academics vote for industrial action in pensions row
STAFF at the University of
Liverpool and the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
have voted for industrial action in a row over changes to pensions.
In the ballot of members of the University and College Union (UCU)
in 69 UK universities, 78% those who voted, voted for strike action
and 87% voted for action short of a strike, which could include a
marking boycott. The turnout of 45% was the highest in a national
higher education ballot since UCU was formed in 2006.
Talks are scheduled on Wednesday between the union and the
employers’ representatives. The union said if the employers
continued with their proposals then the union would meet on Friday
24 October to decide what form the disruption would take and when it
The ballot made it clear to members that a vote for action would
most likely lead to a marking boycott and a refusal to set exams.
The action would stop students being set coursework or receiving
formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.
The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is the pension scheme
for staff at the UK’s ‘old’ universities and covers the most
selective institutions including the Russell Group of universities.
The changes have been prompted by an expected deficit in USS.
However, UCU says the methodology used to determine the deficit is
too simplistic and doesn’t take account of the scheme’s underlying
Since 2011, when the last set of detrimental changes to members’
pensions were made, the fund’s investments have grown by £8bn, the
number of members has grown by 18% and returns on investment have
outperformed both average earnings and inflation.
However, Universities UK want to reduce the coverage of the defined
benefit element of the scheme and introduce a riskier defined
contribution pension scheme, with those in or aspiring to the
highest academic grades suffering most.
Modelling done by First Actuarial has shown that academics would be
thousands of pounds worse off if the changes did go through. Last
week UUK was under fire for providing misleading information and
using dodgy statistics in its pension briefings.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said:- "UCU members at
universities across the UK have made it quite clear today that they
reject the radical changes being proposed for their pensions. We
will go into talks on Wednesday hopeful that we can resolve the
However, we will go into that meeting with a serious mandate from
members that they need to see real improvements. If the employers do
not address our concerns then we will meet on Friday to determine
what forms of disruptive action we take and when they would
Gone phishing –
75,000 fake tax refund emails reported
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
is warning taxpayers to be on their guard against fraudulent
phishing emails, after almost 75,000 fake emails were reported to
the taxman over the last 6 months.
Some 74,743 scam emails were reported to HMRC’s dedicated phishing
email account between April and September – a 70% increase on the
same period in 2013. Over the same 6 month period, HMRC worked
with other law enforcement agencies to help close down more than
4,000 websites responsible for sending out the emails.
The emails promise a tax refund, and often ask for a recipient’s
name, address, date of birth, bank and credit card details;
including passwords and their mother’s maiden name. Once the victim
has provided the information, money is stolen from their bank
account and their details are sold on to other criminal gangs, which
can lead to identity theft.
Steve Singh, Deputy Head of Operations, HMRC Digital Security,
said:- “HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund
by email; we always send a letter through the post.
If you receive an email which claims to be from HMRC, and which
offers you a tax refund, we recommend you send it to
and then permanently delete it. We can, and do, close these websites
down and we continue our efforts to work with law enforcement
agencies around the world to bring down the criminals behind these
HMRC asks people to:-
for its online security advice
► Check to see examples of phishing emails online at:-
► Forward suspicious emails to HMRC at
firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete them
► Avoid clicking on websites or links in suspicious emails, or
Further advice can also be found