University lecturers strike in pension row

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Crowds gather in University Square as strike action begins on Monday. Pic © JMU Journalism

Lecturers at the University of Liverpool walked out on strike for three days this week in a nationwide dispute over pensions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) took industrial action at 61 UK institutions – excluding Liverpool John Moores and Hope Universities – with more strikes planned for next week if the row is not resolved.

The President of Universities UK, Janet Beer, who is also the Vice Chancellor of University of Liverpool, had the dispute land at the door of her private office when students backing the strike invaded and occupied the fifth floor of the Foundation Building on Brownlow Hill.

The protesters issued a press release stating that they “act independently but fully in support of the University and College Union”, demanding that Vice Chancellor Beer should “guarantee the maintenance of defined benefits for all members” and “be held accountable for her actions in this dispute”.

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Liverpool Guild of Students said it “stands in full support” of the strikes taken by lecturers and peaceful operations by students.

University employers want to end the defined benefit pension scheme in favour of a new proposed system, which the union claims will result in lecturers being 10,000 a year worse off in retirement. However, employers say the scheme has a deficit of more than £6bn.

Strike poster supporting the industrial action by lecturers. Pic © JMU Journalism

Anthony O’Hanlon, who works in Liverpool University’s Professional Services department, told JMU Journalism: “What this means is that on average staff are going to lose about 20% of their pension and retirement funds, but this can go up to 40% for younger staff, so we’re striking over the pensions. We’re taking action over this dispute.

“We will continue to strike until they negotiate the pension with us. There are talks today [Tuesday], but they haven’t put the defined benefit scheme on the table, so talks will continue and we will not go back in until that’s resolved. We will continue to fight until we win this.”

Royal Mail workers have refused to cross picket lines at the front of each Liverpool University building affected.

Students have also come together asking for a refund of up to £1,000 depending on how many days of teaching they will lose to the strikes, with an online petition demanding compensation now reaching more than 7,500 signatures.

Talks are ongoing, though with no resolution in sight at present.

JMU Journalism attempted to contact Universities UK and the University of Liverpool for comment, but did not receive a response.

About Amy Harding, JMU Journalism