WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Why we are backing the university and college strikers fighting for pensions

08 March, 2018

• UNIVERSITY staff were on strike this week against a change to their pensions that would both cut their pension pot by an average of £10,000 a year (according to actuaries First Actuarial), and make the new pension vulnerable to runs on the stock market. Some staff may lose as much as half their pension when they retire.

These so-called “defined contribution” pensions – little more than stocks-and-shares saving schemes – have been visited on private sector workers for 10 years now. Private sector staff have been railroaded by employers, City investors, and the Pensions Regulator and it is high time someone stood up to them.

Members of the University and College Union at University College London, Senate House, SOAS, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, King’s College and many other colleges are striking for themselves, but also for their younger colleagues who will be hardest hit.

The greatest attack will be felt by postgraduate students who want a career in university research and teaching. They are already labouring under huge debts and inevitably paying private sector rents, and will now face poverty and insecurity in old age. Where will the next generation of research scientists and university lecturers come from?

Students are supporting their lecturers. Student unions have passed motions and cooked food for strikers. A YouGov poll found that 50 per cent of students said the university vice-chancellors are to blame for the strikes. Only 2 per cent blamed staff.

The strikes can be solved simply. The pension “deficit” has been discredited. It is based on an absurd assumption. Suppose all universities go bankrupt tomorrow. Will the scheme be able to pay out its pension liabilities?

No single university has ever gone bankrupt since the pension scheme was set up, but colleges have merged instead. So if they think that Britain’s universities could all go bankrupt tomorrow perhaps the vice-chancellors and the government ought to tell the students!

We, the undersigned, send our solidarity to the lecturers, researchers, and other staff who are on strike. We call on the vice-chancellors to see that they have lost the argument and retain the pension scheme as it is. We call on all who live, work, and study in Camden and central London to support the strike.

MANDY BERGER
Camden Unison Housing Officer
GEORGE BINETTE
Chair, Camden Trades Council
GERALD CLARK
Secretary, NUT section Camden National Education Union
MICK CROSSEY
Camden RMT No 3 Branch Secretary
MARK DOLAN
CWU N/NW Branch, N London area delivery rep
JANET GREEN
Treasurer, Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign*
GERRY LECOINTE
CWU, Health and Safety rep Kentish Town Royal Mail
LUCY MASOUD
FBU, London Region Treasurer*
MERLIN READER
CWU, former rep
SABBY SAGALL
Chair, Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign*
LUCA SALICE
Press Officer, Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign*
CANDY UDWIN
PCS, National Gallery
BARRY WALDEN
Joint Chair, Camden Unison
PHOEBE WATKINS
Joint Chair, Camden Unison
LIZ WHEATLEY
Branch Secretary
Camden Unison
* denotes personal capacity

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