End bosses’ attacks on pay, pensions and conditions

Why we’re striking

UCU strikers march in London Photo: Paul Mattsson

UCU strikers march in London Photo: Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

A UCU member

Can love bloom on the picket line? We are about to find out. Starting on Valentine’s Day, the University and College Union (UCU) has called an almost three-week-long strike.

Two strikes are rolled into one: the strike over the cuts to the USS pension scheme will take place 14-18 and 21-22 of February, while the strike on casualisation, low pay, the gender pay gap and overworking (collectively known as the ‘Four Fights’) will take place between the 21-22 of February and the 28-2 of March. This means that branches striking on both issues will be out for a combined ten days. Unison members at ten unis are also taking action on pay and pensions.

This strike, the second already in this academic year, shows that university bosses’ strategy of weathering the storm until the summer break comes will not work. The result of their strategy is only going to mean more strikes from a workforce that finds itself at breaking point.

On the issue of pensions, UCU submitted a proposal for the future of the USS pension plan to the ‘Joint Negotiating Committee’ on 26 January ahead of the negotiating meeting on 11 February. That very same day it was rejected. Employers and bosses are fiercely refusing to take on board any proposal of the union, at any cost, whatever those proposals are.

Managements at universities have already coordinated a punitive and harsh response to the threat of upcoming strikes. Although obviously anxious about the strike itself, they are also worried about the ‘action short of striking’ when workers work according to what is stipulated in their contract, and no more. This means staff will not volunteer for duties that are beyond their contract or normal hours.

Management fears that this will expose how they over exploit their lecturers, and how staff cannot discharge the brunt of the work assigned to them in their assigned hours. Instead of addressing the issues, they are threatening staff with forced rescheduling and deductions of between half and full wages. It is more important now than ever to prove to them that no number of threats can stop the fight for good pensions and good working conditions.

  • Students are also walking out during the strike on 2 March. Come along to hear about how students and workers can unite at Socialist Students annual conference, on Saturday 26 February in Birmingham, to discuss how to rebuild the student movement, and what next after 2 March – visit socialiststudents.org.uk to sign up for updates about the conference