Vice-chancellor of University of Sheffield speaks out over 'pay deduction' row

Professor Sir Keith Burnett.
Professor Sir Keith Burnett.

The president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield has spoken out to clarify the institution's position amid claims that staff returning to work following strike action will be deducted pay.

Academics and university support staff have returned to work this week following a walk out in a row over pensions.

Lecturers, supported by the students union, on strike.

Lecturers, supported by the students union, on strike.

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

However, members of the University and College Union are still undertaking action short of a strike, which consists of working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities.

The UCU claimed university bosses told staff who have not rescheduled missed lectures within two days will have 25 per cent pay deducted and after five days it will withhold 100 per cent of salary paid during in ASOS.

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

But Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the university sought to clarify the situation and said there will in fact be no deductions for missed lectures.

He said: "Concerns have been raised with me that this university will take a particularly punitive approach towards colleagues engaged in action taken short of a strike.

"While the university reserves the right to make proportionate deductions for partial performance where this is in breach of a contract, I have instructed staff that this will not be applied in the case of rescheduling of lectures missed on strike days.

"We will carefully look at the advice we provide to staff to reflect this, correcting any impression that this is not the case."

On the wider issue over the dispute, he added that the university is "actively seeking a sustainable resolution."

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.

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.

READ MORE: Striking University of Sheffield lecturers in fresh row over 'pay deductions'
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.

Staff from more than 60 universities across the country took part in 14 days worth of planned strike action before it was called of in midweek.

Representatives of the union, UUK and conciliation service Acas are due to hold talks on Monday.