University strikers determined to win

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Striking lecturers on the picket line at Imperial College in west London

DURING the nationwide university staff and lecturers strike this week, strikers were determined to stop the pension cuts, staff sackings, overbearing workloads and pay cuts.

At Imperial Collage in West London UCU on Wednesday, strikers on the picket line were winning the support of students and technicians over their fight to defend pensions.
UCU striker Jeffrey Vernon told News Line: ‘Our pension scheme is the healthiest in the public sector with £92bn in assets, if they can destroy this then other schemes will be next.
‘They don’t need to destroy it, they are obsessed with market forces.
‘They want to impose a new hybrid pension scheme to replace our defined benefit scheme which will mean we will have to pay more into it and will include more financial risk.
‘They don’t want to pay us for the benefits of our labour.
‘We will be balloting for a further round of strike action and we will have to move to another stage by demanding a pay increase to offset any loss in pension.’
At Goldsmiths University in south London they are participating in the national strike and additionally they have their own dispute over the mass sacking of staff.
University lecturers and support staff at Goldsmiths University are on their 36th strike day, in a determined effort to stop mass sackings.
Vincent Moystad, Co-president of UCU at Goldsmiths, told News Line: ‘We are still to see any movement from senior management.
‘It is becoming clear that the sackings are not just about cost savings, but are an attack on the union and Goldsmiths University as a community of learning.
‘Despite massive pressure out branch has held the line with 73% in favour of further action.
‘It is heartening that branches across the country are holding the line also, like the lockout at Queen Mary’s University.
‘Our strength is coming from solidarity from other struggles.
‘Like us, the RMT members on the P&O Ferries, although it is on a different scale, face a similar ruthless attack, with the employers taking the offensive against organised labour.
‘The challenge to the trades unions is that all these struggles must be brought together in sustained and united industrial action, and UCU is moving towards this which is a positive sign.’
Also on Wednesday, the University and College Union announced two additional days of strike action at Staffordshire University, unless management drop plans to employ new staff via a wholly-owned subsidiary company.
Staff are already striking on Monday 28 March, so the university now faces staff walking out for two days next week and again in April.
The full strike days are:

  • Monday 28 March
  • Wednesday 30 March
  • Thursday 7 April

The latest announcement comes after Staffordshire University staff voted to strike over management’s introduction of a two-tier workforce.
The union has also announced that its members will take part in action short of a strike which begins on Thursday 31 March and could last up to five months unless management reverses its contract changes.
This will include working strictly to contract and refusing to undertake voluntary activities.
The additional strike days have seen the university cancel an applicant visit day, planned for 30 March.
70% of staff who voted in the ballot voted yes to strike action. 80% of those who voted also voted yes to action short of strike.
The strike is over management’s plans to employ all new academic staff through a subsidiary company on different contractual terms to those of existing employees in the university itself.
UCU said the plans are an attack of the hard won working conditions of everyone employed by the university.
New staff employed by the subsidiary will not be able to access the defined benefit Teachers’ Pension Scheme and instead will have to accept the inferior defined contribution Staffordshire University Pension Scheme.
No other university has denied academic staff access to the nationally agreed scheme for the sector.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We are seeing attacks on pensions across the sector and now employers are starting to come for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
‘No other university has denied access to this scheme for academic staff and Staffordshire’s plans are an attack on our hard won terms and conditions.
‘Unless they are withdrawn staff will be out on strike for three days during March and April and then take part in action short of a strike.
‘This will include working strictly to contract and refusing to undertake voluntary activities.
‘Management plans will lead to a devastating impact on student learning, threatening the university’s future.’

  • University and College Union (UCU) members at Richmond upon Thames College on Wednesday backed potential industrial action over plans to fire the entire teaching workforce and rehire them on worse terms.

The college is planning to sack 127 members of teaching staff and make them reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions that would see them lose 13 days holiday.
UCU said that fire and rehire has no place in further education and has called on the college to immediately withdraw the threat of compulsory dismissals and rethink its proposals to force through holiday cuts.
The union said that members at the college have unanimously backed moving immediately to an industrial action ballot and will ballot for strike action to resist the employer’s plans.
UCU regional official Adam Lincoln said: ‘Fire and rehire tactics have no place in further education and we are calling on Richmond upon Thames College to withdraw its threat to dismiss over 100 lecturers and re-employ them on inferior terms.
‘It is outrageous that management is planning to cut staff holidays by 13 days and fire anyone who does not sign the new contracts.
‘Industrial action is a last resort but our members will not stand by and watch their terms and conditions ripped apart.
‘Recruitment in further education is at crisis point and Richmond upon Thames College must cancel these plans and stop a potential exodus of experienced staff.’