For the third time in two years, tens of thousands of staff at 74 UK Universities are striking to defend their pensions and improve pay and conditions, which have deteriorated beyond belief in the last decade.
UCU members beat the punitive 50% threshold for action with convincing mandates to strike to prevent the erosion of our USS pensions, as well as to improve our pay, unhealthy workloads, gig-economy style precarious working conditions, and pay inequality.
In response to our members successfully defending their USS pensions in 2018, the pension trustee, along with our employers, are trying a different tactic: to incrementally increase contribution rates until the scheme becomes so unattractive to new members it becomes truly unsustainable. UCU’s own expert analysis, confirmed by the independent body set up after the USS Strike last year (the Joint Expert Panel, or JEP), shows that the scheme is currently healthy, and just needs to be valued more appropriately. This is purely an attempt to save money and run the current scheme down.
This time, we’re also striking on further pressing issues. As well as a convincing mandate for action on pensions, we are now striking to improve:
- Our pay (which has fallen 20% in value in 10 years);
- Unsustainable and unhealthy workloads, which are fuelling a creeping mental health crisis among University staff (we all know colleagues leaving the profession because of stress, going off sick, and even in some tragic cases taking their own lives);
- Insecure employment in Universities (more than half of all staff are employed on casual contracts, zero-hours contracts persist, and most PhD student members who teach are not even recognised as employees, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, with little employment protection); and
- Pay inequality in Universities (where the gender pay gap is currently 15%, the BME pay gap is a disgrace, and where inflated senior management salaries are incredibly high – e.g. the VC at Cardiff earns more than £250,000 in basic pay, even before considerable perks and bonuses).
All supporters are welcome at any of these.
What can Welsh Unions, political parties, branches, and individuals do to support our striking workers?
- Encourage people to attend our mass rallies and bring Union/Party branch banners (Thursday 5th and 12th March, 11am, Alexandra Gardens/Cathays Park);
- Come to our picket lines and support us in building and sustaining the strike (8.30am-11am, outside key University buildings, go to the Main Building picket on Park Place for guidance);
- Come to our rallies, give speeches, play music, sing, and resist (every day apart from 5th and 12th, outside the Main Building, Park Place, 11am);
- Send messages of support from your unions/parties nationally or locally to UCU@Cardiff.ac.uk or post them on Twitter mentioning @cardiffUCU and @UCU;
- Donate to our local Cardiff strike fund, which will target those who are paid least and employed most precariously to help us to keep this strike solid (payment details below).
- If you’d like us to come and give an update about our strike at a Union meeting to give mutual solidarity with your own struggles please just ask – we’d be very happy for the chance.
To donate to our local Cardiff strike hardship fund, please use the following options:
Name: UCU Cardiff LA12 Fighting Fund
Account No.: 20341260
Bank Sort code: 608301
Bank: Unity Trust Bank
Send cheques to:
Cardiff University and College Union
49b Park Place