Socialist Worker

Universities strike wave for pensions has bosses on back foot

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2593

Outside the UUK headquarters

Outside the UUK headquarters (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Solid strikes by UCU union members have panicked university bosses. Workers across 61 universities began a three-day strike on Monday.

It followed a successful two-day strike at 57 universities last week.

Edinburgh, Stirling, King’s College and Queen Mary universities were the latest to join the walkouts.

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After one day of strikes the Times newspaper ran a front page story reporting “chaos” in universities. By day two some 17 vice chancellors had publicly called for negotiations and the bosses’ Universities UK (UUK) had called for talks.

Bosses want to shift workers’ pension scheme from a defined benefit one to a defined contribution scheme. Yet they have ruled out negotiating on this issue.

Dundee striker Carlo is on the UCU’s national executive committee. He told Socialist Worker, “People are pleased there are talks, but they don’t trust the bosses. Some see it as quite a cynical move.”


Bruce is president of the UCU at Newcastle university. “UUK isn’t willing to revisit the decision to impose the changes,” he told Socialist Worker.

“My suspicion is that they hoped we would suspend strikes for talks and then they can derail us and drag out the dispute. But UCU has the momentum.”

It’s good that the UCU kept the strikes on as talks take place. The strike on Wednesday will coincide with UCU’s day of action against workplace racism.

As Cambridge striker Anne put it, “We should be careful not to get sucked down the route of thinking the strike is a tool to get ‘everyone talking again’. UUK hasn’t budged from its position that caused the strike. So we shouldn’t budge from ours.

“We aren’t on strike just to reopen negotiations. We are on strike to win.”

Bosses have used misleading valuations to wrongly claim that there is a deficit in the pension scheme.

Sean is vice president of the UCU at University College London and an NEC member. “We can only have meaningful talks when the deficit is off the table,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I can’t see anybody settling for any deal where defined contribution was a significant part.”

He added, “The union is growing and we’re getting support from students. We’re on the up.”

Workers plan a four-day strike from next Monday and then a five-day walkout ending on 16 March the following week.

The union’s higher education committee (HEC) meets on Friday to discuss “phase 2” of the action.

Carlo said, “I’m putting a motion to the HEC to say that we should have another five days of action after 16 March.

“The momentum is building and the employers are in a very difficult position.

“The action has to stay on.”

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