What’s going on?
If you are a student at Keele, thank you for coming here to read up on what’s going on. We will be starting our strike on Thursday, 22 February and it will be one of the biggest strikes we’ve ever engaged in. We didn’t take this decision lightly – it is only ever a last resort for us, when negotiations have failed. We will lose pay for each of the planned 14 days of strike action, which will put considerable strain on many of the staff at Keele who work on your learning, development and general welfare (lecturers, teaching fellows, librarians, IT staff, professional services staff).
NB: The pension scheme is funded by us – it is part of our pay – it does not come from student fees or the government/tax payers. We want it to be valued and managed appropriately. We want a decent income guaranteed in retirement so that we are not reliant on social/state support, but taking care of ourselves.
Why are staff striking?
The dispute centres on a proposal from Universities UK (UUK), the employers/management association, to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) (the pension scheme for staff) – this basically means that we would no longer be guaranteed a specific annual income in retirement and might not get enough to live on. UCU says this change would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.
The National Union of Students is against the proposal:
As representatives of students, NUS is worried that the imposition of these cuts in the face of sector wide opposition will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and consequent recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere.
We believe that the current policy of paying ever higher salaries for VCs while cutting pensions for those who do the work sends a hugely damaging signal to both students and staff.
When, and for how long, are staff striking?
Strike days are as follows:
Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)
Strikes may continue beyond these four weeks if no resolution is reached with the employers. We sincerely hope that UUK will return to the negotiation table soon – we would much prefer that an agreement is reached than continue industrial action. You can send a message to the VC here, asking him (along with UUK colleagues) to return to negotiations.
What can students do?
In addition to emailing the VC (see above), students can contact the Pro-VC for Students at Keele, Anne Loweth, and tell her that you’re concerned about the pension changes affecting education and upset that employers won’t negotiate (resulting in lost teaching and support from staff on strike).
Email your lecturers, your subject librarian and anyone else who has supported your education and tell them that you support the strike and believe they deserve a decent pension.
If your parents are annoyed that you’ll be missing classes, send them this link, and ask them to support us to. The only people who care about your education more than you and your families, is us.
Come along to the picket line and the strike events we’re holding – we’ll be delighted to have you join us, especially in discussions about your education and the future of education at Keele, and in the UK more broadly.
Keele UCU has a flyer about strike action here.
The Warwick Globalist has a Q&A for students.
The UCU Pensions Strike: A Student Guide is a zine produced by the Warwick Staff-Student Solidarity group.