Socialist Worker

Lecturers gear up for strikes to defend their pensions

by Malcolm Povey, president of UCU at the University of Leeds (pc)
Issue No. 2251

Lecturers in the UCU union are preparing for strikes to defend their pensions.

College lecturers and university lecturers in newer universities (post-92s) face attacks on their Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). Lecturers in older universities (pre-92s) are fighting to defend their University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

If planned changes are imposed to the USS pension scheme, lecturers plan to strike on Tuesday 24 May. They will follow this with separate strikes in different universities in June.

Strikes will hit all pre-92 universities except those where management has urged the Employers’ Pensions Forum, which represents universities in the negotiations, to open negotiations with the UCU.

Meanwhile, lecturers in the TPS scheme plan to strike jointly with the NUT and ATL unions to defend the scheme at the end of June.

The Higher Education Employers’ Pensions Forum, which represents the bosses’ side in negotiations with the UCU over pensions, has launched a vicious attack on union negotiators.

It has threatened individual union negotiators with ruin if they refuse to attend a meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) that will vote to impose shocking changes in pension entitlements.

This meeting was taking place as Socialist Worker went to press. The employers want to transform a private final salary pension scheme set up jointly between the UCU and the employers into a “Career Average Revalued Earnings” (CARE) scheme.

This could cut pensions by up to £10,000 a year and is detrimental to the equality agenda of the union (for more on CARE see www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=24783).

Any concession on this would affect the struggle to defend all public sector final salary schemes over which battle will be opened in June.

Success

At our national executive committee last week, national negotiators were urged to ensure that there would be no concession on any move to a career average scheme.

The willingness of the UCU membership to fight in defence of pensions was demonstrated by the success of our strikes in March.

The attack on our pensions is coupled with a wholesale attack on further education, most dramatically at London Metropolitan University and derecognition of the UCU at Robert Gordon University.

The University of Leeds has recently announced further job losses, on top of huge cuts last summer where 700 jobs went. The fight over jobs is the biggest fight that the UCU has ever faced.

Job cuts and course closures are cutting off education from all but richer students.

We need to unite with students to defend education and support student action such as the occupation at London Met (see above).

Last week’s national executive committee recognised that fee increases and cutting the education maintenance allowance was round one, not the end of the campaign.

It also recognised that the government is vulnerable to resistance and our alliance with the student movement depends on UCU not pursuing sectional interests exclusively.

We resolved to resist all job losses, not just compulsory redundancies, and encourage branches to explain this strategy to students’ unions.

We also decided to commit equal resources to defending educational provision, protecting jobs and workload disputes as to the pensions’ battles.


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