UCU disputes - strike action

The University is disappointed that the University and College Union (UCU) has asked its members to take strike action on 22 and 24 March.

The strike on Tuesday 22 March is in support of UCU's campaign against changes to the USS pension scheme, and the strike on Thursday 24 March is in support of its campaign over pensions, pay and job security.  The Leeds branch of the UCU is taking concurrent strike action on 24 March about a number of local issues.

The questions of pensions and pay are largely out of the University's hands; these are matters that can only be resolved on a national basis.  We are, however, surprised that the UCU at Leeds has decided to take action on local matters: good progress is being made in meetings with the UCU, and further talks are scheduled (details of which can be found in Roger Gair's letter to Malcolm Povey.  Talking is the best way to resolve our differences.

The other two campus unions - Unite and UNISON - are not in dispute with the University.

During the strikes, we will be doing all we can to minimise the disruption it might cause for our students.  We have advised students that, although many lectures and classes will run as normal, some may be cancelled or postponed;  and that they should attend lectures, seminars and tutorials as usual unless notified otherwise by their lecturer or school.

It is likely that the local UCU branch will picket, peacefully, main entrances to the University. All staff who wish to work have the right to do so and will be allowed to cross the picket line.

We would ask those staff who intend to take strike action to notify students and their head of school.  Staff with any further queries should contact their dean or their head of school or service.

Background to the disputes

The University is committed to providing a first class education for students. In a difficult economic climate, UCU expectations of pay, pensions and job security are beyond what any responsible employer could be expected to deliver

One of the UCU's main concerns, locally and nationally, is the future of the USS pension. Pressures on USS have arisen from issues prior to the volatile investment market, including increasing life expectancy and pay increases in higher education during the last decade.  In comparison with other pension schemes, the proposed changes, modified in response to the 2010 consultation (see the For staff article on the consultation response) are moderate, and are exceptional in still offering a continued final salary scheme to current members. It is essential that the USS remains sustainable, attractive and affordable for all employers and members, current and future.

Nationally, UCU have refused to attend meetings scheduled with the USS Joint Negotiating Committee to resolve the dispute about pensions, and the situation is currently unresolved. As a result, it will not now be possible to make the scheme changes from 1 April 2011.  We are waiting for information on the likely revised timescale and will let you know as soon as we have details. In the meantime, we confirm our position of supporting the proposed changes to USS to ensure that the scheme remains viable in the future.

In terms of another of UCU's major concerns - job security - we would reiterate our statement that jobs at Leeds are among the most secure in the country because our finances are sound and we have sector-leading policy and procedures for change management and restructuring.  The University has never made any compulsory redundancies and we remain committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies if at all possible; they are a last resort.

Following national pay negotiations, the Unison and Unite unions accepted the offer of 0.4% - the maximum affordable - which has now been implemented. Only UCU balloted members on industrial action.

Further information

For more information on the background to the strikes, visit For staff UCU disputes page.

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