Socialist Worker

Education round up: ‘Try living on my salary’, say Birmingham strikers

Issue No. 2670

Birmingham strikers are standing strong

Birmingham strikers are standing strong (Pic: Unison University of Birmingham)


Around 300 Birmingham university caterers, cleaners, security guards and other support staff struck on Monday and Tuesday this week.

They were their fourth and fifth strike days this year.

The Unison union members’ demands include an above-inflation pay rise and action to close the gender pay gap.

The branch said, “Disputes are often known to be just about ‘pay’. Ours is about much more than that—it is about pay, equality, and working conditions.”

Unison branch secretary Mike Moore said, “The university has failed to realise the strength of feeling about this and the extent to which our members need a proper pay rise.

“One of our members addressed a letter directly to the university’s vice chancellor last month.

“She told him that she has to work two jobs and often spends the entire weekend without sleep to balance family commitments and night work.

“She challenged him to try and live on the same salary for just a short period of time.

“We delivered the letter on her behalf four weeks ago but still haven’t received a reply.”


Ballot looms over attacks on university pensions

The UCU union was set to ballot members across 69 universities from Monday of next week for strikes over pensions.

The ballot involves members of the USS pension scheme.

The USS Joint Negotiating Committee has backed a plan by bosses to raise pension contributions to 9.6 percent of salary.

Workers currently pay 8.8 percent, and could face a rise to 11 percent by 2021.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the rises are “unnecessary and unfair”.

“These increases may force some members to leave USS, jeopardising not only individual retirement plans but the future of the scheme,” she said.

Prepared

“Unless universities are prepared to pick up the increased costs, they will face another round of strikes.” Bosses proposed a deal that would see contributions limited to 9.1 percent—in return for a two-year ban on any strike ballots over pensions.

The UCU said this was a “ludicrous condition” and rejected it.

Many union members have rightly argued that workers should face “no detriment” to their pensions.

The scheme is not in deficit, and there is no reason why workers should either pay more in contributions or get less when they retire.

A series of pension strikes last year reinvigorated the union and showed the power of workers.

More action can protect pensions and push back the bosses.

For a full list of the universities involved in the ballot go to bit.ly/UCUballot

East London college strike 

Workers at the Tower Hamlets site of New City College in east London struck on Friday of last week. The walkout was the sixth day of action by UCU union members in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Workers want a decent pay rise, having seen the value of their pay fall by 25 percent over the past decade. But they are also furious at rising workloads and attacks on contracts.

Workers are also angry at how bosses are clamping down on students.

Strikes at other colleges have won above-inflation pay deals and improvements to conditions.

More action can beat back the bosses.


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