Teaching staff at 74 British universities began 14 days of strike action on 20 February against detrimental changes to their pension scheme, declining real-terms pay, increasing workload and creeping casualisation. The strikes are planned across February and March and will affect 1,200 students.
Last year, universities rammed through plans to raise employees’ pension contribution from 8.8 percent of salary to 9.6 percent. The lecturers’ union UCU warned then that unless contributions are pegged at 8 percent a strike ballot would be called.
Because of recent changes to the pension scheme, a typical lecturer will be expected to pay out about an extra £40,000 in contributions, whilst getting back almost £200,000 less in retirement pay, leaving them £240,000 out of pocket all told.
Meanwhile, at the same time as lecturers are seeing their pension contributions and their retirement pay plummet, their salaries have also suffered serious erosion in real terms. Even based on the University Employers’ Association own figures, further education staff have seen a 17 percent decline in the value of their pay, whilst the UCU reckons the decline is in excess of 20 percent.
This double whammy on pensions and pay, compounded by an ever-increasing workload and the widespread use of agency staff to casualise employment, needs to be fought, not only in defence of lecturers’ own welfare but also in defence of educational standards.
The university lecturers deserve the support of all students and workers in taking this strike action.