Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Tomorrow over 40,000 lecturers, researchers, administrators and librarians in UCU are set to begin a wave of strikes

Tomorrow over 40,000 lecturers, researchers, administrators and librarians in UCU are set to begin a wave of strikes in opposition to devastating cuts to their USS pension scheme. 14 days of strike action have been called at 64 universities across the UK (the "pre-1992" older institutions as opposed to the former polytechnics who are on a different pension scheme) to prevent university employers from scrapping the existing 'defined benefit' schemes in favour of 'defined contribution' schemes where individual pension payouts are tied to the fluctuations of the market. This is likely to lead to cuts of some £10,000 per year for new entrants and some £208,000 across retirement as a whole.


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There is real anger over this issue such that members nationally voted 88% in favour of strikes on a 58% turnout. Many UCU members are clear that this is a dispute driven by the desire of some of the largest and most powerful institutions to 'de-risk' and 'de-mutualise' pension funds in order to strengthen the grip of market forces inside the higher education sector.
Students, up and down the country, have reacted magnificently - supporting the demands of the strikers, turning market forces against institutions by claiming compensation for disruption and connecting the dispute to the neoliberal direction of travel inside the higher education sector that was initiated when fees were trebled in 2012.
This isn't a dispute about a pampered bunch of college professors but a strike that challenges the notion that market forces should play a determining role in university life. The employers claim, using dodgy figures, that the pension fund is in deficit and that they can't afford to increase their contributions to maintain benefits. This comes from a sector whose surplus in 2016 was over £1.5 billion!
UCU members need - and will welcome - the support of fellow trade unionists, anti-austerity activists, students and the local community. We all deserve a decent pension when we retire and we should all have the right to a well funded higher education system with qualified and motivated staff.
Picket lines will be running for 14 days in the next four weeks: on 22-23 February, 26-28 February, 5-8 March and 12-16 March. There are likely to be 'teach-outs', rallies, marches and stunts in most cities and campuses. You can show your support by joining these activities, sending messages of solidarity to UCU branches and emailing individual vice-chancellors demanding that they call on the employers nationally to return to negotiations.
There's lots of information at https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS as well as a list of institutions who are taking part.  Defend pensions and defend education!
Live from the picket line:
We will be going live from our Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/ThePeoplesAssembly/ tomorrow morning Thursday 22nd Feb at 8:30am. We will be at the University of Manchester, Live from the picket line talking to students, lecturers and university staff about the UCU strike. And on Friday we'll be at Goldsmiths Uni in London covering their Teach Out events all day - with speakers including Gary Younge, Faiza Shaheen, Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Natalie Fenton and more...


The People's Assembly Against Austerity
http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/
The People's Assembly Against Austerity · United Kingdom
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