University of Leeds staff to strike over pensions

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Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Leeds will walk out tomorrow (Feb 22) as a wave of strikes hits 64 institutions across the UK in a row over pensions.

Striking staff will protest on picket lines at all entrances to the university from 8am, including the Parkinson Steps entrance.

Tomorrow and Friday strikers will set off from the steps at 12pm and march to Victoria Gardens by Leeds Art Gallery for a 12.30pm rally.

Speakers will include university staff and the president of Leeds TUC Jane Aitchison. On Friday they will be joined by Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel.

The university is among 64 institutions, including Sheffield, Hull and York, that will be hit with 14 days of strikes over the next four weeks if the dispute over changes to staff pensions is not resolved.

The dispute centres on proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

UCU rep at the University of Leeds Vicky Blake 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.”

A university spokesperson said: “While only a minority of our staff are members of the UCU, we are planning for every eventuality, and our priority is to minimise any disruption to students, including through asking striking staff to reschedule their teaching.

“There is a general consensus about the need to tackle the pension deficit – which is in the billions – and doing so now gives us a better chance of delivering a scheme that is sustainable and stable, as well as valued and fair, particularly to younger staff. We already make a standard contribution to staff pensions of 18 per cent of salary and this will continue.”