University of Sheffield staff to begin strike action this week

Members of the University and College Union will walk out at the University of Sheffield on Thursday
Members of the University and College Union will walk out at the University of Sheffield on Thursday

Staff at the University of Sheffield will walk out on Thursday for the first day of wave of planned strike action in a row over pensions.

The university is among 64 institutions across the country staging 14 days of walk outs spread across a four week period in February and March.

Members of the University and College Union said the dispute centres on Universities UK’s proposal to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme.

The union claims this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10, 000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

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The UCU said almost 30,000 students will be affected by Thursday's walk out.

Striking staff will be on picket lines at all entrances to the university from 8am, including Firth Court, the Hicks Building and the Arts Tower.

UCU rep at the University of Sheffield, Sam Marsh, said: ‘Nobody wants to take strike action, we feel we have no choice.

"These hardline proposals would slash staff pensions and are simply uncalled for.

"It is staggering that the universities have refused to engage with the union and a real insult to staff and to students.

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"We hope students will continue to put pressure on the vice-chancellors to get their reps back round the negotiating table."

In a recent ballot, 89 per cent of UCU members who voted at the university backed strike action.

UCU members will strike on Thursday and Friday and for three days between February 26 and 28.

This will be followed by four days of action between March 5 and March 8, and a full week between March 12 and March 16.

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The University of Sheffield has pledged to keep disruption to lectures to an 'absolute minimum’.

A spokesman at the University of Sheffield, 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 (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), 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.

“For the most part the university will be open as usual on strike days and we are continuing to work hard to ensure that the impact of this action on students is minimal.

"While there is likely to be some disruption to lectures we don't expect this to be significant and the university will work to reschedule any lecture that is cancelled.

"We respect the right of UCU members to protest peacefully and to take industrial action.

"But we have a responsibility to minimise the disruption caused for our students and staff who choose not to participate.”