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Students' union backing for Sheffield tutors' strike action

Firth Court.
Firth Court.

The University of Sheffield Student’s Union is backing lecturers who are going on strike this week in a row over pensions.

Members the University and College Union at more than 60 universities across the country - including the University of Sheffield - have voted for strike action starting this Thursday to resist proposed changes to pensions.

READ MORE: BREAKING NEWS: Sheffield university strike to hit lecturers for up to four weeks

The university's students’ union said it stands in solidarity with UCU and emphasised that staff are not to blame for the disruption to courses and that they deserve a secure future.

In an open letter, student union president Kieran Maxwell said: "As students at the University of Sheffield, we stand behind the UCU, as our sister union on campus, in their fight to save their pensions.

“We believe that the best education takes place when staff feel secure in their work, because staff working conditions are student learning conditions.

“Our open letter calls on the vice chancellor Sir Keith Burnett to speak out against these disastrous new UUK proposals."

The student union will be holding what is described as a 'brightly colourful rally with samba band' outside Firth Court on Friday from noon.

The UCU said the dispute centres on Universities UK’s proposal to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension scheme. The UCU claimed this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10, 000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

There are around 1, 300 UCU members at Sheffield made up of lecturers, researchers, student advisors, librarians and admissions staff.

UCU members will hold 14 days of strike action.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield pledges to minimise disruption to lectures during wave of strikes

It will begin on February 22 and February 23, followed by three days of action between February 26 and 28.

This will be followed by four days of action between March 5 and March 8, and a full week between March 12 and March 16.

A spokesperson at the University of Sheffield said: "USS, like many pension schemes, is facing challenges and we understand that changes to the scheme are necessary for it to remain affordable and sustainable.

READ MORE: University of Sheffield staff to begin strike action this week

"However, we are encouraging the employer ​and trade union/UCU representatives to return to the table and commit to talks beyond the current timetable to enable all involved to try to seek a way forward which works for all parties.

"Industrial disputes in higher education are always challenging for university staff, who are committed to their students, work colleagues and research activities. We will, however, do our utmost to ensure our students are not affected by any potential industrial action and that any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum."