Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26938

Posted on 23 February 2018 at 9:54 GMT

Leeds university, 22.2.18, photo Iain Dalton

Leeds university, 22.2.18, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

Lecturers strike around country in defence of pensions

The Socialist Party gives its full backing to University and College Union (UCU) members in 61 universities starting their 14 days of strike action against plans to completely scrap the defined benefit pensions scheme. Here are some reports from picket lines and protests around the country:


Bristol

Bristol lecturers' pensions strike rally 22 February 2018, photo Tom Baldwin

Bristol lecturers' pensions strike rally 22 February 2018, photo Tom Baldwin   (Click to enlarge)

The brutal attack on lecturers' pensions was met with a massive show of strength at Bristol university. UCU members began the first of 14 days of strike action with the biggest pickets the university has ever seen.

Members reported how the union branch has grown by 40% recently as workers seek to fight back against cuts that will see a majority of staff losing half their pension.

Staff were joined by hundreds of students as the 1,000 strong strike rally marched from the university campus to the city centre.

Speakers explained how the attack on pensions is linked to cuts, fees and the drive to a market in education.

Everyone was clear that they want an education system for people, not profit. The president of Bristol Students' Union called on students not to cross picket lines, to loud applause and cheers. The solidarity was underlined by chants of: "Students and workers - unite and fight!"

Tom Baldwin

Southampton

Supporting the UCU lecturers' strike in Southampton 22 February 2018

Supporting the UCU lecturers' strike in Southampton 22 February 2018   (Click to enlarge)

Pickets were out across Southampton campus in large numbers determined to show their opposition to the massive attack on their pensions.

One picket explained: "This is just the latest in a long list of problems we face, which is probably why there has been such strong support for the strike.
It's part of the neoliberal agenda and if they succeed in reducing contributions to our pensions, they will make a more tempting package for privatisation. If our pension suffers, will it be teachers then health workers next?"

Strikers were buoyed up by the active solidarity of student activists who have been building support for the strike alongside opposing cuts and student debt.

Southampton Socialist Students has produced leaflets backing the strike and calling for the resignation of overpaid 'vice-cutter' Sir Christopher Snowden, linking the fight over pensions to the fight for free education.

Nick Chaffey

Nottingham

University of Nottingham UCU pensions strike 22 February 2018, photo Gary Freeman

University of Nottingham UCU pensions strike 22 February 2018, photo Gary Freeman   (Click to enlarge)

Pickets spoke to Socialist Party members about why they are striking and supporting action:

Cyril Rauch, a UCU rep said: "The change from a defined benefit scheme concerns me. Across Britain, university staff could lose between £10,000 and £40,000 a year, once retired. Why should the stock market define my pension in the future? We need laws to protect our pensions."

Another striker said: "So many reasons - it's not just about pensions - about education, universities as a sacred space - it's about being together, about learning."

One supporter said: "As a casualised teaching assistant employed via an agency, I am not part of the dispute; I am supporting the university lecturers who are on strike who work very hard, every weekend and evenings, to mark, sort things for teaching and do their own research."

Also at University of Nottingham, Dr Neil Hughes, on the picket line, spoke to Pete Watson:

"This is the longest most concerted strike action I can remember for 25 years. The number of strike days planned shows the strength of feeling about this issue. It's not just about pensions though, it's also against the marketisation of higher education as a whole. It's slowly dawning on people, both academics and students, that marketisation has to be opposed.
We've seen recently government's plans for making students choose which university to go to on the basis of the fees paid. This is just another example of market competition which has to be stopped ."


Leeds

UCU strikers in Leeds taking action in defence of pensions 22 February 2018, photo Scott Jones

UCU strikers in Leeds taking action in defence of pensions 22 February 2018, photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Around 500 staff, students and supporters joined the demonstration and rally organised by the UCU to mark the first day of their national strike action over attacks on pensions. 150-200 strikers turned up to help picket, with seemingly every one of the tens of entrances to the university covered by at least a couple of pickets if not half a dozen or so.

Notable was the number of younger academics joining this strike, many of whom are on short-term or other insecure contracts. While many had struck during the ‘Sacker’s Charter’ dispute last year, many others were today picketing for the first time.

A key factor in this has been the huge student support at the university. Hundreds of students have signed petitions, including one initiated by Socialist Students, critical of the Leeds uni vice-chancellor’s stance of not doing anything about the dispute, alleging that he has ‘no influence’. On the picket lines many staff commented that the VC, a former head of HEFCE, always brags about how much influence he has.

This position has been combined with very hostile emails to students and staff over the dispute, which have proven counterproductive. This huge support has undoubtedly given staff a huge boost.

The strike also saw tremendous solidarity from the local trade union movement, with local trade union activists joining picket lines and banners from Leeds uni Unison, PCS and Leeds TUC being among those present on the strike rally demo.

Socialist Party members spent the morning visiting picket lines and discussing the action with strikers. We distributed copies of our strike bulletin and sold a dozen copies of the Socialist. We also helped with the success of the strike rally by lending UCU our PA system, a vital necessity given the huge numbers in attendance.


Newcastle

Newcastle students supporting UCU strike, 22.2.18, photo by William Jarrett

Newcastle students supporting UCU strike, 22.2.18, photo by William Jarrett   (Click to enlarge)

Vibrant pickets dotted the city centre as UCU members posted sentry at all entrances to Newcastle university. I spoke with workers determined not to let the pensions assault erode the conditions of their careers further into precariousness.

Off-the-scales public support arrived as bus drivers and motorists sounded horns with each change of traffic signals. Student mobilisations provided solidarity from the next generation which would suffer under pension 'reforms' amounting to little more than retirement savings accounts to be gambled on dodgy companies like Carillion.

A 500-strong rally followed at Grey's Monument with PCS , Unite, and Northern TUC, uniting the North East's trade union family in support of UCU members.

William Jarrett

Birmingham

Aston university picket, Birmingham, photo Clive Walder

Aston university picket, Birmingham, photo Clive Walder   (Click to enlarge)


Glasgow

The UCU strike has been very large across Glasgow and Strathclyde universities. There were pickets all over Strathclyde's sprawling campus and over 100 staff and students picketed the main gate at Glasgow university on Thursday. Students turned out to support to support pickets on Friday afternoon as well.

Hundreds of staff and students came out for a city centre rally on the first day, marching from both campuses. UCU pickets also supported the council workers' trade union protest later that day at the council's budget setting meeting.

The Strathclyde UCU branch is participating in a "teach in" on fighting austerity, in the students' union premises. Pickets told us the deputy principal at Strathclyde had emailed students saying the strike would have no impact but it seems students are coming out in support.

Adam, a UCU picket at Glasgow university, told us: "It's interesting to see the vice chancellors and university bosses divided. Even ours says there should be negotiation. But we need to keep the pressure on."

Matt Dobson

Sussex

Sussex university, UCU strike Feb 2018

Sussex university, UCU strike Feb 2018   (Click to enlarge)

At the University Of Sussex, students joined staff on picket lines across the campus in an enthusiastic display of solidarity, before marching through the university buildings, calling on those still in lectures to join them.

After speeches by lecturers and students, the strikers moved onto the road at the campus entrance to block buses from coming on site. They were successful and the bus company agreed not to send any buses for the duration of the action, and the vice chancellor even came out of his office to "negotiate".

However, he was evasive and refused to give any satisfactory answers to the questions asked by those present, on the university's apparent disregard for the demands of its staff.

Over the coming weeks, the pickets will continue and there will be various teach-ins taking place, organised by the lecturers.

Connor Rosoman

Manchester

The first two days of strike action gained strong support at the University of Manchester with all teaching buildings covered by well-attended picket lines. There was a large rally on the Thursday with speakers expressing the anger felt by university workers at the planned destruction of the pension scheme and the increasing marketisation of education. Students brought solidarity greetings and also handed over money they had raised for the strike fund.

Following the picket lines on Friday, UCU members marched along with students and supporters to a planned meeting at nearby Manchester Metropolitan University Students' Union where new universities minister, Sam Gyimah, was due to speak.

A lively and noisy protest was held outside the building which then moved into and occupied the bar adjacent to the meeting hall. The minister was forced to come out and address the protesters and was faced with a barrage of angry questions about not only the pensions scheme, but higher education in general. Unable to answer the points being raised, he retreated back into the meeting hall to chants of "Tories out!".

A Manchester UCU member

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 23 February 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £

 

Your message: 

 






Related links:

UCU:

triangleHigher education disputes

triangleSupport uni workers' walk-out on pay and pensions

triangleUniversity workers vote for action in two disputes

triangleUniversity workers ballot for strike action

triangleCoordinated FE strike against measly pay offer

Lecturers:

triangleStudents speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

triangleLincoln students back UCU ballot

triangleCollege lecturers strike for a pay rise

triangleCollege lecturers in Wales strike against low pay and workload

Pensions:

triangleTories hammer nail in pensions triple lock coffin

triangleRMT AGM: Delegates focus on the looming battles

triangleUnite young and old to defend the pensions triple lock

Strike:

triangleOaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions

triangleSouth Yorkshire Stagecoach drivers strike against measly 1% pay offer

Bristol:

triangleStop the cuts to Uni arts funding

Nottingham:

triangleNottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay

Southampton:

triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: A report from the Socialism 2021 event

University:

triangleStaff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

Students:

triangleEnd sexism and violence against women

Education:

triangleEducation unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation

Pension:

triangleTories under pressure in bid to remove pension triple lock

Universities:

triangleScrap tuition fees - end university marketization

Teachers:

triangleSchool staff need a pay rise

Socialist Students:

triangleUniversity bosses' pay piles up while workers are forced to strike

Fees:

triangleLots of sign-ups at freshers

Britain:

triangleProtests against Sudan coup reach Britain

Debt:

triangleTory NHS funding won't fix staff shortage

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

2/12/21

Napo

Napo ballots for trade dispute, but members need strategy for industrial action

1/12/21

UCU

Higher education disputes

1/12/21

Scunthorpe

Welcome support for striking Scunthorpe scaffolders

1/12/21

Violence against women

Plymouth: Hundreds attend vigil for Bobbi-Anne McLeod

1/12/21

Education

Education unions lead campaign against Leicester academisation

1/12/21

RMT

RMT strikes against abolition of night tube train operators

1/12/21

Stagecoach

South Yorkshire Stagecoach drivers strike against measly 1% pay offer

1/12/21

Pay

Nottingham and Mansfield trade unions rally against cuts and for better pay

1/12/21

School

Oaks Park school strike ends following forced concessions

1/12/21

Cuts

Building a political alternative to Tory and Labour cuts

1/12/21

Socialist Students

Stop the cuts to Uni arts funding

1/12/21

Fighting Fund

Socialism 2021: How we reached our fighting fund appeal target

1/12/21

Poverty

End fuel poverty

1/12/21

Students

Staff and students unite against university bosses' attacks

1/12/21

Housing

Housing campaigners protest CEO champagners

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2021

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999