North East University staff go on strike

Ulster University in Coleraine

In total, 64 institutions across the United Kingdom are being affected by strike action over the next four weeks.

The dispute centres on proposals put forward by Universities UK for changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

An escalating wave of stoppages over a four-week period begins with a two-day walkout by members of the University and College Union (UCU).

It comes as staff prepared to start strike action in the latest stage of the bitter dispute.

"Nobody wants to disrupt students' learning - it's the most hard thing for us to contemplate: lecturers at Queen's are committed to their students' education and we hate being on strike".

The UCU claims this would leave a typical lecturer nearly £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

UCU regional official Mike Moran said: "Nobody wants to take strike action but staff at Kent feel they have no choice". These hardline proposals would slash staff pensions and are simply uncalled for.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said change to the pension regime was essential.

Swansea University staff are also in the USS but their ballot did not meet the minimum 50% turnout required by the Trade Union Act 2016.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "We welcome the call from the minister for us and UUK to get back round the table and sort this out".

A spokesperson for Universities Scotland said its priority was to minimise the impact of the walk-out on students.

He said: "UUK remains at the negotiating table, but so far UCU has refused to engage on how best to address the funding challenges facing USS. It is important now that UCU engages on how best to ensure the long-term sustainability of the scheme".

Student unions at QUB and UU have voted to support striking lecturers and will be attending the UCU's strike rally scheduled for 11am on Thursday at Queen's.

The proposed changes would see all payments placed in the defined contributions pot in the future.

"Two rounds of cuts in pension benefits since 2011 have already left university lecturers and support staff with pensions worth less than those of school teachers and academics in the sector's other pension scheme".

Other action is likely to include members working to their contracts, meaning refusing to cover classes, reschedule classes lost on strike days or undertake voluntary duties.

A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: "Universities Scotland is not a party in this dispute but recognises the need for universities to address the funding challenges facing USS".



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