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Stirling professors send open letter to McCormac over pension cuts

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Credit: Harry Williamson

More than 40 University of Stirling professors have signed an open letter to Vice-Chancellor Gerry McCormac over cuts to lecturers’ pensions.

Lecturers have been striking recently over the strikes proposed by Universities UK (UUK), who are looking to make savings to plug a £6 billion deficit. The changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) would leave those affected £10,000 worse off annually in retirement.

The strikes have affected students at Stirling University since February 26, and are expected to finish on March 20. However, the University and College Union (UCU) has threatened further strikes through April into June.

The letter is signed by 42 members of staff from a variety of departments, from Psychology to Food Security.

The letter begins: “As members of the University’s Professoriat (both members and non-members of the UCU) we are writing to you about the strike action called in response to the sweeping reforms to pension arrangements proposed by Universities UK. 

“We find it hard to think of an employment-related issue that has generated more anger, distress and strong feelings during our academic careers.

“The proposals – and the current industrial action – will damage the sector, the financial wellbeing of its staff, its global competitiveness, and institutional relationships of trust and goodwill for decades to come.

“In many cases colleagues have undergone years of tertiary education and training, with no chance to make pension or National Insurance contributions, followed by many more years of fixed-term contracts and job insecurity, before becoming established as academics and researchers.”

The letter urged Gerry McCormac to wade into the debate: “We are disappointed that senior management at the University of Stirling has remained silent while increasing numbers of vice-chancellors have called for UUK to negotiate with UCU properly and without prejudice and find a way to maintain the defined benefit pension.

“We urge you to issue a public statement that you support UUK’s return to the negotiations and, in line with many other institutions, agree to an adjustment of the current pessimistic assessment of risk in the pension scheme that has led to the dispute.”

The vice-chancellor did release a statement to staff on March 9, the same day the open letter was sent, in which he notes the deficit in the pension scheme and acknowledges both parties have different solutions to the problem.

He added: “I wish to see an end to industrial action, and will continue to support a negotiated and sustainable solution that preserves the best possible benefits that can be secured.”

The letter adds the changes will hit new staff the most. It adds: “The effect of the proposed changes will be least on those in the most senior positions, while they will be devastating for younger and more junior colleagues, and those on lower incomes and part-time contracts (a group including a disproportionately high number of female colleagues).”

This statement was backed in a previous Brig article with Dr Derek Hodge stating: “For early career people, the effect will be horrendous. Someone who starts a career in their early 30’s and retires at 67 will lose in the new scheme upwards of £200,000.”

The strikes are set to continue from today until Friday March 16, and then March 19 to March 20.

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