By Emma Videan
At the end of January it was announced that the University and College Union (UCU) announced that they would be enforcing a national strike that, if it goes ahead, will affect students at 61 universities across a four-week teaching period. This type of action has never been seen before and is due to begin on the 22nd February.
The strike is being implemented in order to put pressure on the employer’s representative, Universities UK (UUK) to go back to the negotiating table regarding the USS pension scheme, in which employers want to end the guaranteed pension benefits that employees were contracted when taking on their teaching roles. On average these cuts will reduce a lecturer’s retirement fund by £10,000 per year.
Although attempts at negotiations have been made, there has been a failure in creating a solution that is agreed upon by both sides, and this has resulted in a 14 working day strike. 88% of UCU members voted for strike action on the matter, which was a record turnout for the union at 58%.
This strike action will have a multitude of impacts upon students including; cancelled lectures and seminars, tutors and lecturers will be unavailable for contacting regarding assistance and missed content or classes will not be rescheduled.
The threat of this strike has resulted in a huge response from university students, who are not only demanding extenuating circumstances during the deadline and exam period but are demanding financial compensation for the contact-hours that have been cut from their modules. The UCU are recommending that students write an email of support for their lecturers and concern for strike to their university’s Vice-Chancellor.
Sam Veal and Katie Walters, students at Cardiff University, began a petition that fully supports the lecturers and the need for strike action regarding their pensions. However, the petition does demands financial or educational compensation for the students at Cardiff University who are being affected by these strikes. The petition now has over 2,000 signatures supporting the cause.
Sam has said; “We feel that the rate at which the petition is rising is evidential of our support. In the past 24 hours it has doubled in support and continues to rise exponentially. As of now, the key purpose of the petition is to show solidarity with lecturers and demonstrate to the University the proposed backlash by students.”
Katie added; “I believe that the student and public support is what will make changes to the proposed strike action. Sam and I both fully support staff in their endeavors, and all we hope for is equality between their pensions while us getting the education we desire and signed up for.”
While Sam and Katie are yet to hear a direct response from Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, they hope for a response in the near future. Cardiff University has, however released a ‘Q&A’, in an attempt to address concerns that students may have. They have assured students that they will attempt to notify students in advance of cancelled lectures and the university has agreed to reschedule all submission dates that fall on a strike day.
The proposed strike dates are:
Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)
Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15, and Friday 16 March (five days)
To sign the petition please follow this link: https://www.change.org/p/colin-riordan-cardiff-university-vice-chancellor-president-ucu-strike-action-cardiff-university-student-response