Welsh universities are set to face two weeks of strikes after a row around pensions, which some say will shortchange them of £10,000. Members of the UCU (University and College Union), which includes lecturers and other academic staff from four Welsh universities, will strike on an unprecedented scale on February 22.
The fierce debate comes in response to the proposals to remove the defined benefit element of the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme), which, according to members of the Union, would lead to shortcomings of £10,000 per year in retirement, estimated to total over £200,000.
Members of staff from Bangor, Aberystwyth, University of Wales and Cardiff University recognised the potential disruption for student’s work, but UCU general secretary Sally Hunt argued: “Staff who have delivered the international excellence vice-chancellors use to justify their own lavish pay and perks are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by leaders who seem to care more about defending their own perks than the rights of their staff.”
The UCU met with Universities UK (UUK), the representative for the employers recently, but failed to reach agreement. The chair’s vote was definitive, and the UUK’s plans were forced through. An escalating wave of strikes have been lined up in response, beginning with an initial 5-day walkout.
In their recent ballot, UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action, with 88% of voters backing strike action, and 93% in favour of action short of a strike (of a 58% turnout). Swansea University UCU members are being balloted.
A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: “The university has yet to receive formal notification, however we are aware of the proposed strike action and will ensure the impact on university business is minimised. A university-wide contingency group has been established to consider what measures will need to be taken to ensure day to day activities – including key activities of teaching and research – can continue. It remains an on-going issue and staff and students will receive regular updates once more details are known.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) have backed more talks.