The UCU striked in 2016 over the gender pay gapLOUIS ASHWORTH

CUSU has released an open letter expressing solidarity with University staff, ahead of upcoming University and College Union (UCU) strike action over changes to staff pensions.

The strikes, supported by 89.4% of Cambridge UCU members who voted, were called in response to a proposal to abolish the requirement for a minimum level of pension income in retirement under the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Negotiations held between the UCU and the university advocacy group Universities UK (UUK) did not resolve in a solution concerning the proposals. As a result, staff at the University of Cambridge are to participate in the nationwide strikes across 61 higher education institutions, commencing on February 22nd.

The letter follows near-unanimous support at the first CUSU Council of term for a motion mandating CUSU to support the scheduled walk-outs. It will be presented to University Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope on Monday morning, in anticipation of a meeting between Toope and UCU representatives later that day.

Drawing attention to the 10-40% pension reduction that staff would face under these proposals, the letter calls on the University to publicly oppose the changes. It also criticises UUK’s role in the negotiation process, saying that they did not give ‘serious attention’ to the UCU’s counter-proposals, which include “small, affordable increases in contributions, sufficient to retain the existing scheme intact”.

Addressing the potential disruption caused by strikes, it highlights the severity of the situation, saying that “staff members do not want to strike, and neither do we want our education to be disrupted, but the situation is very grave.”


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The letter also draws a link between the proposal and current changes to higher education, calling it “another step in a dangerous direction”. By opposing this change, it continues, students are “standing up for future generations of staff and students” by retaining capable staff at the University.

The letter concludes by calling on the University to “use its voice to defend the pensions of its staff”, before the proposal is finally confirmed in June.

CUSU has also organised a rally in solidarity with striking staff members, which currently looks to be attended by over 100. It invites the public to “rally in solidarity with UCU striking workers” in front of Senate House at 12pm on the first day of the strikes.