With the average striking staff member set to lose £10,000 a year of their pension, it is important that students direct their anger about the disruption in the right direction.
Last Monday, 22nd January, Goldsmiths University and College Union (UCU) members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, following months of unsuccessful negotiation and action short of a strike. Over 95% of UCU members who took part in the ballot at Goldsmiths voted in favour.
The dispute is over the future of USS (the Universities Superannuation Scheme), the pension scheme that many academic members of staff are part of. The pension scheme is under attack, and if plans go ahead the average member will lose an annual £10,000 from their pension.
As a Full Time Officer team, we are in full support of the UCU strike. We each ran on manifestos that signaled our support for academic staff members and against the marketisation of education. UCU have always stood in solidarity with students, and it’s our joint work on the Gold Paper that has put mental health on the agenda as a priority for Goldsmiths.
This is an attack on those who teach us and an attack on the higher education system. Lecturers were promised, and have been paying into, a pension that is now being savagely cut.
The strike is taking place over 14 days in February and March and will be disruptive, with teaching cancelled if your lecturer strikes.
Strike action is a final resort for staff and a decision not easily made - after all staff will not be paid for days they are striking on. For students who are angry about the strike it is important that this anger is directed at management, not the staff who teach us on a daily basis. Management and the body negotiating on their behalf hold the cards and the ability to reach an agreement so that staff do not have to strike.
We feel strongly that not supporting staff would weaken the position of UCU and make an agreement unlikely, and the strike would go ahead anyway.
We are also supporting our own members and fellow students - postgraduate research students who teach - who are implicated in this industrial action, and by the changes to their pensions.
We are meeting with Pat Loughrey, College Warden, on Tuesday to discuss this and put across student anger and our support for staff. We will ensure that no student is academically disadvantaged by the strikes, and will provide more information following our discussions on any changes to assessments or extenuating circumstances on offer to affected students.
The Students’ Union Building will also be open on every strike day, so as always you are welcome here to study, socialise and meet with fellow students.
If you want to discuss the UCU Strike, come along to Thursday’s Student Assembly, where a motion on the strike has been submitted. We’ll also be releasing more information, including FAQs and information about the strike, in the coming days.
Strike action will be taking place on:
- Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February (two days)
- Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th February (three days)
- Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th March (four days)
- Monday 12th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th, Thursday 15th and Friday 16th March (five days)
You can find out more about the background to the strike on the UCU website.