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University lecturers support industrial action over pensions

Members of the University and College Union voted by 87% in a consultative ballot in favour of taking action.

University lecturers and other academic staff have shown “overwhelming support” for industrial action over pensions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted by 87% in a consultative ballot in favour of taking action to defend their existing benefits.

Another ballot will have to be held before any industrial action takes place but the union said the result showed that academic staff were prepared to take “sustained” action.

The dispute involves staff mainly in older universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and Imperial in London, with the union campaigning against planned changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

UCU said any industrial action would lead to disruption for thousands of students and warned that union members may also be asked to vote on a refusal to co-operate with government initiatives such as the Teaching Excellence Framework, the Research Excellence Framework and the National Student Survey.

Negotiations over pensions with Universities UK, the representative body for universities, resume on Thursday.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “This result sends a clear message that UCU members are prepared to take sustained industrial action in order to protect their pensions.

“USS members work at some of the most celebrated universities in the UK and yet their pension benefits are the worst in the sector.

“Further cuts in benefits will only make this situation worse. Staff are totally fed up with being treated poorly by employers who seem only to be interested in defending their own sky-high salaries and bloated pension pots.

“The employers need to act now to avoid a major, damaging dispute at a time when universities are already in the news for all the wrong reasons.

“We hope this ballot result finally concentrates the employers’ minds. Vice-chancellors must now act to defend staff pensions as vigorously as they have defended their own salaries, rather than look away while USS benefits are cut.”

The union consulted 40,000 of its members at 68 institutions, including lecturers, researchers and academic support staff such as technicians.

The union will consider the next step following Thursday’s meeting.

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