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Hundreds of staff at The University of Sheffield will be walking out next month over their pensions, meaning up to two weeks of lectures may be cancelled.
The strike action, on a scale “not seen before on UK campuses” has been scheduled for fourteen days throughout February and March, beginning on February 22nd for two days. It falls exactly at the time that many students will be expecting feedback from their January exams.
Week 3: Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February
Week 4: Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th, Wednesday 28th February
Week 5: Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th March
Week 6: Monday 12th – Friday 16th March (whole week)
It comes after talks broke down between the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and Universities UK over a new pension scheme that could see lecturers lose up to £10,000 a year in retirement, compared to the current scheme.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff who have delivered the international excellence universities boast of are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions.
“They feel let down by vice-chancellors who seem to care more about defending their own pay and perks than the rights of their staff.
“Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out.”
The UCU represents 1,300 staff at the university, 89 per cent of whom were in favour of striking on a 64 per cent turnout. Nationally, 88 per cent of members supported strike action from a turnout of 58 per cent.
Commenting on the strike action, a University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “We understand that many staff are concerned about the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension and that this is reflected in a vote for industrial action nationally and here in Sheffield.
“USS, like many pension schemes, is facing challenges and we understand that changes to the scheme are necessary for it to remain affordable and sustainable. However, we are encouraging the employer and trade union/UCU representatives to return to the table and commit to talks beyond the current timetable to enable all involved to try to seek a way forward which works for all parties
“Industrial disputes in higher education are always challenging for university staff, who are committed to their students, work colleagues and research activities. We will, however, do our utmost to ensure our students are not affected by any potential industrial action and that any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.”