Starting on March 12, the University and College Union (UCU) has called for 14 days of strike, including five consecutive days, in 61 universities across Britain.
This is the biggest strike that has ever hit the British university sector, coming in response to the proposal by the university administrations to change the pension system, which, according to the unions, would lead to an average loss of about 10,000 pounds per year from each teacher’s pension.
The universities in the UK are planning to move from a fixed-benefit scheme—which provides a guaranteed retirement income—to a fixed-contribution system, where the actual value of the pensions would be subject to changes on the stock market.
The union is arguing that young teachers would be the hardest hit, and some would end up losing up to half of the income from their pension. They are talking about an average overall loss of 200,000 pounds for each retiree.
The universities are stressing that the pension system has a deficit of £6 billion. In their view, without a reform, pension contributions would have to increase dramatically, and that would mean spending cuts in other areas such as teaching costs, student aid and research.
Eighty thousand students from thirty universities have signed petitions in support of the strike. Many have said they support the strike, but are asking for some kind of compensation for the lessons that they will miss because of it.
After the 2010 reform, which caused massive protests across the country, students in the UK today are paying up to £9,250 per year in fees. They are seen as, and have the rights of, consumers. It is unclear whether these rights would also apply in the context of labor disputes.
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