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13 June 2011
Sheffield university strikers more determined
More pickets, more flags, more placards, more determined! That sums up the attitude of Unite and Unison members of support staff at Sheffield University on strike again on Friday 10th June.
This was their second strike day to stop university management slashing the pension entitlements of hundreds of low-paid, predominantly women workers.
So-called negotiations in the week had got nowhere. At a meeting on Wednesday 8 June, the university had brought what they called 'meaningful proposals'.
A Unite steward present on the picket line told me: "They handed us a one-sided A4 sheet, I said where's the rest of it? It took two minutes to read, two minutes to understand and two seconds to tear it up!"
Management seem more interested in trying to intimidate workers who have gone on strike. Terry showed me an email that had been sent by Human Resources (HR) to all portering and security staff following a 'complaint' by one worker who scabbed.
It says: "Another name that appears to be circulating is Terry Ancliffe". Terry said he had not even spoken to this individual.
HR also says that strikers' refusal to talk to non-strikers breaches health and safety legislation. "Well management haven't spoken to us about pensions for a year!" retorted Terry.
Because the student year has now ended, strike action over summer may not be as effective so the unions are proposing protest rallies to expose the university's hypocrisy in espousing equality and fairness whilst attacking the lowest paid.
So the next action will be on Saturday 18th June when hundreds of prospective students and their parents attend an Open Day at the university.
This is an important dispute because no other university yet operates a 'cash-balance' pensions scheme. But if Sheffield University gets away with it, no doubt others will try to follow.
As Unite rep Martin's T-shirt said: "The gloves are off".
Alistair Tice, Sheffield Socialist Party
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 13 June 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.