UCU strikes to begin next week

Credit Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash.

By Yousuf Khursheed

The Strathclyde University and College Union Branch will hold strikes from 14 -22 February which could impact lectures and support services for Strathclyde students.

Strikes come after 294 Strathclyde staff voted to participate in industrial action over changes made to the USS pension scheme.

The alterations to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will be implemented this April after a valuation report of the pension fund was produced in March 2020. Members of the UCU accuse the Joint Negotiating Committee who manage the USS Scheme of using the Covid-19 pandemic fall-out to cut university staff pensions.

Strathclyde UCU Branch Chair, Derek Keenan, told the Strathclyde Telegraph how students will be affected by the action.

He said: “Students will be impacted by the cancellation of lectures, seminars, tutorials and the provision of support services.

“Student interests and staff interests are actually aligned in this fight. A demoralised workforce is not best placed to provide the high quality education and support students deserve. Our pensions are deferred wages. Many of our students will, one day, work in the education sector, so we are fighting for their future, too. We would encourage students to join us on the picket lines and rallies and if they have questions about why we are taking this action, we are very happy to talk.

“We regret that it has come to this but last month our General Secretary, Jo Grady, sent a letter to the chair of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), the body which decides how the USS pension scheme is managed, calling for new UCU proposals to be formally tabled and put to a vote of employer and staff representatives when the committee sits this month. That was ignored.”

The Joint Negotiating Committee is composed of members of the UCU as well as members of Universities UK – an advocacy group. The members of this organization are the Vice Chancellors of each of the UK’s universities and together they represent the institutions themselves.

In response to the upcoming protests over pensions a spokesperson for the University of Strathclyde provided a statement:

“The planned UCU industrial action is regrettable. The University has always regarded pension provision as a key staff benefit, rather than purely a cost. We are prepared to pay more for that if the benefits to our staff justify the additional cost. However, any increase has to be balanced with affordability for individual staff and the University.”

They added: “Academics and professional services colleagues are working across the University to minimise any additional disruption to our students during the course of national industrial action. We fully expect the majority of our classes will take place as scheduled.”

This February, strikes are set to take place at other universities across the UK as well. UCU members at universities like Strathclyde and Newcastle narrowly missed out on participating in strikes late last year.

Strikes at Strathclyde didn’t occur because during the first ballot in November less than 50% of UCU members turned out to vote. UK trade union legislation sets out that if the 50% turnout threshold is not met strikes cannot take place.