The University and College Union (UCU) has announced four rounds of escalating strike action in defence of its members’ pensions. This attack on staff is just the latest in a long string of similar attacks which are part of the drive to marketise education, drive down costs, and increase revenues. The task of marketising universities has been given to vice-chancellors and senior management who are pocketing six-figure salaries to do so, while staff face massive cuts to their standards of living. The fight for staff pensions is the fight for free education. And ultimately our fight must be against the marketisation of education in its entirety and the capitalist system which drives it.
The Marxist Student Federation expresses its support for the UCU strike action and encourages every Marxist student to do the following:
- Move the resolution below in your local Marxist society
- Move the resolution below in your local student union
- Write an article for the local student press on the importance of student/staff solidarity during this strike action
- Invite a local member of UCU to speak at the Marxist society about the strike action and the need for student support
- Raise money with which to buy coffee, sandwiches, etc. to take to the picket lines during the strike action
- Organise as large a delegation as possible from your local Marxist society to attend the picket line and offer solidarity
UCU has written to the 61 universities* to inform them of an escalating wave of strikes over a four-week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend. There will then be four days of strikes from Monday 5 – Thursday 8 March and a full five-day walkout the following week (12 – 16 March). The strike dates are:
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)
Due to their academic calendar four universities – King’s, Queen Mary, Edinburgh and Stirling – will not take action in week one. They will start their action in week two on Monday 26 February. They will then walk out for two days on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March.
The dispute centres on UUK’s proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.
In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%. A full breakdown of the results by institution is available here.
Seven universities^ failed to meet the government’s new 50% turnout requirement for action to be allowed. Those institutions are being balloted again for strike action and their ballots will close on Friday 16 February.
All seven voted for action in the previous ballot. If they do so again, and at least 50% participate in the vote, they would be able to join the action from Monday 5 March.
Universities where strike action will take place:
Institute of Education
Highlands and Islands (Marine Science)
Universities being balloted again for action
St George’s, London
Marxist society/Student Union notes:
- University staff have faced a sustained attack on their living and working conditions over the past few years.
- The redundancies, course closures, and cuts to pay have had a detrimental impact on staff and students at universities around the country.
- These attacks come at the same time as a drive towards the marketisation of education through higher tuition fees and pay increases for senior management at many universities.
- The result has been a drive to reduce costs and increase revenue, thereby increasingly treating universities as businesses instead of centres of learning.
- The latest attack on university staff is a proposed change to their pension schemes which, if implemented, will leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set up.
- In response, the University and College Union (UCU) balloted its members for strike action. UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%.
- There is a long history of student unions and the UCU cooperating in defence of education.
Marxist society/Student Union believes:
- That the pensions of university staff are being attacked as part of a wider attack on education that is being carried out in the interests of private profit.
- That the struggle by staff for decent pensions therefore concerns students as much as the fight for free and decent education.
- That this attack on education cannot be separated from similar attacks on the NHS, the unemployed, the disabled, the welfare state, the emergency services and other publicly funded institutions.
- That the struggle against cuts to these services therefore concerns students as much as the fight for free and decent education.
- That there is enough money, not only to make these attacks unnecessary, but in fact to greatly increase public funding for education, healthcare and the welfare state.
- That this money, which amounts to hundreds of billions of pounds, is currently privately owned and remains uninvested, not because it is not needed, but because it cannot be used to profit the handful of people who control it.
- That this situation is the result of a capitalist economic system run for profit instead of need, and whose operation inevitably results in crises, inefficiency and the growth of inequality.
Marxist society/Student Union resolves:
- To publicly support all university staff taking strike action in the four rounds of action that have been announced between February and March 2018.
- To publicly encourage all students not to cross picket lines.
- To send delegates to the local UCU branch and to picket lines to offer practical support for the strikes between February and March 2018 and for further action to fight against attacks on education and other public services.
- To call for the nationalisation under democratic control of the banks and biggest businesses as the only way to secure decent pay and conditions for university staff, decent and free education for all, and properly funded public services.