Socialist Worker

Reject new universities pensions deal—keep striking to win more

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2595

The strikes have seen large picket lines across universities

The strikes have seen large picket lines across universities (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The UCU union has reached an agreement with UUK bosses that will have to be ratified at a key meeting of workers in London on Tuesday. The deal would mean a worse pension for workers—and they should keep striking and fight to win more.

Within minutes UCU members had taken to social media to condemn the deal. The UCU at University College London tweeted, “This proposal cannot stand – hideous, retrogressive proposals.”

Others said the deal would be “disastrous” and described widespread anger among new members.

Tuesday’s strike is still on.

University workers are engaged in a bitter dispute over pensions. UUK wants to switch their defined benefit USS scheme to a defined contribution one.

Carlo Morelli is on the UCU’s national executive committee and has been part of the negotiations. He told Socialist Worker, “The deal retains a defined benefit element—something the employers didn’t want.

“The strength of the strikes has forced the bosses to negotiate and to compromise. But the strikes have also shown that we now have the potential to win much more. We shouldn’t settle for this deal.

“And we should keep striking to defend our pension scheme.”

The deal would mean workers pay higher contributions while a worse accrual rate would mean they get less in retirement. Any attack on the scheme accepts the bosses’ lie that there’s a deficit that needs to be dealt with by workers paying more.

It also states that the UCU will “encourage” members to “prioritise the rescheduling of teaching” that was cancelled during strikes.

Delegates from UCU branches will meet in London on Tuesday to decide whether to accept the deal. They should reject it.

Magnificent 

The UCU strikes have been magnificent. Workers in over 60 universities began a five-day strike against the attack on Monday – following four-day, three-day and two-day walkouts.

And the union has sanctioned a further 14 days of strikes after Easter to hit the exam period if there is no agreement to end the dispute.

‘How strikes have changed us’, university workers celebrate their action
‘How strikes have changed us’, university workers celebrate their action
  Read More

The strikes have already forced bosses into retreats and they can win much more. They have drawn thousands of new members into the union and have given people confidence.

New striker Craig from Lancaster university said the strike gave him “a glimmer of hope”.

“It’s given me the sense that there is a much stronger and firmer community than I had first realised,” he said. “The progress made as a result of these strikes has fuelled confidence.”

Settling for a deal that sees workers pay more lets them down.

The deal is also a “transitional 3-year solution”. Bosses remain committed to exploring other ways to attack the scheme in the future.

This dispute doesn’t only matter for UCU members. Bosses and workers elsewhere are watching carefully.

Joe Pisani is a Unite union rep and construction worker. He visited pickets in London last week to show solidarity. “This is an attack on their pensions,” he told Socialist Worker. “But it could just as easily be an attack on us in construction.

“If the UCU won their battle, it would show workers who maybe aren’t organised that they can fight and win in their sector.”


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