Lancaster University staff plan strikes in pension row

Lancaster University employee strikes are reportedly “inevitable” amid an ongoing dispute over pension cut plans.

Last month (August), the University and College Union (UCU) emailed more than 50,000 members in Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) institutions inviting them to a meeting to outline their preparation to ballot and take part in industrial action.

Strikes during the current academic year, potentially in November or December, will be a result of proposals to cut thousands of pounds from the retirement benefits of staff in the USS pension scheme, with a member on a £42,000 lecturer’s salary likely to receive a 35% loss to their retirement income.

Lancaster UCU branch president Sunil Banga commented that industrial action is “inevitable” after the USS Joint Negotiating Committee voted through the move.

“It is really frustrating, and aggravating, that once again employers’ proposals to cut our benefits were voted through on the JNC chair’s casting vote. Lancaster UCU condemns the employers’ intransigence and unwillingness to work with us to find a solution to the pensions crisis, which is threatening to disrupt the higher education sector once again,” he said.

According to a Lancaster University spokesperson, Universities UK  developed a package of possible changes to the scheme to bring contributions down to more affordable levels and still deliver a “very competitive and sustainable” pension scheme.

The spokesperson explained that Lancaster and other universities have lobbied “strongly for the best deal possible”, since neither employers nor scheme members can afford to pay higher contributions, adding that any potential impact on students due to strike action is “extremely concerning” and the university will seek to mitigate it as a priority.

“Employers and scheme members were facing escalating contributions from October, as members would have seen their payments rise from 9.6% of their salary to 11%, while for employers, it would increase from 21.1% of their salary to 23.7%. The changes mean new rates of 21.4% for employers and 9.8% for members will apply instead,” the spokesperson said.