Teacher strikes at British elite universities

Nieuws | de redactie
10 oktober 2011 | Lecturers at Cambridge, Oxford and co. fear for cuts in their pension scheme. Teachers are set for rolling strikes and threaten to boycott correcting any student papers or exams. Over 1 million students at half of all British universities affected.

The University and College Union (UCU) released a pressstatement threatening rolling strikes and the boycott of studentassessment by thousands of lecturers from Monday on. Reason for thedispute: changes in the lecturers’ pension plans which may makelecturers worse off on retirement.

Press statement UCU

“A sustained campaign of industrial action by members of UCU in67 of the UK’s best-known universities will start on Monday (10October).

The action will commence with UCU members ‘working to contract’.This means they will simply work to the terms of their contract(including their obligation to perform their duties in an efficientmanner). If that does not force negotiations then the union warnedthat the action would escalate to rolling strikes and a boycott ofstudent assessment.

This morning the union said universities should play their partin breaking the impasse on negotiations and help bring about aswift resolution to the action. The 67 institutions affectedinclude all the Russell Group universities and over 1 millionstudents could be hit if the action escalates.

The union has been frustrated by the employers’ negotiators’steadfast refusal to negotiate and said it does not believe thathawkish stance is shared by all universities. UCU said it wouldreview the work to contract action at universities that publiclycall upon the employers to negotiate and do not subject members topunitive and unfair salary deductions.

The dispute is about changes to the Universities SuperannuationScheme (USS) pension scheme – the second largest private scheme inthe UK. Scheme members are furious that changes they vehementlyopposed were imposed on 1 October. Those changes will see them paymore to work longer with less protection should they lose theirjob.

In two referendums over 90% of scheme members who voted, votedagainst the changes and in the industrial action ballot overthree-quarters (77%) of UCU members backed the sustained industrialaction campaign.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘We are keen to resolvethis dispute as quickly as possible with minimal disruption.However, you cannot negotiate with an empty chair. The universityemployers have tried every tactic in the book from slick PR andmisleading adverts to direct intimidation and legal threats againstunion negotiators.

‘If they had focused just a fraction of the time they have spenttrying to force these unpopular changes through on negotiatingproperly, we would not be in this position. We want to negotiateand hope those universities keen to avoid unnecessary confrontationand disruption will start to apply pressure on those refusing totalk.'”

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