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First day of 14 days of strike action at Leicester university (Press Release)

Published: 21st February, 2018

21 February 2018

First day of 14 days of strike action at Leicester university

Tomorrow hundreds of workers at University of Leicester begin 14 days of strike action, lasting over four weeks. The employees – including most lecturers, professors and other teaching staff, along with many researchers, librarians, IT specialists and other professional services staff – are members of the University and College Union (UCU).

University workers strike only with extreme reluctance. But any disruption to students’ education pales into insignificance against the threat that students’ teachers and lecturers – whose wages have already fallen by one-sixth in real terms in the past decade – will face further attacks on their livelihoods – the working conditions of lecturers are also the studying conditions of students! (University education is undermined by a funding regime in which a student now graduates with an average debt of £50,000 – a context that only increases student anxiety.)

* The dispute is national: more than 60 universities will be disrupted. It concerns university workers’ pension scheme, USS. Employers wish to impose a change to this scheme that would result in an average loss of approximately 40% or £208,000. Staff who are earlier in their careers – who are also likely to be on more precarious contracts, earning much lower wages – would potentially lose even more.

* UCU only decided to call the strikes after employers walked away from negotiations. Support amongst UCU members has been overwhelming. At Leicester University, turnout in the strike ballot at Leicester University was the sixth highest in the country, with 86% voting for strike action and 92% for action short of strike.

* The strike has the full support of both the National Union of Students and Leicester Students Union. Leicester Students Union is encouraging its members to “visit picket lines to show support on strike days”.

* Leicester Students’ Union is also hosting ‘Free University of Leicester’ – a series of free, open-to-all talks and discussions that will take place most afternoons on strike days.

* The University of Leicester is central to the dispute. Its vice-chancellor Paul Boyle sits on the executive board of Universities UK, the employers’ organisation that is trying to enforce this attack on university employees’ pensions. In 2015/16, Professor Boyle received £32,000 in pension contributions, more than many staff make annually at the University.