Here’s the strike news on 25th February – please read and share!
The first two days of the USS strike at Leeds have been magnificent. We’ve had more pickets than ever before, people picketing who’ve never taken strike action before, very senior colleagues out with us. We’ve given out thousands of leaflets, had good conversations with loads of students, and chatted with prospective students and parents coming to Visit Days and interviews.
We marched down to town on Thursday lunchtime and had a great rally outside the Art Gallery. We were blown away by the speakers from Leeds students support UCU and delighted to hear stirring support from Jane Aitchison, Leeds Trades Union Council President.
Then on Friday, Alex Sobel MP spoke at our rally on the Parkinson steps, followed by the first of the Striking Insights Teach Out sessions at the Quaker Centre.
We had masses of media, both local and national, at Leeds. Special thanks to our branch President Vicky for doing such a good job of back to back interviews, and to everyone else who talked to the media on our behalf. In case you missed it, here’s some of the coverage which featured us at Leeds (obviously, there was also masses more nationally and regionally everywhere else):
TV & radio
- Today programme on Radio 4 Thurs 22 February (scroll to 1:23)
- BBC National News 22 February 6 pm and 10 pm (no longer available)
- BBC Look North 22 February 6:30 pm and 10:30 pm (no longer available)
- Channel 4 news 22 February
- Made in Leeds 22 February
- Pulse radio (twice)
- Radio Aire
- Yorkshire Post 20 February “University staff to strike over pensions row“
- Yorkshire Evening Post 22 February (YouTube video interview) https://youtu.be/2j4cjPZKCa8
- Yorkshire Post 22 February (with video) “Traffic delays in Leeds city centre as university staff stage two-day protest in pensions row“
- Guardian article 22 February “I’m striking with university colleagues as our pensions are being destroyed“
- Leeds Live 22 February This is why staff at the University of Leeds are on strike and other articles at leeds-live.co.uk/university-of-leeds
- Leeds Live 28 February (including interview) Staff hit out at the University of Leeds for ‘penalising striking members twice’
Our members are fantastic – energetic, positive, and determined to stop this attack on our pensions. Come back on Monday but wrap up extra warm because it’s going to be very cold.
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
It is vital that your strike action is recorded, but please don’t record it in advance (recalling HQ instructions and the [USS Action FAQ]).
HR have required that we report strike action from Thursday 22nd to Wednesday 28th February by March 1st (and so on, each time the first day back after striking). They will no doubt be watching closely to see whether members are observing the strike. So, despite onerous mechanisms, let’s send a clear signal that we are united as a Union in support of our pensions. The clearer and louder this message is, the more likely it is that employers will return to negotiations.
We raised members’ serious concerns over the stipulations made by management that each “batch” of strike action be recorded on the days between those batches (incredibly tight timescales) in a formal letter to HR [click here]. It was addressed today in a meeting with the Vice Chancellor and both the Director and Deputy Director of HR. The Director of HR made it clear that they have put these stipulations in place to make it easier for them to “plan” and that this is nothing to do with the technicalities of making payroll deductions (which are planned for the March payroll). This is very disappointing.
However, we note that HR have also supplied staff with an industrial action email address [industrialaction@
We also note that if you are working offsite, the SAP self-service won’t work (you need to be on a campus networked computer) and that the offsite self-service system (Citrix) doesn’t always work for everyone offsite (especially if using a tablet rather than a laptop or desktop).
We further note that it may be unreasonable to expect members who work part-time to report by the deadlines given, if those deadlines happen to fall on a non-working day. We would expect due consideration to be given in these circumstances.
For example you might wish to email if:
- The SAP self-service system is not working for you when you try to use it (noting that it appeared to have crashed / not load for some members after the last strike action)
- You are offsite (e.g. for a training course, in archives somewhere off-campus, at a conference) and cannot get the self-service (Citrix) app to work
- You are part time and/or hourly paid and want to make sure the correct deductions are logged for the days of strike
- You have complicated working patterns and/or multiple roles to explain in your strike reportingYou have used the system to report but are unsure if your strike report has recorded properly in any way
We urge you to only report the strike action you have taken up to each reporting point.
UCU Hardship + Fighting Fund Scenarios: These scenarios illustrate the ways in which our Local Hardship Fund and National Fighting Fund work together, and should help members resolve most queries they have about these schemes. Please also read the wording of the motion we passed at the 15 February General Meeting which explains how the National Fighting Fund and the Local Hardship Fund work. That’s here: http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Emergency-motion-hardship-fund-1.docx Additional guidance (to be taken in conjunction with advice on this page) is [here] and [here]. Content: Member McStrike: Hourly paid (e.g. but not limited to a Teaching Assistant) Member O’Union: Fixed term contract, concerns over impact of financial deductions especially given the contract end date is soon / no definite extension or further solid job offer Member Solidarity: Part time, permanent contract; financial concerns given reliance on part time income Member Great-Placards: Permanent contract, financial concerns over strike deductions But how do I apply? But when do I apply? Hourly paid (e.g. but not limited to a Teaching Assistant) The first 3/5th of a week’s pay (so three days for anyone full time / salaried) would usually need to have been lost for someone to claim from the national Fighting … continue reading