Striking lecturers to lead march and rally through Sheffield city centre

Striking UCU members.
Striking UCU members.

Lecturers will lead a protest march and rally in Sheffield city centre tomorrow as part of strike action prompted by unpopular changes to pensions.

Members of the University and College Union at the University of Sheffield will leave the Information Commons at noon and march to Barker’s Pool for a rally at 12.30pm.

Speakers will include councillor Lewis Dagnall and Martin Mayer from the Sheffield Trades Council. Sheffield Students’ Union are also supporting the action.

Sam Marsh, UCU union representative at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘Strike action which disrupts students’ learning is always a last resort for staff, but these hardline proposals would slash our pensions and are simply unacceptable.

"We have been overwhelmed by the response from students in Sheffield on the picket lines and are grateful for their continued support."

The dispute centres on a proposal by Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, 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

A University of Sheffield spokesman said: "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. Following a series of over 35 consultation meetings, a joint negotiating committee of Universities UK and the Universities and Colleges Union, representing the collective employers and members respectively, voted through a proposal.

“We recognise that statutory timescales have pushed the USS trustee and the national negotiators towards this decision, however we will continue to encourage the employer representatives to undertake talks to provide a long term solution for the scheme which works for all parties."

He accepted that while there will be 'some disruption' this is not expected to be significant and there are plans in place to reschedule any cancelled lectures.