Socialist Worker

Striking for pensions in further education

Issue No. 2129

Workers at the University of Sussex took part in a fourth day of strike action on Thursday of last week against planned attacks on their pension scheme.

But their campaign is now at a critical stage after the university council voted to go ahead with the plans last Friday.

The workers include lab technicians, computing staff and estates staff who are members of the Unite union.

They are furious at management plans to close the final salary pension scheme to new workers, to increase contributions from existing workers and to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65.

The plans would mean workers paying more for their pension but receiving less when they claim it.

“The mood on the picket lines this morning was very good,” striker Dave Bourne told Socialist Worker. “We had a meeting with the vice-chancellor where he tried to tell us that the plans would only affect new workers.

“But everyone knows this isn’t true. If management get away with scrapping the final salary pension scheme for new starters they’ll just come back for us.

“Eventually the scheme will disappear.”

Strikers also held a lively rally on Brighton’s seafront on the day of the strike, which was supported by members of the UCU and Unison unions. The dispute has won massive support from different trade unions across the country.

Mike Robinson, a national officer for Unite, spoke at the rally. “Unite will support you as long as you take action,” he said. “This is just the start of the fight.”

Elena Dennison is a Unison member who came to support the rally. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because in the future there will be people working in the university with a crap pension scheme and they will be asking, ‘Why didn’t anyone fight?”

Workers will meet on Wednesday of this week to discuss their next moves in the campaign.

As the recession bites, attacks on pensions look set to rise dramatically and a serious fightback at Sussex could give inspiration to thousands of other workers to challenge them.

Send messages of support to Unite branch secretary Paula Bartle at

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Tue 25 Nov 2008, 18:29 GMT
Issue No. 2129
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