Socialist Worker

A step forward on pensions for university workers - but further attacks loom

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2602

UCU members on strike at Kings College London in February

UCU members on strike at King's College London in February (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Bosses have withdrawn plans for a defined contribution (DC) pension scheme for workers in older universities.

Bosses had initially wanted to switch workers’ USS defined benefit pension scheme to a DC one.

This sparked 14 days of strikes in over 60 universities.

Union leaders successfully won a vote to suspend strikes after bosses agreed to pause the attacks.

Now a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) will look at the scheme. Bosses may draw up a new DC plan.

And there’s a real threat that pension contributions will be increased next April.

Around 150 workers attended a London Region UCU union dayschool last Saturday. There was anger towards the union leadership.

Members of the union’s Higher Education Committee were last week asked to vote on a paper about the terms of reference for the JEP.

But they weren’t allowed to speak on it or to propose amendments.

The dayschool agreed to launch a national solidarity network and to campaign for bosses to commit to a “no detriment” position in the USS scheme.

Some 20,000 people have joined the UCU since recent disputes over pensions and pay began. They joined because there was a fight to stop the bosses’ attacks.

Workers must be prepared to return to strikes.

Ice cream bribe attempt whips up a storm in Hull

Workers at Hull College are set to strike next Wednesday in a dispute over job cuts.

College bosses plan to cut hundreds of jobs—or around a third of the workforce.

UCU union members plan a further two-day strike on 17 and 18 May.

They voted by 79 percent for strikes in a recent ballot.

The action will hit the college’s three sites in Hull, Harrogate and Goole.

UCU members have also unanimously called on college boss Michelle Swithenbank to resign.

They backed a motion of no confidence in her that condemned her attempts to bully and bribe workers not to attend a protest.

Bosses had emailed workers claiming that a lunchtime protest last month, organised by Hull Trades Council, could be illegal.

They also tried to bribe workers not to attend the protest with offers of discounted ice cream.

The college hired an ice cream van to sit at the other end of the campus for the duration of the protest.

UCU regional official Julie Kelley said workers are angry at the impact the job cuts would have on students.

“We need to ensure we have a broad curriculum that delivers real opportunities,” she said.

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