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Hopes of ending University of Sheffield strike action as talks begin

Strike action.
Strike action.

Talks have begun to resolve a dispute over pensions which has led to strike action by lecturers at the University of Sheffield.

Members of the University and College Union are holding a series of walk outs across the country, including in Sheffield, over proposed changes to their pensions that they claim could leave them thousands of pounds out of pocket.

But senior union representatives and bosses from the Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, have now agreed to get around the discussion table to try and resolve the dispute. The conciliation service Acas will contact both parties to arrange talks.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said she was 'pleased the employers have agreed to more talks' to settle 'this damaging dispute.'

In the meantime the industrial action will continue.

Hundreds of union members are set to brave the inclement weather to take part in a march and rally from the University of Sheffield to the city centre at noon today to make their voices heard.

The dispute centres on a proposal by UUK to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme.

READ MORE: BREAKING NEWS: Sheffield university strike to hit lecturers for up to four weeks

UUK said the scheme is in deficit and the only way to make it sustainable is to change it from a defined benefit scheme, giving members a guaranteed income in retirement, to a defined contribution scheme, where pensions are subject to changes in the stock market.

But members of the UCU insist the existing scheme is performing well and claim the new set up would leave a typical lecturer almost £10, 000 a year worse off in retirement.

89 per cent of the 1, 300 members of the UCU at Sheffield - made up of lecturers, researchers, student advisors, librarians and admissions staff - voted in favour of strike action.

There will be 14 days of strike action in total across February and March.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield staff to begin strike action this week

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the Universaity of Sheffield, said: "In the interests of students and university staff, it is vital that there is a fair and sustainable resolution to the dispute about pensions.

"I have conveyed to UUK our belief that talks should take place without any pre-conditions so that all options and potential solutions can be explored. The aim must be for a resolution to the current dispute which works for all."