Universities have been widely affected as members part of University and College Union (UCU) have been taking part in strike action. It began on the 22nd February and is set to continue until March, following changes to pension schemes.
The strike action has hit 65 Universities across the UK. The strikes are in response to proposed action of changes in the pension benefits that will be payable to members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme when they retire.
The anger amongst staff had been initialised when a decision in January ended the schemes primary benefits – guaranteed levels of payment to members upon retirement. In return of this, members would receive defined contributions. Resulting in their pension payments being in line with level of payment and the state of financial markets upon retirement.
This would consequently mean that members could potentially be £10,000 worse off a year compared to pensions before the alternations.
The strike action was heavily supported by UCU members, with 88% voting in favour. Members that are a part of the UCU include librarians, technicians, administrators, researchers and lecturers.
The office for students (the universities regulator in England) has told universities to pass on the knowledge of what impacts there will consequently be for students and how situations are being dealt with.
However, many students feel that they are being massively let down by their Universities. Aidan Fox who attends the University of Essex has made clear that despite supporting lecturers, he has great anger due to missing many lecturers so far.
“Not only am I having to deal with the initial struggles of first year but knowing I’m missing out on the education I have paid for makes life more of a struggle.” Said Aidan.
Similar to Aidan’s view a YouGov poll conducted during the approach to the strikes displayed results highlighting how many students supported their lecturers who were set to take part in the strikes. 61% supported their lecturers, whilst only 2% suggested that they were to blame.
The strike schedule is yet to continue for another 14 days, making it the biggest industrial; action ever witnessed in the UK universities. If an agreement is not reached then members are planning to extend the action, potentially disturbing final year examinations.
The universities minister, Sam Gyimah, has become increasingly frustrated, resulting in the minister releasing a statement urging both sides to return to negotiations to prevent anymore disruption.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact this strike will have on students, who deserve to receive the education that they are paying for.” The minister stated.
With industrial action not looking to be ended soon, the question rises as to how the universities will not only resolve this problem but how they will overturn the consequences that have already become apparent.