UK-wide strikes in colleges and universities over pensions, pay and jobs on 24 March.

Posted: March 16, 2011 in Strike

Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) at colleges and universities across the UK will be on strike on Thursday 24 March in a row over changes to pension schemes, jobs losses and pay cuts. This will be the first national strike in higher education for five years and the first in further education since 2008. It will also deliver the first joint action across the post-16 education sector by the union. Strike action will kick off in Scottish universities on Thursday (17 March) as members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) take action in defense of their pensions. There will then be days of strike action in Wales on Friday 18 March, in Northern Ireland on Monday 21 March and England on Tuesday 22 March, ahead of the UK-wide action over pensions, jobs and pay on Thursday 24 March; two days before the TUC’s central London ‘March for the alternative’.

UCU members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) are striking against proposals to reduce pension benefits and increase costs that would create a two-tier system of benefits and worsen retirement arrangements for existing members while saddling employees with benefit reductions and an unfair share of any future costs, even though the scheme is in robust health. UCU members of the TPS scheme voted for strike action against proposals to raise contributions from scheme members and increase the pension age. UCU members in both further and higher education voted for strike action to defend their pay and members in higher education to call for job security. UCU submitted a pay claim for 2010/11, along with other higher education trade unions, that called on the university employers to instruct UCEA (the Universities and Colleges Employers Association) to develop jointly agreed proposals that would:

  • protect the value of current salaries
  • improve job security across the sector through a national agreement
  • improve equality in the sector.

In response, the university employers have offered a real-terms pay cut – a 0.4% pay rise when RPI inflation is 4.8%. They have also refused to negotiate a nationally agreed approach to improving job security.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Staff at colleges and universities across the UK will be out on strike on Thursday 24 March in an unprecedented level of action across the further and higher education sectors. The attacks on staff’s pensions, pay and job security have created real anger throughout the sector and instead of burying their heads in the sand the employers need to respond urgently to UCU’s attempts to negotiate.’

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