Over 350 University staff sign open letter opposing cuts to pension benefits

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An open letter published on 13th May criticising proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a pension scheme which Durham University staff use, has been signed by 360 staff members.

The letter, released on the Durham University and College Union (DUCU) Twitter account, is addressed to the Vice Chancellor and the Chair of the University Council. It calls for the University to “recognise the inadequacy of the Universities UK (UUK) proposal for changes, which represent an estimated 21% cut in pension benefits that staff may accrue”.

“Student learning conditions are directly linked to quality of staff that the university attracts and employs, and pensions are a significant factor in that.”

-Iain Lindsey, DUCU Pensions oFficer

Other demands include identifying “the need for reforms to the governance of USS as an immediate priority” and “advocating that UUK, along with UCU, undertake full and prioritised investigation of alternate approaches to the reform of the scheme, such as conditional indexation, to be enacted in response to the 2020 valuation.”

Speaking to Palatinate, the Pensions Officer at Durham UCU, Iain Lindsey, discussed the impact of the pension changes on the student body:

“The open letter is an indication of the importance that staff place on secure pensions as a key component of their overall working conditions. DUCU are very aware that students have been significantly affected by industrial action over staff pensions in recent years, and we are hugely disappointed that universities collectively have failed to put in place a long-term solution that is fair to staff.

“Across the course of the pandemic, staff across the University have constantly gone above and beyond to continue to work and ensure the success of the university. To then be hit with the significant reduction in employment conditions that UUK’s proposals entail would be beyond unjust, and would bring the unwelcome prospect of industrial action.”

-open letter to the vice chancellor and university council chair

“Instead, staff are faced with the prospect of lower pensions and also pensions that are less secure for younger members of staff whose employment already tends to be more precarious,” he went on to say.

“Student learning conditions are directly linked to quality of staff that the University attracts and employs, and pensions are a significant factor in that.

“Secure and fair pensions for staff should therefore be in the interest not only of staff themselves but also students and the university as a whole, and we hope that the open letter will encourage the university to take all steps possible and use its influence to protect fair staff pensions into the future.”

The full letter can be found here.

Image: Tim Packer

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