Students unite with staff in pension battle

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March through central London during the nationwide UCU pension strike in February 2018 – a new strike twice as big is looming

THE NATIONAL Union of Students (NUS) stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the University and College Union (UCU) in the fight for fair pay and pensions the NUS declared yesterday.

Sixty-nine institutions are being balloted in the row over Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions, while over 100,000 university staff at 147 institutions are being balloted at the same time as part of a dispute over pay, workloads, casualisation and equality.

With the NUS’s full support, it means an all-out nationwide lecturers strike will be supported by student walk-outs, occupations and marches in defence of their lecturers.

NUS and the UCU have issued a joint statement saying students stand with staff in the ongoing disputes over pay and pensions.

The statement outlines the shared commitment of both organisations to defending education, and calls on students to organise solidarity action in support of UCU members fighting attacks on pay and pensions.

NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim said: ‘Staff are the cornerstone of higher education and should be properly rewarded. NUS stands shoulder to shoulder with UCU in the fight for fair pay and pensions, and decent working conditions.’

The full UCU and NUS statement said:

‘NUS and UCU are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff, and in challenging the marketisation of education. We want to create an education system that is funded, accessible and lifelong, a system that reflects the needs of modern society.

‘We believe that staff are the cornerstone of the higher education experience and should be fairly rewarded. We further believe that ignoring important recommendations from the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) and sticking with a discredited valuation methodology for the USS pension will be hugely damaging for students and staff.

‘As the representative of students, many of whom are also working in the sector and are members of UCU, NUS is worried that rising pension contributions alongside falling benefits and pay, increased casualisation and work overload will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere.

‘As the representative of staff, UCU is concerned that the sector’s failure to commit to fair rates of pay, tackle the gender and race pay gaps, deal with rising workloads or reduce casualisation has led to an increasingly stressful environment for staff.

‘We believe that the failure to address ever higher salaries for vice-chancellors and principals, while attacking pensions, sends a hugely damaging message to both students and staff.

‘NUS stands shoulder to shoulder with UCU and asks its members to:

  • call for higher education employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation, agree to reopen negotiations on casualisation, workload and pay inequality and put pressure on USS to implement all of the recommendations of the JEP

‘• participate in local demonstrative solidarity action, both during the disputes and the likely strikes, in support of UCU members.’