To defend jobs and pensions bring down the coalition!

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UNIVERSITY STAFF and students are under massive attacks from the Tory-led coalition.

Coalition ministers are pressing ahead with 25% funding cuts, and the UCU trade union is warning that 22,584 university jobs – academic and others – will be destroyed. Savage cuts of staffing on this scale will mean much worse conditions for students to work in, and of course by the Autumn the cap on student fees will have been lifted, to plunge students into a desperate position.

The UCU’s figures break down to 10,163 academic staff to lose their jobs and 12,421 other workers to go in areas such as IT support, libraries, student counselling, careers advice, press offices and catering staff.

The university sector currently employs nearly 262,000 full-time employees, the union said.

Every one of these 262,000 are also under vicious attack by the coalition’s pension robbers.

Major cuts are to be imposed on their USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pension, to devalue them by up to £100,000, and cut a £17bn fund deficit by a number of measures, including raising the pensions age and increasing contributions.

The USS pension changes will be voted on, by the USS Trust, on 22 July, and the UCU stated yesterday that if pension reductions are forced through serious industrial action is inevitable.

That the reductions will be forced through was proven last Wednesday, when the chairman of the joint negotiating committee, Sir Andrew Cubie, used his casting vote to side with the employers.

The UCU is opposing the draconian cuts that the government and the employers are seeking to force through. It has also adopted and is proposing a programme of lesser cuts, that it states will resolve the pension fund crisis.

But as at BA the employer doesn’t want a compromise, he wants blood, and will not be happy until he sees it flowing.

The UCU is insisting that the consultation process which concludes on April 1 must be real, and that for this to happen there must be a ballot of all USS scheme members, on both sets of proposals.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, commented yesterday: ‘We have made affordable and credible proposals to secure the future of the pension fund and we went out and made the case to members for their contributions to be increased. . . .

‘If the employers’ proposals are to have any legitimacy then there must be a ballot of all USS members on both our proposals and the employers’ proposals. A token consultation exercise with just universities will not fool anyone.’

In a consultation ballot in May, 96% of UCU members, who voted, rejected the employers’ proposed changes, with a similar number backing the UCU’s alternative proposals to share costs between employers and staff.

The intention of the employers is to recommend their measures to the USS Trustee Board on July 22. A consultation period with USS members will then take place without a ballot, with the changes to be imposed on April 1, 2011.

This attack on the university staff and students is only part of the attack that is being levelled across the board on every section of the working class – public sector, private sector, the pensioners, children, youth and students.

As the capitalist crisis deepens, the savagery of the cuts deepens! It is in this situation that one of the principal slogans of trade unionism must be brought to the fore. This is that an injury to one is an injury to all.

University lecturers, students, firefighters, civil servants, motor car workers, steel workers, transport workers, pensioners and youth are all in the same struggle, and must take action together.

The trade unions must call a one-day general strike to fire a warning shot across the bows of the Tories and the LibDems.

They must then establish councils of action in every area to mobilise the masses to support an indefinite general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government.

This is the only way that the problems that workers face will be solved.