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

University and College Union members halfway through series of strikes about pension contributions they say will leave lecturers £10,000 worse off in retirement
SOAS picket

University and College Union members halfway through series of strikes about pension contributions they say will leave lecturers £10,000 worse off in retirement

Lecturers outside Senate House in London – one of a number of pickets across the country

The RCN has now offered its support to university lecturers who are taking part in industrial action following a row over threats to change their pensions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are halfway through a planned series of strikes which are continuing this week with a four-day walkout that began on 5 March.

The dispute centres on proposals by the employers’ representatives the Universities UK (UUK) to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension.

Pay own money into defined contribution scheme

UCU claims this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up because they would have to pay their own money into a defined contribution scheme instead.

Previously, the RCN had not followed other unions, including the British Medical Association which represents medical academics, in issuing a message of support to the striking lecturers who hold dual membership.

It had posted messages on Twitter insisting it was not directly in dispute with UUK, nor part of collective bargaining in the higher education sector.

‘We have every sympathy’

However, this week RCN general secretary Janet Davies issued a statement saying: ‘We have every sympathy with those opposing these pension proposals and extend a message of support.

‘Any member of the RCN who wishes to express their solidarity with their sister union, in a personal capacity, during their breaks or free time, is encouraged to do so.

‘However, the RCN is not in dispute with the university employers and not a party to this industrial action.’

Joint RCN and UCU membership

Cardiff University mental health nursing professor Ben Hannigan is one of the members striking.

The former east London community mental health nurse holds joint RCN and UCU membership.

After receiving a tweet from the RCN explaining it was not getting involved, Professor Hannigan tweeted: 

He also suggested the changes being proposed would lead to a shortage of nursing lecturers as nurses would be unwilling to give up their NHS pensions to move onto the UUK proposed scheme.

Welcomed show of support

Professor Hannigan welcomed the RCN's show of support. 

Speaking directly to Nursing Standard after spending another day on the picket lines Professor Hannigan added: ‘It’s important the RCN has done this and I am grateful to them.

‘However, I do still think they could have gone much further and actually publicly recognised the impact these pensions changes will have on the supply of nursing lecturers and nursing researchers.’

Talks between UCU and UUK at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service are continuing.

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