The University and College Union (UCU) released a press statement threatening rolling strikes and the boycott of student assessment by thousands of lecturers from Monday on. Reason for the dispute: changes in the lecturers' pension plans which may make lecturers worse off on retirement.
Press statement UCU
"A sustained campaign of industrial action by members of UCU in 67 of the UK's best-known universities will start on Monday (10 October).
The action will commence with UCU members 'working to contract'. This means they will simply work to the terms of their contract (including their obligation to perform their duties in an efficient manner). If that does not force negotiations then the union warned that the action would escalate to rolling strikes and a boycott of student assessment.
This morning the union said universities should play their part in breaking the impasse on negotiations and help bring about a swift resolution to the action. The 67 institutions affected include all the Russell Group universities and over 1 million students could be hit if the action escalates.
The union has been frustrated by the employers' negotiators' steadfast refusal to negotiate and said it does not believe that hawkish stance is shared by all universities. UCU said it would review the work to contract action at universities that publicly call upon the employers to negotiate and do not subject members to punitive and unfair salary deductions.
The dispute is about changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme - the second largest private scheme in the UK. Scheme members are furious that changes they vehemently opposed were imposed on 1 October. Those changes will see them pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.
In two referendums over 90% of scheme members who voted, voted against the changes and in the industrial action ballot over three-quarters (77%) of UCU members backed the sustained industrial action campaign.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We are keen to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible with minimal disruption. However, you cannot negotiate with an empty chair. The university employers have tried every tactic in the book from slick PR and misleading adverts to direct intimidation and legal threats against union negotiators.
'If they had focused just a fraction of the time they have spent trying to force these unpopular changes through on negotiating properly, we would not be in this position. We want to negotiate and hope those universities keen to avoid unnecessary confrontation and disruption will start to apply pressure on those refusing to talk.'"