East End students to be affected by university strikes after lecturers vote for industrial action


University and College Union protest. Pic: Emma Globyte

Students in the East End could find themselves affected by university strikes after 78% of lecturers voted for industrial action on Monday.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted for action after a row over pensions.

Staff voted in favour of strikes, and action short of strikes at 69 universities across the UK, including Goldsmiths and Queen Mary’s.

The UCU are protesting against new pension proposals by Universities UK (UUK), which would see all staff get pensions based on an average salary. The union believe that staff will be financially worse off under the newly proposed scheme.

The UUK are initiating changes after the current pension scheme, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), is expected to show a deficit. However, staff members have complained that ‘the methodology used to determine the deficit is too simplistic’.

Des Freedman, the secretary of Goldsmiths UCU, said: “We consider pensions to be a form of wages and we are now facing up to a 27% cut because the people who run our pension fund have decided that the scheme is somehow about to fall apart.

“We already pay a significant amount of money into our pensions and it’s completely unreasonable unilaterally to change our pension entitlements.”

By voting for action, the UCU have backed a marking boycott and a refusal to set exams. This would affect thousands of students, including those at The University of London’s East End campuses. This means that coursework and exams would not be set and students would not receive formal marks or feedback. As well as action against marking, students could see their lecturers going on strike.

However, Freedman hopes that students will support the action. He said: “We received fantastic support from students last year during our campaign for fair pay and we are really disappointed that we are having to come back once again to ask for more support.

“But if universities refuse to join with us and continue to demand cuts in our pension entitlements, then we will certainly oppose this and we hope we can do so with backing from our students.”

Anna Charlton, a student at Goldsmiths College, said: “I think when you start a job, what is promised to you from the beginning should remain the same throughout your time there. I will support the staff if they decide to go on strike, as long as it doesn’t impact too heavily on our studies.”

Talks took place yesterday between the UCU and universities, although no further comment has been made yet. The union will meet again on Friday to discuss their next steps.

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