I am just writing to give a quick update on the pension strikes.
The story so far…
As you are hopefully aware, big changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions were announced at the end of January, which would mean an end to the defined benefit scheme and a probable loss of at least 40 per cent in the value of pensions going forward. It is a near certainty that SAUL would have been next.
As a result, national strikes were called by the University and College Union (UCU), and five days of these have now taken place.
Despite initial fears about the scale of the action, they have been a MASSIVE SUCCESS, with campuses all round the country virtually shut down. In addition, students have been hugely supportive of the strikes, and have joined pickets and staged occupations at University College London, the University of Liverpool and even in the headquarters of Universities UK.
For those of us at Senate House, where we don’t really have students, it is important to bear in mind that this is a NATIONAL STRIKE (have a look here for some images from across the country).
However, even at the University of London, we have had a big impact – there has been a great turnout every day for the UCU pickets, and loads of IWGB members have refused to cross the picket lines AND demonstrated alongside their UCU colleagues.
Various School of Advanced Study libraries have closed completely or partially, and the everyday running of the university has been severely disrupted.
What has all this achieved?
A little more than a week ago, UUK (the employers’ group) were saying that these changes were a done deal.
After five days of strikes the position has completely changed – 20-odd vice-chancellors have come out to call for a return to negotiations, and talks at ACAS are now due to start on Monday, 5 March.
There is no doubt at all that it is the strength of the strikes that have put us within sight of saving our pensions.
What happens next?
Wisely, UCU has refused to call off strike action during the talks – it is the strikes that have brought the employers to the table, and until there is a deal they need to continue.
As a result, next week there will be four days of strike action from Monday to Thursday. If there’s still no solution, the following week will see five days.
What can IWGB members do?
I know that loads of you have been refusing to cross picket lines and joining the demonstrations – UCU is extremely appreciative of our support, and we need to keep it up.
Everyone is going to benefit if we can stop these cuts – and we are nearly there, but we HAVE to keep the pressure up especially during the talks.
We’re calling on all members to support the strikes, and to be confident that you can refuse to cross the picket line and join the pickets instead. We know some confusing management emails were sent beforehand, but I can assure you that I and many others have returned from five days flyering on the pickets to absolutely no negative reaction.
I have been speaking to Tim Hall, the UCU chair, and we agreed on the importance of sharing the load – if you have not yet joined the strike, now is your chance to help your colleagues who have already given up five days’ pay.
My final words would be – we are on the verge of winning a historic victory which will have an impact not just in higher education but in the country as a whole! All we need is for everyone to play their part and show solidarity with their colleagues.
Hope to see you at the front of Senate House at 8am on Monday!
University of London IWGB