On the 23rd January, major changes to the pension scheme (the USS) of Birkbeck College staff and university staff across the country were proposed. These changes have not been supported by the members of UCU, the trade-union for University staff. The main point of concern is that university staff will no longer be given a guaranteed income after retirement and instead their pension will be subject to the unpredictable fluctuations of the stock market. Independent modelling of this scheme found that a new lecturer would, on average, be £9600 worse off each year.
Despite increased difficulties to allow for public strike action, 64 of the 68 universities affected have seen industrial action, with further plans of escalation through March.
Birkbeck Students' Union is in support of this strike. Although this may be inconvenient for Birkbeck students in the short-term, the long-term benefits should not be understated. These pension cuts are likely to demoralise the workforce and make academia a less appealing sector to work in. This is likely to reduce the quality of the students' education and negatively impact universities as institutions of intellectual activity. Furthermore, students who aspire to become academics may be dissuaded, and postgraduate students who teach in their institution will be negatively impacted.
Birkbeck Students' Union will continue to campaign for the improvement of the students' educational experience.
In support of the strike, Birkbeck Students' Union, along with the National Union of Students, shall:
- Call for university employers and Universities UK to recognise the seriousness of the situation and agree to meaningful negotiations either directly with the union or via Acas.
- Encourage students to write to their institution’s head to complain about how the impact of the changes to the USS will have on their education. As the College Master, Professor David Latchman CBE, has released a statement calling for a return to negotiations, we will be looking to put pressure on Universities UK, who can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Have student officers present and in support of local demonstrative action during the strikes and to inform students about the strike who may have not been aware by other means. All students that are on the picket line should ensure that they follow the UCU guidelines on picketing and, if necessary, encourage other picketers to do the same.
Ryan, Sophia, Eli, Ezimma, Stephanie and Nick: Student Officer Team 2017/18
Update: This article was edited to include that the College Master's statement, the Universities UK's email, and to note that student officers who are on the picket lines will follow UCU guidelines. 01.03.18