our best efforts to resolve this dispute, we cannot negotiate with an empty chair. Our action will start today and will see thousands of UCU members at universities across the country stop going the extra mile.

“We are keen to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible with minimal disruption and hope those universities keen to avoid unnecessary confrontation and disruption will start to apply pressure on those refusing to talk.”

The dispute is about changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme – the second largest private scheme in the UK. Scheme members are furious that changes they vehemently opposed were imposed on 1 October. Those changes will see them pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.

The 67 institutions affected include all the Russell Group universities and more than one million students could be hit if the action escalates. The union has been frustrated by the employers’ negotiators’ steadfast refusal to negotiate and says it does not believe that hawkish stance is shared by all universities.

UCU has said it would review the work to contract action at universities that publicly call on the employers to negotiate and do not subject members to punitive and unfair salary deductions.

In two referendums more than 90% of scheme members who voted, voted against the changes and in the industrial action ballot over three-quarters (77%) of UCU members backed the sustained industrial action campaign.

A recent survey revealed that lecturers work an average 55-hour week and the union said that universities depend on staff goodwill.


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