Last year’s UCU strike over pensions was the most militant in the union’s history. Now UCU members are voting on a new wave of strikes. We encourage a Yes vote, and urge students to show solidarity with staff.
UCU members in 110 colleges and 147 universities are currently being balloted by the union for strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay, with the ballot closing on 19 October.
The Marxist Student Federation gave full support to UCU members in their last strike action. With a new wave of strikes now on the cards, the Manchester Marxist Society has written an open letter to UCU members on campus in solidarity with their action and in support of a Yes vote for action.
Dear Higher Education Workers,
Last year we saw the most militant strike in UCU’s history. This time the battle is growing wider to encompass better pay for the lowest paid workers, job security, and fairer workloads. We as students and fellow workers encourage a Yes vote for strike action this year.
Last year employers tried to end guaranteed pension benefits, and instead your final pension would depend on the gambling decisions of investors and not on how much you pay in. UCU members took two weeks of strike action against this outrageous attack on the security of members futures.
These strikes were incredible in their strength and militancy. In order to win these battles we must push further, connecting with other exploited layers of the public sector. A strike like this could bring down this decrepit Conservative government.
In the previous strike, the employers ignored the suggestions of the Joint Expert Panel and came up with a new proposition meaning staff will pay more into their pension, with the possibility of a lower pay out. Staff already pay 8% of their salary into their pension meaning this could raise to 11% of salary by October 2021. Even worse, the employers may seek to save money by reducing benefits or even closing the ‘defined benefit’ part of the scheme.
Two weeks of strike action last year showed the strength a unionised workforce can have. All higher education unions are now balloting members not only to defend pensions but to gain rights and security for the most vulnerable people working in higher education. In order to win this battle we need a strong force on the picket lines. Join the union to defend workers’ rights!
The higher education unions UCU, Unison, Unite, GMB and EIS have joined up to make demands including; £10 per hour to be the minimum wage for directly employed staff and Foundation Living Wage the lowest wage to be paid on campus (i.e. by contractors), a 35-hour working week for all staff working in universities, to close the gender and ethnic pay gap, eliminate precarious employment, and outsourced staff to be brought in-house to direct university employment.
We want you to know that you have our full support and solidarity in this struggle. We urge you to vote yes to strike action in the ballot that opened on September 9th. Students are standing with you, we understand the damage inflicted on our education by falling pay, increased casualisation, unpaid work, and unmanageable workloads. Your working conditions are our learning conditions. Polling during the strike last year showed a majority of students supported the strike, and put the blame on management rather than workers for any disruption.
You are not alone. Our public sector has been under attack from austerity for decades. All services and institutions are stretched to breaking point. Funding has been slashed and creeping privatisation in the form of outsourcing is causing havoc across necessary services. This struggle is part of sparks of resistance we are seeing across the public sector, your fight will act as inspiration for workers across the UK.
Capitalism can no longer sustain our public services. We must break from the system and replace it with a socialist system which makes our education a priority! We advocate for public sector wide industrial action to demand all public services be free, and their quality ensured by placing them into democratic workers control.
It starts with a Yes vote.
See you on the picket line!
Manchester Marxist Society