14 days of strike action by senior university staff are set to take place over a four week period starting from 22nd February, following disputes between academics and schools over proposed changes to their pensions. Members of the University and College Union will walk out of 61 institutions around the UK, after the employers’ union forced through reforms to the pension scheme that could leave staff around £10,000 worse off a year in retirement.
One quarter of the senior academic and support staff are UCU members, and they voted overwhelming for strike action, 89% yes with a 57% turnout. It is hoped that a resolution can still be reached to halt the strikes, but the deadline is fast approaching. Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Vito Anton Muscatelli, first of his name and claimer of expenses for bottled water, has asked staff to reconsider the strike.
Almost half of the lecturers at this university are employed on part-time, precarious contracts. They have also been experiencing real terms pay cuts in recent years. The changes to pensions are just another blow to staff struggling with conditions and pay.
The UCU have asked students to support the strike by emailing their vice chancellors and joining student demonstrations on strike days. If that isn’t possible, don’t cross the picket lines. Strikes have to be disruptive to have any effect, and boycotting the university on those days makes a statement. It’s understandable that these industrial actions are inconvenient, especially for students with imminent deadlines, but staff need our support. Lecturers and support staff want to teach, but they can’t be expected to work for pennies or sacrifice a decent retirement.
People working at this university, and in further and higher education around the country, deserve a decent pension once they retire from what can be a long and challenging career. And they need our backing now, so they can continue to teach and support generations of future students.
[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]
[qmunicate magazine] fully endorse and support the UCU strike. We believe in the rights of workers to organise and demand full and fair compensation for their labour, and believe that the university teaching staff are absolutely vital to the experience and enrichment of students and the running of the university as a whole. These staff deserve fair pensions which reflect their integral role in university life, and deserve to be acknowledged and treated by the university as vital to the universities success.