University Lecturers Strike Over Pension Disputes
UK lecturers are striking across a four-week period in protest of their pensions being cut.
Disputes were triggered by the Universities UK’s (UUK) proposal to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which will leave lecturer pensions £10,000 a year worse off, according to the University and College Union (UCU). In response to this, the UCU has organised a period of strikes between 22 February and 16 March, with 61 universities likely to demonstrate.
Sally Hunt, general secretary at UCU, has described this as “the most disruptive strike action ever seen on UK campuses”, with only seven universities failing to reach the 50% turnout required for action to be allowed.
“This strike is crucial in fighting back against one aspect of the much wider problem of the marketisation of higher education”.
The National Union of Students (NUS) released a statement in support of the strike, saying “we believe that fairly rewarded staff are the cornerstone of the university experience” and that a cut to staff pensions will be “hugely damaging if implemented”. They went on to say they believe that cuts would lead to a “demotivated and unhappy workforce” resulting in “recruitment and retention problems”.
Clare Paterson, a fourth year student studying at the University of Glasgow, is backing her lecturers. She said: “I completely support the strike” explaining that “this strike is crucial in fighting back against one aspect of the much wider problem of the marketisation of higher education”.
Paterson also hopes that other students will support their lecturers striking and adds, “[students should] direct any anger or requests for the strike to be resolved to the management of their university and UUK, not to the unions or the lecturers themselves.”
Other students, however, are concerned how striking action may impact their studies as strikes will involve picket lines, walk-outs and cancelled classes. Students who pay tuition fees have spoken out and suggested students be given financial compensation for the disturbance to their education.
Conrad Whitcroft White, a politics student at the University of York, has launched a petition demanding a £300 refund to students who lose contact hours due to the strike. In an interview with The Guardian, he explains that, though he is in full support of the strikes, he still believes paying students deserve “consumer rights”.
When asked for their response concerning student compensation, Hunt said, “students are understandably worried about what may happen, and angry that their universities appear to be doing absolutely nothing”. She added that “anything that focuses principals’ minds – even at this late stage – is to be welcomed.”
Hunt encourages students to get in touch with their principal and “ask exactly what they are doing to try and bring the dispute to an end.”
The UCU has produced an email template that students can send to their university principals and vice chancellors.