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Essex University staff walk out in row over pensions

Essex University staff walk out in row over pensions

The first in a series of strikes by university workers has been held across Scotland in a bitter row over pensions.

University lecturers are manning the picket lines as they begin their most severe strike to date over changes to their pensions. A paper produced by the University and College Union (UCU) and First Actuarial predicted staff could be £200,000 worse off at retirement.

He said: "The Universities Superannuation Scheme needs to be properly funded and University employers need to be prepared to negotiate with the UCU to keep the Universities Defined Benefit Scheme open".

As staff at 65 universities walked out, more vice-chancellors called for fresh negotiations, with Chris Day, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, saying that he "absolutely support [ed]" the strike.

The clash between students occurred in an academic building on the University of Sussex campus after protesters disrupted a psychology lecture with chants to join the lecturers on strike.

An estimated 1 million students could be impacted. The UCU puts the figure at as much as £10,000 a year.

"In a rare show of unity, both Labour and the Tories are now telling Universities UK to get back round the table with us".

Speaking to Varsity, an anonymous global student expressed her frustration over both the conditions that forced staff to strike and its financial cost: "As an worldwide student paying extortionate fees, I find it disgusting that the staff have been driven to this necessity, and if possible will be contacting the university for reimbursement". "I can't within my time in UCU remember anything as serious", she says.

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"The group of students, who carried banners and flares, cheered and shouted as they moved through the town around market square, down Senate House Passage and Burrell's Walk, then past the University Library to the Sidgwick site".

Nonetheless, she blamed those making decisions about university pensions rather than the lecturers themselves for the impact the strikes could have on her studies.

"Staff forced out on strike today will no doubt look at the salaries enjoyed by some of those in charge of the scheme and wonder what exactly they are doing to justify the salary and safeguard the pensions". Missed laboratory time will be hard to make up and cancelled lectures will not be rescheduled, according to the union.

A UUK spokesperson said on Thursday 22 February: "Union leaders need to listen to the concerns of the Pensions Regulator and USS".

New polling commissioned by the UCU has found that the majority (61%) support strike action by university staff, with almost a fifth (19%) opposed.

A UUK spokesman 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. Employers are committed to continuing to pay in 18% to staff pensions for the next five years, double the private sector average". If a credible, affordable solution were to be put forward by the union, employers would want to consider it.

Academics already face pay rises below inflation, an insecure career path and increasing workloads, Sally Hunt, general-secretary of the London-based union, told a press conference.

They continued: "This industrial action is targeted at students".


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