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University of Essex to face 14 days of disruption as strike action planned over pension

PUBLISHED: 17:53 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:40 29 January 2018

University of Essex. Picture: PAUL TAIT

University of Essex. Picture: PAUL TAIT

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The University of Essex is set to be hit with 14 days of escalating strike action over four weeks from next month, as disagreements continue over staff pensions.

The University and College Union (UCU) resolved to carry out the industrial action after talks with employers’ representative Universities UK (UUK) failed to reach a deal last week.

The dispute concerns plans to end the defined benefit portion of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension, which the union argues would leave most lecturers almost £10,000 a year out of pocket than it would be currently.

UUK said the reforms would tackle the scheme’s deficit and curb the rise in the cost of future pension costs, as well as ensuring universities could continue to offer appropriate pensions to staff which would remain affordable.

The walkout will begin on Thursday, February 22 for two days, before continuing on Monday 26, 27 and 28.

Four days are then planned for March 5-8, and continue for five days from 12-16.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘Staff who have delivered the international excellence universities boast of are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions.

“They feel let down by vice-chancellors who seem to care more about defending their own pay and perks than the rights of their staff.

“Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out.”

The University of Essex is one of 61 institutions nationwide that will see a walkout after 88% of UCU members backed the plan – with 91% of the Essex UCU members supporting the strike.

It is not yet clear how many classes and lectures will be disrupted at the Colchester-based university, but the establishment’s registrar Bryn Morris said: “Our priority is to safeguard the interests and the education of our students as they are always at the heart of our thinking.

“This means we will do everything possible to minimise any disruption to them.”

Last week UUK said it wouldn’t rule out the chances of the defined benefits element returning in three years’ time once funding conditions have improved.

The University of Suffolk is among seven universities where ballots are happening again over potential action.

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