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UCU members back strikes over pension cuts

4 November 2021

Members of the UCU working in UK universities have backed strike action in a ballot over cuts to pensions.

Overall, 76% of UCU members who voted backed strike action. 88% voted in favour of action short of strike. The ballot on pension cuts covered 68 universities.

The overall turnout was 53%, higher than the legally required threshold of 50%.

UCU called the result a 'clear mandate' for strike action and said it reflected staff anger over cuts to the USS pensions which would reduce the guaranteed retirement income of a typical member by 35%.

The union delivered the vote in a ballot window of just three weeks.

University employer body Universities UK voted to push through pension cuts in August after refusing to join UCU in fighting a flawed valuation by USS trustees, which was carried out at the start of the pandemic when global markets were crashing. Employers continue to insist on imposing the cuts despite markets recovering and the pension scheme's assets growing to unprecedented levels.

In negotiations, employers refused to agree a small increase in their own contributions or to underwrite UCU's alternative proposals to the same level as their own.

The union said universities now need to urgently revoke the pension cuts and return to the negotiating table to avoid strike action.

The union is expecting the results of its pay and conditions ballot tomorrow.

After the results of both ballots have been received, the union's higher education committee will meet Friday 12 November to decide the next steps, after consultation with branches. Key decisions being considered will be whether and when to re-ballot some branches.

Last year, UK universities saw the biggest ever strike action with 14 days of walkouts as staff walked over cuts to pensions and attacks on pay and working conditions.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'These results are a clear mandate for strike action over pension cuts and should be heard loud and clear by university employers.

'Staff in universities they have given their all to support students during the pandemic, but management have responded by trying to slash their guaranteed pension by 35%. In a ballot window of just three weeks our members have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept these vindictive attacks on their retirement.

'It is now in the gift of employers to avoid strike action, which is the outcome staff want as well. All management need to do is withdraw their needless cuts and return to negotiations. If they fail to do so, any disruption will be entirely their responsibility.'

Last updated: 5 November 2021