At least eight institutions across the UK have now announced plans to deduct full pay from lecturers taking part in the boycott, which began on 6 November in protest against proposed changes to pensions.
In a letter to Andrew Dodman, director of HR at the university, lecturer Tom Stafford claims that participating staff at Sheffield have been told they will be docked 25 per cent of their pay, and he wants the money that he misses out on to go to students in the form of a “fee rebate”.
“Our university has a problem with inequality,” Dr Stafford, lecturer in psychology and cognitive science, writes in the letter, published on his idiolect website. It cites an Institute of Fiscal Studies study that calculated that the average student will leave university with a debt of £44,000, and a Times Higher Education report about Sheffield not implementing the living wage when Keith Burnett, the university’s vice-chancellor, took home more than £370,000 last year.
“This is the context for the current University and College Union action short of a strike – a boycott on assessment by Union members, voted for by the largest turnout in the Union’s history in support of protecting pensions – another area in which unjustified cuts are planned which will profit those who have, and squeeze those who have not,” Dr Stafford writes.
He says the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which is seeking to reduce the benefits it pays in the face of a deficit of at least £8 billion, would “reduce the pension for current staff…[and] also impact on the students and wider public to which the university is obligated, who will get less from demoralised, under-rewarded and over-managed university lecturers.”
He closes by saying that since Sheffield staff participating in the boycott “will be docked 25 per cent pay…I would like to request that all the savings made from cutting my pay are redistributed to my students in the form of a fee rebate”.
“The university shouldn’t profit from action staff are taking in the name of a fair reward for working here, and students deserve some compensation,” he concludes.
In response, Mr Dodman said: “We’ve received Tom’s letter today and noted its contents. We’re always keen to encourage open and transparent debate with our staff and will certainly discuss with Tom in due course.”