Three weeks to save term: new blow to students affected by pandemic as university teachers threaten strike over wages
- Teachers threaten more strikes, say universities have ‘three weeks to save term’
- The University and College Union (UCU) says staff can leave before Christmas
- Students could face weeks of canceled classes if staff strike as part of a long-running salary dispute
- It comes after students have endured almost two years of online learning and disruption due to the pandemic
Universities have ‘three weeks to save term’, warn teachers if they threaten to strike another blow at long-suffering students.
The University and College Union (UCU) says academic staff can leave before Christmas if bosses don’t meet their demands.
It could mean weeks of canceled classes for students, who have endured disruption and online learning due to the pandemic for nearly two years.
The proposed strike follows a long-drawn-out dispute over wages, conditions and changes to the teacher pension scheme.
University bosses yesterday insisted that staff would have “one of the most attractive pension plans in the country” even after the changes.
The UCU is currently voting thousands of teachers from 150 universities – including Oxford and Cambridge – on the walk-outs. They will vote in the coming weeks on whether or not to start union actions this term. The union expects a large majority for the action.
The University and College Union (UCU) says academic staff can leave before Christmas if bosses don’t meet their demands. It could mean weeks of canceled lectures for students, who have endured nearly two years of disruption and online learning due to the pandemic
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University workers are the backbone of the industry, but for a decade they have been thanked with massive cuts in their pensions, collapsing wages and the rampant use of precarious contracts.
Industrial action can easily be avoided if employers withdraw their outrageous pension cuts and make credible offers on pay and benefits. Employers have three weeks to resolve this. If they don’t, the blame for any disruption lies with them.’
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) for pensions is run in partnership with Universities UK (UUK), the professional body for vice chancellors.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady (pictured) said: ‘University workers are the backbone of the industry, but for a decade they have been thanked with massive cuts in their pensions, collapsing wages and the rampant use of precarious contracts’
Ms Grady said UUK had proposed cutting thousands of pounds on university staff pension benefits, based on a ‘weak valuation’ of the scheme. She said it would mean that someone who is currently 37 and earning £41,526 – the starting salary for a lecturer in many institutions – will accrue an annual guaranteed pension of £12,170 if he continues to work full-time in the sector until age 66.
This is equivalent to the £18,857 annual income they would build under the current scheme. The same 35 percent reduction would also apply to the guaranteed cash lump sum the member would receive when they retire, she added.
In addition, wages for university staff fell 17.6 percent relative to inflation between 2009 and 2019, Ms. Grady said. In addition to rejecting the pension changes, the UCU is calling for a £2,500 pay rise, abolition of zero-hours contracts and measures to tackle the unmanageable workload.
In addition to rejecting the pension changes, the UCU is calling for a £2,500 pay rise, abolition of zero-hours contracts and measures to tackle the unmanageable workload. A UUK spokesperson said students deserve no further disruption after a difficult 18 months (stock image)
A UUK spokesperson said: ‘The proposed reforms ensure the USS’s status as one of the most attractive retirement plans in the country, and eliminate the need for massive premium increases that would severely lower wages and force employers to cut other budgets.
‘After a difficult year and a half, students deserve no further disruption. It is unclear why the UCU considers it appropriate that students suffer.’