Staff at the University of Leeds begin ten-day walkout today in dispute over pension cuts, pay and working conditions

Staff at the University of Leeds will today begin a ten-day walkout as they join campuses across the country in a dispute over pension cuts, pay and working conditions.

By Joanna Wardill
Monday, 14th February 2022, 4:45 am

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the city university will join 43 other institutions in a walk out from today over pension cuts, with a further 24 campuses joining the strike from next week.

UK-wide, over a million students are expected to impacted by the action as the UCU said university leaders have “failed staff and students” as the row continues.

Picket lines will be held outside main university entrances on each of the ten strike days and at Leeds, on the final day of action, Wednesday March 2, a rally will also be held, with the University of Leeds student union and Unison branch also joining in.

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The Leeds picket line in December during a protest by students, university staff and members of the University and College Union (UCU) over pension cuts. Picture: James Hardisty

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The strike comes after the UCU said university employers refused to withdraw cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme - which they say would result in a 35 per cent cut from the guaranteed retirement income of members - a move which is set to be formalised on February 22.

TThe UCU said university employers have also refused to accept a compromise proposal which would have seen staff and employers pay slightly more to protect benefits and resolve the pension dispute.

The strike action next week also includes issues over pay and working conditions, including a 20 per cent real terms pay cut seen over the past year as well as “unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of exploitative and insecure contracts,” according to the UCU.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The action that begins today and will eventually hit 68 universities is down to vice chancellors who have failed staff and students. They have pushed through brutal pension cuts and done nothing to address falling pay, pay inequality, the rampant use of insecure contracts and unmanageable workloads.”

She added: “Throughout these disputes, our union has offered simple solutions that would avert industrial action and benefit the sector in the long-term, but time and again employers have chosen to continue pushing staff to breaking point, all whilst the sector continues to bring in tens of billions of pounds each year.”

A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “Our priorities throughout this time are to protect the interests of students - including minimising any disruption to them, to retain the cohesion of our community and to protect the standard of Leeds degrees.

“In relation to pensions, we believe all parties involved in this dispute ultimately want to ensure a secure, stable and sustainable scheme that is valued by all. It is deeply regrettable that our community and some of the wider sector are subject to further strike action, and we hope those involved in the national negotiations can reach a resolution.

“We have already made a series of pledges to deal with issues around pay and conditions where we are able, and are committed to working with our staff to deliver on these.”

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