Socialist Worker

University workers could take to picket lines again to defend USS pensions

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2658

Strikes in defence of university pensions last year won widespread support from students

Strikes in defence of university pensions last year won widespread support from students (Pic: Neil Terry)

The UCU union could ballot workers across 69 universities for strikes later this year if attacks on the USS pension scheme continue.

The union has written to the universities warning of industrial action if they don’t rule out contribution rises and benefit cuts for workers.

It follows a decision at the UCU’s higher education sector conference in May immediately to kickstart a campaign to defend the scheme.

UCU members at over 60 universities struck for 14 days last year to defend it.

But the union leadership, then led by general secretary Sally Hunt, agreed a poor deal to end the action.

This saw the setting up of a Joint Expert Panel (JEP), including union members and bosses’ representatives, to discuss the scheme. It has said that workers should pay no more than 8 percent into their pensions.

Yet USS trustees imposed a rise of 0.8 percent in April, taking the total to 8.8 percent.

Contributions are set to rise in October to 10.4 percent, and to 11.7 percent in April next year.

UCU members say these attacks will drive people out of the scheme or stop them from joining—putting the entire scheme in jeopardy.

The union’s letter says that if bosses fail to confirm that they will limit contributions to 8 percent—or meet any extra costs—it will prepare for a ballot in September. It gives university bosses a deadline of next Wednesday to respond.

Walkout over wage cut at Nottingham College

A walkout is set to hit Nottingham College on 1 July after UCU union members voted by 96 percent for strikes over new contracts.

Workers at the college report a high turnout in the ballot, showing the strength of feeling among staff.

Bosses want to impose contracts that would leave many workers over £1,000 a year worse off.

And that comes on top of nine years without pay rises that even matched inflation.

Workers also face cuts to sick pay and holidays. Class sizes would increase and there would be no limit to classroom teaching hours.

The changes were set to be imposed on Monday of next week.

UCU members held big lunchtime protests against the plans at five college sites across Nottingham on Thursday of last week.

More workers have joined the union during the ballot.

UCU members are set to hold a mass rally at the Clarendon College precinct on the day of the first strike.

Richard Buckwell

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