University staff and members of the University and College Union (UCU) are taking strike action over changes to their pension called the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The university staff who are striking are claiming the universities employers are ignoring pension experts and want staff members to pay more to assess the scheme.
After the previous strike last year, both sides agreed to take advice from a panel of pension experts who lay independent from either side. The experts reached a different conclusion than employers as this will mean that a typical USS member will be roughly £240,000 worse off.
The National Union of Students (NUS), MPs and others are calling on employers to change their stance on pensions schemes and recognise the advice provided by experts.
Those on strike are saying it is always the last resort. They believe they will be “short changed” if staff are deterred because of poor financial security. Although it is understandable why staff are striking, students are left frustrated with the cancellation of two weeks’ worth of contact hours. Many students are also irritated that the strikes are falling at such an influential point during the year, where our summative assessments are fast approaching, and students may require more support to help develop their essay ideas.
Ellie Robson, a third year English Literature student, has remarked, “I have found the strikes disruptive to my studies, particularly during the summative period. I have found it difficult [that] my tutors aren’t accessible. It’s a hard decision between wanting to support my lecturers, but also that I deserve the best chance to get the best grades I can and the strikes are obstructing that, however a lot of tutors are being considerate that its third year and are giving us additional materials to help.”
Matt Branston 2nd year Politics student stated, “I think strikes are essential for maintaining worker’s rights and the university should feel ashamed their academics feel the need to do so.”