Socialist Worker

Striking to defend jobs, pay and pensions

by Tom Hickey, UCU national executive (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2242

University lecturers in the UCU union have voted for strikes to defend their jobs, pensions and pay. The first strikes are set to take place on Thursday of next week.

This is a major step forward in the battle against Tory cuts. It shows that workers are prepared to fight—and on more than one front at one time.

Lecturers voted by more than 64 percent in favour of strikes to defend the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)—the lecturers’ pension scheme in the older universities.

They backed action short of a strike by more than 82 percent. The turnout was over 36 percent.

Some 52.6 percent backed strikes to defend jobs and to reject the real term pay cut that the employers have imposed.

Nearly 74 percent backed action short of strikes on a turnout of 34 percent.

These votes are remarkable. Most UCU members had less than a week to vote after some employers threatened the union with court proceedings and the opening of the ballots was delayed.

It’s a great victory for activists on the ground who threw their energy into winning the vote.

The employers want to turn the USS from a final salary scheme into a career average scheme.

They also want to link adjustments to its benefits to the CPI rate of inflation rather than the RPI one, which is usually higher.

This would have a devastating effect on pensions—in a scheme that is not in deficit. The only reason for the change is to shift the burden from employers to employees.

The employers have refused to even discuss a national agreement on redundancy avoidance or to consider adjustments to the pay scale. They will not address the gender pay gap.

They have imposed a 0.4 ­percent pay rise when inflation is running at 5.2 percent.

Rolling

The officers of the higher education committee decided on a rolling programme of strikes in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England on Friday of last week.

These would be on 17, 18, 21 and 22 of March, in the run up to budget day on 23 March.

All university branches with members in the USS where lecturers voted to strike will come out on 24 March.

This is also the date of a day of action to defend English as a second language provision, and provides an opportunity to unite these education campaigns.

As Socialist Worker went to press, the officers were set to meet again to decide on action in defence of jobs and pay.

Hopefully that campaign will kick off with all university lecturers striking on 24 March.

There are three other ballots due to end on Friday of this week. If these ballots are positive, the UCU will have the potential to unite the union in action over a variety of disputes for the first time in its history.

Lecturers in colleges and in the newer universities are voting on action to defend the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). Teachers in the NUT will be considering their response at their Easter conference.

The employers want the TPS to switch from RPI to CPI, ­cutting tens of thousands from members’ pensions.

And they want to charge employees 50 percent more! That would represent £60 to £120 more in pensions contributions each month for smaller pensions.

In the colleges, lecturers are also balloting against the imposition of a 0.2 percent pay award.

The UCU can encourage all trade unionists to unite to defend crucial services and jobs.

We also need to build maximum unity with the student movement—UCU branches should organise joint meetings with their students and with other campus trade unions.

We must build support for the action, organise joint UCU and student picket lines at every college and university, and make sure that everyone involved has a ticket to London for the TUC demonstration on 26 March.

Teach-in for the resistance

With workshops on: Defending the right to protest, Social media in the movement, Defending multiculturalism, Building universities of international solidarity

Wednesday 16 March, 4pm–8pm, Kings College London and London School of Economics.

Organised by Education Activist Network. educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com


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