Uni lecturers in walkout over ‘axed pensions’
Academics form picket lines outside University College London, SOAS and Institute of Education
23 February, 2018 — By Tom Foot
Academics at UCL at the start of their strike action this week. PHOTO: JOSH HOLLANDS
UNIVERSITY lecturers began a 14-day pensions walkout yesterday (Thursday) in what has been described as the biggest ever higher education strike.
The academics formed picket lines outside University College London, SOAS and Institute of Education (IoE).
The University and College Union (UCU) says changes being imposed on them would leave each lecturer almost £10,000-a-year worse off in retirement.
At the institute, the training college for teachers in Bedford Way, Bloomsbury, lectures were held in the street and inside quad in the morning, while striking workers were kept entertained with fun events including oversized ten-pin bowling. Technology lecturer Jennifer Rode gave a talk “via a robot” on how pension cuts affect staff with disabilities like herself.
She said: “Please remember that the proposed pension cuts especially hurt our disabled faculty, as we often end up working part-time, retiring early, or are liable to pay discrimination.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed the strike action which he described as the “biggest the higher education sector has ever seen”.
Under the proposed pension plan, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) will change from a defined benefit scheme, giving members a guaranteed income in retirement, to a defined contribution scheme, where pensions are subject to changes in the stock market.
The changes come from Universities UK, the employers’ group, which proposed the changes to the USS, the fund for 400,000 members, in November.
It called the strike “disappointing”.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that staff felt like they had “no choice” but to strike and the changes were a “real insult to staff and to students”.