Starting from tomorrow, members of the UCU (University and College Union) at over 60 Universities across the country, including Sheffield, are going on strike to resist savage cuts to their pensions. Many staff see this is the last straw, coming after more than a decade of declining pay and conditions.
Attacks on staff affect students, because their working conditions are our learning conditions: quality education takes place when staff have security in their jobs. These attacks are part of the same agenda that tripled our fees and cut grants for the poorest students, turning universities into private businesses. If we don’t stop these proposals, we risk the future of our education.
In our open letter, we’re calling on our Vice-Chancellor Sir Keith Burnett to speak out against the changes and push for a fair deal with staff, as well as putting money deducted from striking workers’ pay towards the benefit of students and the people of Sheffield. Sheffield Students’ Union Council has voted to stand in solidarity with striking staff, and in the coming weeks we will be running a campaign to #SaveStaffPensions. But what’s it all about?
Why are staff going on strike?
The dispute is over the future of the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme), the universities pension scheme that many university workers are part of. The proposals seek to dismantle public universities’ responsibility for ensuring staff have a secure pension when they retire. Under the new scheme, pensions are entirely at the whim of the fluctuations of the stock market, risking a loss of up to 40%.
UCU has sought a negotiated solution, but universities have refused to budge from a hard-line approach which will decimate staff pensions. Strike action is the last resort, but UCU have had no choice.
When is the strike?
The strikes are due to take place for 14 days during February and March. The strike days are:
On other days during this period, staff will be doing something called ‘working to rule’. This means they won’t take part in activity that is over and above their normal contracted hours.
How will it affect students?
On strike days, your lectures and seminars won’t be taking place if your lecturer or tutor is taking part. Where possible, we are asking students to stand in solidarity with striking staff by not attending contact hours.
However, we understand that students may be concerned about how the industrial action will impact on their learning or personal situation. This page provides advice and guidance on how to deal with this.
If you are concerned or confused, or have a question that isn’t answered here, you can always contact the Student Advice Centre to get free, confidential, professional and independent advice. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can I do to help the campaign?
We believe this dispute can be resolved, and with enough strength and solidarity in our campaign, we can win a fair deal for staff and students. There are so many things you can do to help out:
After the rally, we will be organising an open meeting next week in the Students’ Union to discuss the next steps for the campaign. Stay tuned on social media for more updates on this.
Sheffield Students’ Union Officers