Rónán Stewart, Deputy Editor.
The University and Colleges Union (UCU) strike will begin on Thursday 22nd February in response to proposed pension cuts by Universities UK. The proposals are supported by university management across the UK, including here at Queen’s.
UCU members at Queen’s have been instructed to strike on February 22nd, 23rd, 26th-28th and March 5th-8th and 12th-15th.
Independent research has shown that the proposed pension cuts will reduce the typical lecturer’s retirement income by £10,000 a year. The more junior the staff, the worse the loss.
The UCU has called Queen’s University’s support for these proposals “a slap in the face for all hardworking and dedicated staff at the University” sending a clear signal that the University’s senior managers are more concerned with “‘de-risking’” their involvement in the current guaranteed pension scheme and “less concerned with the wellbeing and welfare of its employees.”
While the UCU has repeatedly sought to reach a negotiated solution, Universities UK and management at Queen’s are taking a hard-line and “bull-headed” position.
The strike, which has received unprecedented support from 88% of UCU members, is a measure of last resort. University staff want to be at work, teaching students and carrying out research, but strike action has been made necessary in the absence of pension security.
The UCU has stated that if the proposed cuts are enforced “the people who are so keen to cut wages and conditions across the public and private sectors will simply move on to their next target.”
“As we’ve seen from recent years of austerity, this means that everybody (or the vast majority of us) loses—with each generation expecting lowering living standards and greater risks in old age.”
It is important to remember that while you might feel annoyed that some of your classes have been disrupted, this is only a short-term inconvenience which is forming part of a long-term effort in the face of educational marketisation, to ensure the health of the academic profession which we, as students, benefit so significantly from.
How you can show your support
Do not cross the picket line. This includes going on-campus for non-compulsory contact hours and calling into the library.
Talk to your peers, explain the reasons for the strike action and encourage them not to attend class.
Join demonstrations on strike days in solidarity with UCU members.
Complain to the Vice-Chancellor.
Tell your lecturer you support their fight.