I was a part of the British university system between 2008 and 2014. During this period I saw how working conditions – the conditions for good teaching and research – rapidly deteriorated. Not only due to government defunding, but also due to university managements attempting to transform institutions of learning and critique into corporations, rewarding themselves handsomely in the process.
So I consider it both just and important to resist the attack on pensions. Your students and non-academic colleagues at the university must know that your fight is a part of a broader fight. The pension cuts are a part of the construction of the defunded university, in which a precarious workforce is asked to serve heavily indebted “customers”, in order that the state can save money for noble causes such as bank bail outs and tax cuts for the wealthy.
In many ways, the British university system serves as a model for university development in Denmark. For this reason, your struggle is our struggle. Never forget that. When you are fighting to stop the downward spiral of British universities, you are helping your colleagues internationally too. And know that you can win: concerted resistance based on solidarity between lecturers and students has managed to stop some of the worst reforms of the Danish University system, including the introduction of student fees. In solidarity and friendship.
Dr Bue Rübner Hansen, University of Aarhus
Having done my PhD in the UK, I follow the debates about higher education there with great interest. I have been distressed to hear about the experiences of my friends and colleagues at UK universities who are facing declining pay and increasing precarity. The marketization and casualization of the university labour force is a trend we are seeing in North America as well, and it is one that we must resist. The proposed changes to the pensions scheme are unacceptable. I strongly support the strike action by UCU and from Ottawa, I teach and write in solidarity with my comrades in the UK.
Dr Megan Rivers-Moore, Carleton University, Canada
I send my full solidarity to the UCU strike, we have the same problem here in Mexico with the AFORE stock market-related privatised pensions introduced here in 2008, which our union opposes.
Dr Patrick Cuninghame, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM), Mexico City & member of the Sindicato Independiente de los Trabajadores de la UAM (SITUAM)
The Rutgers Executive Council of AAUP-AFT Chapters voted unanimously to stand in solidarity with University and College Union members in the United Kingdom on February 20, 2018
Whereas, Members of the largest union of university teaching staff in the UK, the
University and College Union (UCU), are fighting to stop an outrageous attack on retirement benefits;
Whereas, University administrators propose to end the current guaranteed pension plan, replacing it with individual investment accounts, on the pretext of a fictional deficit “crisis;”
Whereas, Workers in the United States, including New Jersey educators, are very familiar with the use of manufactured “crises” to undermine retirement plans, which attack workers’ long-term security by stealing their own deferred wages; Be it resolved that the AAUP-AFT chapters at Rutgers University call on Universities UK to give up their shameful attack on defined-benefit pensions and negotiate with UCU in good faith;
And be it resolved that we stand in solidarity with the members of the UCU, saluting their commitment to security, equity, and dignity in the workplace and in retirement.
Rutgers Executive Council of AAUP-AFT Chapters, USA
Working conditions and social rights of people are under growing attack all over the world nowadays. This strongly contradicts not only with a rationale of social democracy and social justice but also with the basic principle of decent working life within workplaces and society overall. In solidarity.
Professor Valeria Pulignano, CESO – KU Leuven
I would like to express my full support for the strike launched by the University and College Union in the UK Higher Education in response to the pension cuts related to the changes in the Universities Superannuation Scheme. I consider the lack of proper and good-will based negotiation around this issue with employers associated in the Universities UK unacceptable.
Decent pensions are essential for the quality of working live and retirement. In the context of ongoing, Europe-wide reforms of higher education institutions, the predictable situation of workers after retirement is crucial for their well-being.
Therefore, I would like to share my support and solidarity with striking University employees in the UK and Leeds Business School in particular.
I also support the call for immediate return to negotiations between unions and UUK.
I will share my support and information about the strike in my networks.
In solidarity !
With best wises
Adam Mrozowicki, Associate Professor, Institute of Sociology, University of Wrocław
Dear academic friends in Britain,
I was astounded to hear a few days ago about what is happening in British higher education. The employers association had proposed making pension payouts less generous by an average of ten thousand pounds a year and making them dependent on the stock market. You had voted overwhelmingly to respond with a 14-day national strike, the largest academic strike in UK history. Various universities had responded not only by docking pay for strike days, but also by threatening to reduce pay on non-strike days and taking legal action against strikers if students claim their fees back. Wow.
You need to win this strike, and the employers need to back down. You have already suffered more than enough. The squeeze on pay worsens your standard of living slowly but perceptibly. While attacks on pensions are not new in UK higher education, the current offensive by the employers really is astounding. It fills me personally with pride to see how you’re fighting back.
It is understandable that universities shift financial risk. But this attempt to shift financial risks onto academics has poisoned the workplace atmosphere in which research and teaching take place. Provoking this strike has already undermined the excellence of those institutions that the Vice Chancellors are supposed to be leading.
How do I know attacks on pay and pension are damaging to British universities? Occasionally, PhD students in the US ask me about the job market in Britain, because I worked there for ten years. Ten years ago I would have said that it’s a mixed bag. Pay is lower than the US, but for junior academics job security is higher, making it possible to pursue interesting and risky research agendas. Over the years, the situation has become less rosy. And now this conflict. International academics thinking of moving to Britain should know that it is a place where pay, pensions, and job security are under attack, and colleagues are angry and fearful. This is not an atmosphere in which the work of academics is apparently valued.
Britain’s universities are still among the best in the world, and Vice-Chancellors should be working to keep it that way. Instead, they have provoked a massive nation-wide strike. The employers need to bargain with the union, find a solution, and end the strike.
Prof Ian Greer, Cornell University, USA
You have my full support. The actions being taken in the UK by university employers are yet another example of the appalling corporate management style and values taking over universities. What happens to you will also ultimately affect us.In solidarity,Professor Marian Baird, The University of Sydney Business School
Dear Colleagues,I want to express my solidarity with the strike of the University and College Union in the United Kingdom. I am deeply concerned about the changes to the pension scheme proposed by Universities UK. We are observing steps in the direction of increasing precarity of academic work in many countries – steps which could worsen not only the working and living conditions of academics, but also the quality of teaching and research as well as the quality of international research cooperation. I can only hope that the Universities UK and the universities and colleges withdraw the proposed changes to the academic pension system and recognize the importance of good working conditions for the quality of teaching and research.Martin Krzywdzinski, Head of the Research Group “Globalization, Work andProduction” at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center
To our collegues in Great Britain,
For department of science and higher education I send you our full support in your struggle against the changes and prospective cuts regarding your pension plans.
We know fully well the gap that lies between the countless political speeches about the importance of higher education and the utter disregard universities show for the employees, who are their backbone. Right now, the student employees here in Berlin are as well forced to take industrial action against their universities, which have not given them a pay raise in 17 years. The way they are treating us echoes your own experiences. But we will not let up and it strenghtens us to know, that you wont either.
Science is international. So is solidarity and our common struggle for fair working conditions. Keep up the fight!
Matthias Neis,Resort Higher Education and Research