Dear Students’ Union member,
This week, university workers up and down the country are back on strike, as the dispute over the future of their pensions continues. A lot has changed since it all started, and Sheffield Students’ Union continues to stand in solidarity with the UCU in their action, because staff working conditions are our learning conditions.
The national dispute
It’s safe to say university managers did not predict the incredible power of the UCU’s strike action, nor the outpouring of support and solidarity from students and the public. Universities UK, the national employers’ body who proposed the cuts to pensions, have gone from saying there is nothing to negotiate over to admitting that they are “open to the possibility that we have not considered every possible angle". Negotiations will continue today, and we hope they will see sense and rethink the proposals.
The campaign in Sheffield
Sheffield has been at the forefront of the national dispute. It has been truly inspiring seeing our university community, of students and workers, coming together to defend the future of our education; picket lines have grown each day, and hundreds marched on the streets of Sheffield on Wednesday.
Following our strong campaign with Sheffield UCU, Sir Keith Burnett has come out in favour of national talks without preconditions, as well as agreeing to meet tomorrow with the Students’ Union Officers and representatives from Sheffield UCU. Additionally, due to pressure from Sheffield alumni on Thursday, the University have swiftly backed down on a very punitive measure threatening to dock pay from staff who work to contract.
We are pleased that Sir Keith is listening to our demands, but are continuing to call for him to come out in defence of defined benefit pensions. At tomorrow’s meeting, we hope to make progress on this, as well as continue to push for the money deducted from striking workers’ pay to be put towards grants, bursaries and positive initiatives.
Crucially, we will also be raising concerns about how the university is dealing with the effects of the strike on students, including the monitoring of international students, effects on deadlines, and communications to students. We are aware that this is a difficult and confusing time for students and we are committed to ensuring that your views are represented. If you are concerned about your personal situation please contact the Student Advice Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org for free, professional, confidential and independent advice.
Here’s how you can be involved in the #SaveStaffPensions campaign...
Support your tutors and staff at picket lines outside most university buildings every day of the strike (Monday to Thursday this week) from 7:30 to 11:00am. Whatever time you turn up, your support will certainly by appreciated!
The vibrant “roving picket” will also be out each day from 9:30am, starting at the Students’ Union, touring the picket lines around campus.
Hosted by the Students’ Union and Sheffield UCU, a programme of alternative events, workshops and presentations, every afternoon during the strike. Week 3 programme here.
Gallery Presentation Area (Level 4 of the Students’ Union)
Open meeting for UCU members and supporters
Discuss the outcome of local and national talks, and next steps for the campaign.
Wednesday 12-1:30pm, Foundry (Level 2 of the Students’ Union)
International Women’s Day March: Save Staff Pensions!
Following last week’s hundreds strong march, we’ll be back! Working conditions are a feminist issue: pensions, gender pay gap, sexual harassment and more. March with us!
Assemble outside Arts Tower, 12pm Thursday
As ever, the Students’ Union is committed to protecting and supporting our students. 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. Our Student Advice Centre also remains open and available to give independent, confidential and free advice: just email email@example.com.
Finally, thank you. It’s been inspiring to see so many students join this campaign, and the response from university staff has been heartwarming. When we, the Education Officer and President, attended Sheffield UCU’s general meeting on Friday, we received a massive round of applause: this applause was for you. Regardless of the outcome of the dispute, it is now quite clear that there is a true sense of solidarity in our university community.
Sheffield Students’ Union Officers