The pensions of teaching staff at universities across the nation are in danger. Employers want to reform the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) for pre-92 universities – changing it from a ‘defined benefits scheme’ to a ‘defined contributions scheme’. Instead of getting a specified sum after retirement, investment risk will be shifted to employees. This is wrong and it puts the futures of our teaching staff at risk.
The University and College Union (UCU) says these changes ‘would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up'. The UCU has balloted its members, and the vast majority (88% of those who voted) backed industrial action. Thus, we will see an escalating wave of strikes starting in late February and lasting until mid-March.
To us students it may sometimes seem as though this is not our fight. After all we are only here to learn, sit exams, prepare for our futures, right? Wrong; what we must consider is that the lecturers are not only providing us with a service, they are our allies. If we don’t resist draconian pension reforms today, who knows how bad our pensions will be tomorrow?
Our frustration should instead be directed towards the upper layers of management, who continue to profit while bringing in cuts and privatisation. As the Chronicle reported earlier last year, in 2015-2016 Newcastle University paid its former vice-chancellor a staggering £248,000! All the while the pensions of workers are being axed. To simply do nothing and not aid our lecturers in their fight against this would not only be selfish, but would also mean siding with management.
Lecturers at Newcastle University are not alone in their struggle. They are joined by staff at 60 other institutions across the UK. The NUS has also pledged solidarity. We must not isolate the workers at our university, we must assist them in the strike. How can you help? Speak to your friends, raise awareness about what is going on, get in touch with others taking action, and join your lecturers on the picket lines!
For more info see: www.ucu.org.uk/uss
Sign the petition at: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/supporting-the-ucu-strike-at-newcastle-university
First phase of the strike begins on Thursday 22 February with more to follow. Together we can stop this assault on the pensions of university staff.
Strike Coordination Group - Newcastle.firstname.lastname@example.org