The Green Party supports University staff in their strike to protect pensions in Leeds

22 February 2018

Alaric Hall and Rose Sawyer at the UCU picket line
Green Party & UCU members Alaric Hall & Rose Sawyer at the picket line

Today marks the start of what may become the longest strike to ever take place in our Universities, as UCU members start what could be 14 days of strike action to protect their pensions scheme.

The Green Party in Leeds support UCU in the fight to protect their final salary pension scheme.

Many Green Party members are actively involved within UCU & will be taking strike action today. The Green Party supports our members and all UCU members in taking action on this crucial issue.

“Teaching is what we love doing, and our students' wellbeing is crucial. But this is legally constituted industrial action and it needs to be disruptive to get universities to come back to the negotiating table.

Shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution takes the risk from the employer and passes it to individual employees. So risk is still there, it’s just that rather than sharing it collectively and evening out the effects, now individuals are left to fend for themselves.

That's not what a pension scheme should be about.”

Tim Goodall, Leeds UCU Vice President and Green Party Council candidate for Headingley

The strike arises from a dispute over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the pension scheme for lecturers in most pre-1992 UK universities.

Founded in 1974, the pensions scheme has been hit by a series of cuts in 2011, 2015, and now further proposed cuts. The key issue this time for lecturers is the proposed end to 'defined benefits' pensions (which guarantee a set annual income to people in retirement).

This would be replaced by 'defined contribution' pensions, in which pension income varies according to the performance of the pension fund's stocks.

“One academic study found that the cuts of 2011 alone were the equivalent of an 11% cut in salary for the staff members affected. The proposed removal of defined benefits comes on top of major cuts. That's why this new change has provoked such big strike action.

This is partly about ensuring good pay and conditions for university lecturers, which is in the students' long-term interest, but it's about more than that.

Both UCU and the Green Party oppose the current fees regime, which has changed what should be a shared social investment in young people's education into loans that burden individual students.

The pension changes are individualising risks for staff in comparable ways.

I think students understand that.”

Alaric Hall, UCU member and Green Party candidate for Hunslet and Riverside.

Striking staff are running a series of 'teach-outs', where they offer education off campus. Amongst other things is set to include a day-long workshop on 'Designing a Really Sustainable City'.

Details can be found in this spreadsheet.

Leeds Green Party will be participating in a rally in support of the strike on Thursday 22nd February, assembling from 11.30 on the Parkinson Building steps, setting off at 12pm, and marching to outside Leeds City Art Gallery (Victoria Gardens), where the rally will start approximately 12.30pm.

Leeds Green Party is the group within the Green Party of England & Wales with responsibility for the parliamentary constituencies of Leeds Central, Leeds East, Leeds North East, Pudsey and Morley & Outwood, and the 20 council wards that make up those constituencies. Headingley Green Party is the group with responsibility for the council wards Adel & Wharfedale, Headingley & Hyde Park and Weetwood in the Leeds North West constituency.