Pension cuts protest sees lecturers and staff picketing outside Bangor University

Marsha Scott
February 24, 2018

An online YouGov poll, conducted on the eve of the strikes, shows that just two per cent of students think university staff are most to blame for the dispute, with half pointing the finger at the university employers.

UNIVERSITY LECTURERS at 61 institutions across the United Kingdom began a series of strike actions yesterday over proposed changes to their pension which they say could leave them £10,000 worse off per month. A paper produced by the University and College Union (UCU) and First Actuarial predicted staff could be £200,000 worse off at retirement.

Universities UK (UUK) has suggested a collective defined contribution (CDC) scheme could be a replacement for the defined benefit (DB) element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

"The volume of students that have signed up has got to send a signal about the dissatisfaction with the situation", Chris Forde, a professor of employment studies at Leeds University and a UCU member, told The Guardian on Tuesday, before the strike began. It said the total loss in retirement for current USS members reduces with the more past service they have.

A petition was created by student Tamara Brian at Gonville & Caius demanding that the University reimburse every student with £300 for lost contact hours.

Academics could lose up to £10,000 a year.

Concerns have also been raised that non-EU global students, who pay much higher fees than European Union and United Kingdom students, are shouldering an unfair financial burden as a result of the strike.

Gyimah said: "I am deeply concerned about the impact this strike will have on students, who deserve to receive the education that they are paying for".

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The march across the Canterbury campus was led by Owen Lyne: a Senior Tutor at the school of Mathematics who also serves on both the School's Education Committee as well as chair of the Staff Student Consultative Committee.

She added: "Some might say that this is only further enforcing the marketization of our education, but lamentably that is the system we live in to me this seems like a rational way to put pressure on the University".

It comes as lecturers and other university staff face changes to their pensions.

Cambridge, York, and University College London (UCL) were among the universities saying they were considering removing questions from examinations if strike action meant teaching on those subjects was missed. Missed laboratory time will be hard to make up and cancelled lectures will not be rescheduled, according to the union.

Current strike action is the effect of a breakdown in negotiations between the University and UCU. Universities UK estimates that those voting in favour of the strike represent around 16% of academic staff in institutions represented by the UCU.

The union said there were "a number of misleading claims" about the planned changes to the pension scheme, which had been "affected by hard economic conditions". Their dismissal of the funding challenges is hugely concerning, the very reason employers and the scheme must act responsibly to protect pensions and students.

They continued: "This industrial action is targeted at students". It will be young people and the next generation of students who will also suffer if their education deteriorates because employers are forced to make cuts to pay more into pensions.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "I have made it clear from the start of this dispute that this mess can only be resolved by negotiation".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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