IT was a march in defiance of what they fear is a grim future.

Carrying a symbolic cardboard coffin, lecturers from the University of Southampton gathered together last night to march in mourning at the loss of their pension provisions.

Many dressed in black or Hallowe’en costumes, including the Grim Reaper, to mark the first pay day with increased contributions from members as part of controversial changes brought in to their national retirement plan.

Substantial cuts to the benefits of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) were introduced at the start of October.

Members of the University and College Union have already staged strike action this year over the “huge attack” on their pensions, with plans to introduce higher retirement ages for academics and replace the final salary scheme.

The union claims some members stand to lose up to £100,000 in the shake-up.

Around 30 people took part in yesterday’s Southampton march, which saw them walk from the Highfield campus to Guildhall Square to join a meeting of the Trades Union Council, led by Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS).

Spokesman Catherine Pope said: “Our members are extremely angry at the way decisions have been made.

“Ours is a private pension scheme funded by us and our employers, but there’s an attack on public sector pensions and we get lumped in with that.

They’re taking away benefits which our members feel we have worked very hard for.”

UCU members last month began their latest round of industrial action over the changes to the USS, as the union called for more negotiation with employers.

The action started with a “work to rule” protest, which impacts on universities differently depending on employment terms, but the union has said that could be escalated to include boycotts of internal administration or even student assessments.

A ballot for further strike action is being conducted.