The University and College union (UCU) has announced extensive strike action after negotiations with Universities UK (UUK) failed. The employers’ representative, have proposed significant cuts to the USS pension fund.
61 universities across the UK will go on strike from the 22nd of February, over a four-week period, in the attempt to restore the fund.
The move to strike came after recent talks between the UUK and UCU were unsuccessful and resulted in no agreement being made. Staff felt “utterly betrayed by their leaders,” according to UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt.
USS proposals seek to change the guaranteed requirement income to a system whereby income may change because of stock market fluctuation.
These cuts will affect tens of thousands of university staff, who will see on average a £10,000 annual reduction in their retirement income according to analysis by independent experts.
88% of UCU members voted for the strike action, with the figure being 80.8% in favour among Strathclyde members.
Academic staff have seen their wages decrease by 20%-30% in real terms over the last decade. Worries about the prioritisation of University profits over providing high standard education, on top of pension-cut threats, have spark the action.
Pension insecurity and a deterioration of working conditions may dissuade talented academics from Strathclyde posts, and affect the quality of work and pensions for students entering the job market in the future, said a Strathclyde UCU spokesperson.
The National Union of Students has called for university leadership to restart negotiations with the UCU, stating that the increasing salaries of Vice Chancellors and Principals juxtaposed with the cuts sends a “hugely damaging signal to both students and staff.”
The UCU Strathclyde branch recognises student concerns and worries that the strike might affect their course. They suggested that Strathclyde students raise their concerns with the University, by email the Principal and encouraging him to push for a recommencement of negotiations.
They also invite students interested in supporting the efforts to the teach-in, which will take place at Strathclyde Student’s union on Friday 23rd February at 1-4pm in lieu of classes. Issues such as quality of education, access to services and the Living Rent campaign affecting both staff and students, will be discussed. UCU are also pushing for money that would otherwise be used to pay the salaries of striking lecturers to go into the Student Hardship Fund.
Students are also welcome to join the picket lines on the 22nd of February, held from 8am-1pm at various locations on campus. Following this, a rally gathering staff from other Universities affected will take place in the city centre.
By Simran Kaur