The Young Communist League stands in support of striking lecturers and post graduate tutors who begin a period of strike action today, Thursday 22 February 2018. The right to strike is a fundamental right of workers and their trade unions. Strike action is a central weapon in the arsenal of trade unions and often a last resort and an inevitability when employers refuse to negotiate as has been the case here.
Last month talks between UCU and the employers’ representative, Universities UK (UUK), ended without agreement and UUK’s plans to change the pension scheme in UK universities were forced through. The dispute centres on UUK’s proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up. This is unacceptable as lecturers are forced to work longer and harder hours. The strike action that is being carried out is unprecedented in the history of higher education in the UK as a total of 14 strike days are currently planned. This is not surprising given the decisions of the UUK and it is reflected in the fact that 88% of voting members decided to back the strike.
The reception of the UCU’s strike signifies a wider problem in the education sector as it becomes increasingly commercialised. The NUS has always had a history of standing in support of the UCU, yet many from within the NUS and student associations across the country have criticised the impact of the UCU’s decision. While it is important to recognise the impact of the strike on current students, it is more important to assess the impact of poorer working conditions on lecturers and students. While these 14 days of strike action will have a negative impact on students in the short term, the longer term impact of not striking will be far more severe.
It is important that all students support their striking lecturers and avoid crossing picket lines at all costs. Without student support, the strike will be less effective and it is essential that both students and lecturers are united to protect the pay and conditions of staff and higher education in general.
Support striking lecturers and the UCU strike and stand against the commercialisation of education!
Unity is strength!
Young Communist League
22 February 2018