Goldsmiths teachers and students united in a rally against cuts imposed on their pensions. Today marks the first day of nation-wide industrial action opposing the proposals.
The protest, led by Des Freedman, lecturer in Communications and Cultural Studies, and John Wadsworth, president of Goldsmiths University and College Union (UCU) in Goldsmiths, began outside the main college building, where Freedman cheerfully addressed Goldsmiths staff asking: “Has everyone recorded their ‘out-of-office’ messages yet?”
Students, Goldsmiths administrators and lecturers, then made their way to Loafer’s café, where lunch-eaters joined in to chant: ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” along with the demonstrators.
The protesters displayed posters saying ‘Hands Off Our Pensions” and “Unite and Fight” and marched around the campus before heading to Deptford Town Hall, where teachers and student representatives handed out leaflets with information about future protests.
Ben Levitas, Goldsmiths Theatre and Performance lecturer for 13 years, told Eastlondonlines: “We are here today to protect our pensions which are under attack. The University and College Union has voted and a very strong opinion emerged in favour of industrial action, and so we are now going to start the series of protests expressing our discontent with the current situation.
“We’re hoping it will escalate gradually. It is already happening on a national level”, he added.
The rally was just one of the many actions that will be taken by the members of University and College Union in the coming year.
Universities have proposed radical changes to the independent universities pensions scheme and are trying to reduce the amount teachers receive in pension payments, as well as delaying their retirement.
As a result of the alterations to USS, the new starters who go into teaching could lose up to £100,000 when they retire.
Matthew Fuller, who has worked at the Centre of Cultural Studies in Goldsmiths for the past 5 years, said: “The USS made a really corrupt decision by delaying the retirement of new scheme members, as well as cutting our pensions. We need them to go back to the old arrangement – and not penalise new members of staff.”
Tom Sinden, 18, first year Sociology student at Goldsmiths, is hoping to become a teacher one day. He said: “I am here to support my teachers and because it will directly affect me in the future.
“It is all related – tuition fee rise, public sector cuts. I gladly participated in the demonstration against the tuition fee rise. I believe if we come together and protest, we will definitely receive some sort of response from the ones making these incorrect decisions.”
The next action lecturers take will be a ‘work-to-contact’, whereby members of staff will only do what contracts require them to do, withdrawing personal effort and ‘good will’.