Workers are fighting to push forward the battle to defend pensions as the first wave of university strikes comes to an end this week.
UCU union members across 65 universities have taken part in strikes to stop an attack on their USS pension scheme.
This comes as workers at 12 further education colleges are set to strike from next Tuesday.
There were big rallies at many universities to mark the final day of a five-day strike last Friday.
A two-day strike across seven universities that joined the action later ended on Tuesday. And the union has sanctioned a further 14 days of strikes after Easter if the dispute is not resolved.
The strikes have transformed workers’ ideas about what is possible and there is a confidence about beating the bosses.
At King’s College London one striker told Socialist Worker, “Morale is good and we’re feeling quite hopeful. They have to listen to us. This isn’t just about pensions—it’s about the fact we are watching higher education dissolve before our eyes.”
Striker Magnus added, “Management is in a vulnerable position. Compared to strikes we’ve had before, these strikes have seen the biggest turnout on the picket lines.”
Ordinary workers forced union leaders to withdraw a bad deal that could have suspended the strikes last week. Now there’s a battle to make sure workers win.
Many branches are demanding that the union accepts no changes to the current scheme—the “status quo” position.
Workers are furious at the idea that they should pay any more or get less in retirement when the scheme is not in deficit. Several branches, including King’s, Goldsmiths, University College London, Liverpool, Warwick and Ruskin College have passed motions backing the status quo.
UCU national executive committee member Carlo Morelli spoke to a rally of strikers in Dundee last Friday. “We can win this,” he said.
“There is no deficit in this pension scheme. This deficit lie is designed to destroy this pension scheme and with it destroy the higher education sector.”
Activists are also demanding the government acts as a guarantor for the scheme, to undermine bosses’ lies about a deficit.
And the union needs to name the dates after Easter to keep up the momentum and help activists to keep organising. It has said that individual branches should consider when strikes would cause the most disruption to exams.
But coordinated strikes will have the biggest impact and send the strongest message to the bosses.
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