Striking nurse lecturers warn that pension cuts will deter new recruits

Lecturers continue industrial action over planned pension changes, rejecting latest deal
Picket line

London lecturers on the picket line, protesting plans to slash pensions

Striking nurse lecturers have again warned of a ‘serious’ impact on workforce supply as a proposed deal to end the row over pension changes was rejected.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted yesterday (13 March) not to accept the deal that had been agreed between their representatives and employers.

Lecturers at 60 universities across the UK are staging a week-long strike – the latest in a series of industrial actions – with many either staying at home or on picket lines.

Among their numbers is mental health nurse and City, University of London professor of collaborative mental health nursing Alan Simpson.

March to Westminster

Speaking to Nursing Standard as he prepared to join thousands of fellow academics on a march to Westminster today (14 March), Professor Simpson said he feared pension changes would deter NHS nurses from switching to education.

He said: ‘The USS pension is already inferior to the NHS one – which itself is hardly great – and these changes will only make it worse.

‘I’m 60 now. I probably won’t be able to retire until I’m 70 and I stand to lose £10,000 from the value of my pension once I get there.

‘We are already struggling to recruit nurses to become lecturers and the deal that was offered falls way short of what we were hoping for.’

Professor Simpson and his colleagues are angry at proposals by the group representing their employers, Universities UK (UUK), to alter the Universities Superannuation Scheme from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution one instead.

Defined benefit schemes – sometimes called 'final salary' or 'career average' – are based on a person's salary and years of service, whereas defined contribution schemes are based on how much money is paid in and is dependent on investments.

Rejected deal

After six days of talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, UCU and UUK had agreed a deal thought to include an agreement to pause the proposed changes and arrange an independent review of the pension fund’s rumoured £6.1 billion deficit.

However, staff are said to have been particularly angry that part of the proposed deal included an undertaking by the UCU to encourage its members to prioritise the rescheduling of teaching lost during the strike in order to minimise the disruption to students.

A statement issued by UCU confirmed the local branches had voted overwhelmingly to reject the deal.

Last week the union said that universities would be hit with a second wave of 14 strike days targeted at exams and assessments if the dispute was not resolved.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal.

'Members have the final say'

‘UCU's greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.

‘We want urgent talks with the universities' representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.'

A statement from UUK said: ‘It is hugely disappointing that students’ education will be further disrupted through continued strike action.’

Further information

University pensions strike: RCN’s Janet Davies extends message of support

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