Sinn Féin education spokesperson Karen Mullan has called for meaningful negotiations between Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to help resolve a pension dispute that’s prompted a strike at Magee.
Local university staff are among staff at 61 higher level institutions across the North and Britain who are currently staging a two-day walkout over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
The UCU claims a proposed move from a ‘defined benefit scheme’ to a stock market-tied ‘defined contribution scheme’, would cost an average retiring lecturer £200,000.
However, UUK says the cost of future pensions has risen by one-third in the last three years, and the USS has a deficit of £6.1 billion, which by law must be reduced.
Lecturers at Magee took to the picket lines for a two stoppage on Thursday with escalating three-day, four-day and five-day walkouts planned over the coming weeks.
Mrs. Mullan said: “While recognising universities have a responsibility in managing their finances to ensure the delivery of courses and to meet the demands of investing in teaching and research, staff remain the most important asset of any institution. It is important that they have fair and consistent terms and conditions of employment.
“Sinn Féin has written to the local university managements and asked that they adopt a position of encouraging UUK to reopen negotiations with UCU with a view to finding a way forward which gives security to staff on their future pension.
“The strike action this week and over the next four weeks, will obviously cause disruption for students and staff alike, finding a way to avoid this through negotiating a resolution which is satisfactory to all parties would be the best outcome for everyone.”