UK Academics Strike Amid Pension Dispute

UCU union members march during a previous universities strike

Although many attended lectures by academics not participating in the strike this morning, several hundreds of students gathered outside Senate House in solidarity with the striking staff, many carrying banners and standing on benches. Unions and other student groups have been rallying to provide support to students who will miss lecture hours due to the strikes.

Some students are joining lecturers on picket lines, while others are demanding compensation for the classes they are missing.

Universities UK (UUK) maintains that the pension scheme has a deficit of more than £6 billion that can not be ignored, and that it has met union officials more than 35 times to discuss reforms, The Press Association reports.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are planning 14 days of action in the coming weeks. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer nearly £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

The UCU said more than 145,000 students will be affected by the strikes, with ten institutions ultimately taking part. United Kingdom law states staff taking part in the strikes are also not required to inform the University in advance.As a first year student at the uni, the strike probably affects me far less than it would a second or third year, for my grades do not go towards my final degree.

In a video message, Corbyn said: "On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to send solidarity and thanks for all the work you do in our universities and colleges". "Everyone deserves the dignity and security in old age that comes from a decent pension".

Sam Gyimah, the government minister responsible for universities, called on both sides in the dispute to return to talks.

"So I join staff and students in calling for the employers to commit now to meaningful negotiations, through Acas if necessary, to resolve this dispute".

New polling commissioned by the UCU has found that the majority (61%) support strike action by university staff, with almost a fifth (19%) opposed.

Staff at universities founded since 1992 are members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme, so aren't affected by the changes. It has been described as the worst industrial action at universities in modern times.

Universities UK said it has met UCU over 35 times in the past year to discuss reforms.

"However, warm words won't save anyone's pension - if unnecessary disruption is to be avoided then university leaders across the country need to keep the pressure on Universities UK to get back to the negotiating table".

The union said there were "a number of misleading claims" about the planned changes to the pension scheme, which had been "affected by hard economic conditions".

"We believe that fairly rewarded staff are the cornerstone of the university experience and that the proposal by Universities UK to substantially cut the pensions of members of the USS pension scheme will be hugely damaging if implemented", an NUS spokesperson said.

At 2pm, the strike action continued with the UCU's first teach-out.

Ellie Ferguson, 22, a final year global relations student backing industrial action, said that protesters jammed open the lecture theatre door with a chair to ensure their point was heard inside."There was about 250-300 of us and we were chanting "leave your lectures", she said.

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