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Support the pension strikes and defend higher education

Cambridge University UCU striking to save their pensions in February and March

Why are we taking action?

Nearly 22,000 staff at pre-92 universities across the UK voted overwhelmingly for strikes and other industrial action to resist savage – and wholly unnecessary – proposals to cut our pensions. Under the new scheme, our pensions will be dependent on investment performance. Average loss for a new starter is likely to be some £208,000. You can calculate the likely effect on your own pension here.

Pension Axed

Why are the employers so determined to push this through?

Universities are bringing in huge amounts of money from £9000+ student fees but are reluctant to invest in improving the quality of education: through better staff/student ratios, more secure and less temporary contracts, better-paid and supported administrative staff. Instead they are piling resources into large capital investments and paying huge salaries to senior management (the eight senior managers at Cambridge are paid £1.35m p/a between them, with the top earner on £600k+)

The attack on staff pensions is an attempt to shift pensions liabilities from institutions to individuals themselves. It must be seen as part of a wider shift in higher education to embrace market forces and competition, in which students are seen as customers and staff are a cost to be minimised, when it is our labour that keeps the universities going.

But aren’t staff at Cambridge paid too much already?

Since the raising of the tuition fee cap to £3,000 in 2006-7, University staff costs as a percentage of total income have fallen from 45.76% in 2005/6 to 43.05% in 2016/17 [1]. University income has risen from £1,643m last year to £1,714m this year, a rise of 4.3%. As a result of inflation, the real value of staff pay has fallen by more than 14.5% since 2009. It is safe to say that increased student fees have not gone into paying staff more!

1. [Sources here and here]

What are staff planning to do?

Members of UCU will be on strike on February 22-23, February 26-28, March 5-8 and March 12-16. We will also be ‘working to rule’, which means not taking on any additional or voluntary duties. We will be picketing various sites across Cambridge (Downing, New Museums, Sidgwick, Old Schools, West Cambridge and others) and organising ‘teach-outs’: talks by staff and visitors, about a range of relevant topics.

Won’t this hurt students?

The dispute is the result of employers’ refusal to negotiate seriously. It will have an impact on students, but we hope that they will direct their understandable frustration at the employers, and not at staff who are seeking to defend a high-quality university education system for the longer term. Students can voice their grievances by emailing vice-chancellor@admin.cam.ac.uk. The best way to minimise the disruption is to negotiate a fair deal with staff.

What can I do to support the strike if I’m not a member of UCU?

If you’re a member of staff in a relevant grade or a postgraduate student, please join UCU! It takes 5 minutes. Spread the word about the dispute. We ask everyone NOT to cross our picket lines if possible during the strike. Please email the VC to ask exactly what Cambridge is doing to bring the employers back to the negotiating table and how it plans to address the  concerns of staff and students at such a critical time. You can visit http://www.ucu.cam.ac.uk/pensions to find out more about the dispute.

In addition to the national FAQs we have Cambridge-specific FAQs. Please email us on admin@ucu.cam.ac.uk if there’s anything else you think should be covered there.