1. ITV Report

University staff strike over pensions

Staff from Bristol University marched through the city to take part in a rally on College Green. Credit: ITV West Country

A huge rally has been taking place in Bristol as university staff across the South West strike over changes to their pensions.

Members of the University and College Union at the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Bath are taking part in a two day walk out (Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February) which will be followed by more strike action over the next three weeks.

There was a major protest in Bristol over the threat to pensions. Credit: ITV West Country

Nationally the union claims the month-long action will affect more than one million students and will see 575,000 teaching hours lost.

Students affected by the month-long action
Teaching hours lost during the strikes
Striking staff leafleting people arriving at the University of Bath. Credit: ITV West Country

UCU members are protesting at plans to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. The union says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

On the picket line at Exeter University. Credit: ITV West Country

Universities UK says it remains at the negotiating table with the union and is willing to enter into further talks. It says that if UCU came up with a credible solution it would consider it but the financial situation is clear.

The cost of future pensions has risen by one-third in the last three years, and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has a deficit of £6.1 billion, which by law must be reduced.

An extra £1 billion pounds a year would be needed to maintain current pension benefits.

To meet union demands, employers will have to make cuts to teaching, jobs, and research to move more money into paying pensions. This would harm the high quality of education students currently have and future generations and their parents rightly expect.

Despite year-long negotiations between Universities UK, representing over 350 employers, and UCU, the union has been unwilling to move from its one unaffordable proposal at all, refuses to accept the level of risk facing the scheme and is quoting future pensions figures without revealing how they've been calculated.

– Universities UK

Proposed strike dates:

  • Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
  • Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
  • Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
  • Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

Watch the students and lecturers "fighting for their future"

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