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Lecturers to be balloted for strike action

Tom King, BA Politics

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has announced it will be balloting academic staff for industrial action over proposed changes to pensions.

The plans from Universities UK could see the value of some pensions slashed by over £200,000, according to a report prepared by First Actuarial. The changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which covers staff at the UK’s “old” universities, are in response to a predicted shortfall in the pension fund. Figures from 2011 show a £2.9bn deficit between the scheme’s assets and liabilities.

However, UCU have disputed the methodology used to calculate this shortfall and claim the pension scheme has underlying strengths.

SOAS is one of 67 higher education institutions across the country with staff on this scheme who will be balloted for industrial action. UCU says they will be asking members to implement a marking boycott and to refuse to set exams. Under such action, students would not be set coursework or exams or receive marks from assessments already completed.

The ballot will open later this week and end on Monday 20th October.

UCU has estimated that a lecturer currently aged 40, who joined the pension scheme aged 25 and retires at 68 earning £45,954, will lose £86,675 over the lifetime of their pension, while a professor aged 40, who joined at 25 and retires at 66 earning £75,000, will lose a total of £230, 251.

UCU leader, Sally Hunt, said “Staff see their pensions as deferred pay and are understandably angry at the impact these proposals would have. We are making it very clear in this ballot that if members back industrial action, and there is no negotiated solution, we will be looking to quickly move to an assessment and exam boycott.

“We do not accept the way the scheme’s deficit is being valued or share the overly cautious and pessimistic view, which has prompted plans for deep cuts to pension provision. We want a solution that protects the pensions of staff and ensures the scheme remains attractive to new members of the profession.”

UCU last took industrial action over pensions in 2011 in a co-ordinated strike with other public sector workers facing similar government pension changes.

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