This update contains key facts to keep at hand when talking to colleagues and students.
Branch Meeting and Activists Meeting
The next branch meeting will be on Wednesday, 7 February at 1300, in G.O. Jones Lecturer Theatre, immediately followed by an activists meeting for everyone wishing to help coordinate industrial action.
At school level there are some great initiatives being developed for industrial action — arts and performance, teach-outs, etc. These will be important to raise attention to our dispute and draw students and members of the public onside.
School and Departmental Organisation
Members in schools are already meeting to develop activities to take place during our industrial action, including arts and performance activities, organising guest speakers, teach-outs, messages that resonate with the interests of their students and colleagues. In the run-up to the picket, we will develop a calendar of activities to share with members, students, colleagues and the public.
Want to organise or let share your progress? Let a member of the branch committee know. Want to join the industrial action committee?
Key facts – The Industrial Action
We are going on strike and taking action short of a strike from Monday, 26 February, starting with three days and escalating if employers do not return to negotiations. For Queen Mary, the full set of strike days is as follows:
- Monday 26 February, Tuesday 27 February, Wednesday 28 February
- Monday 5 March Tuesday 6 March Wednesday 7 March Thursday 8 March
- Monday 12 March Tuesday 13 March Wednesday 14 March Thursday 15 March Friday 16 March
- Monday 19 March Tuesday 20 March
Most other institutions start their industrial action two days earlier than us (in our reading week).
Hopefully the employers will resume talks when they see how determined we are to keep our pension.
During the strike, we don’t work and we don’t get paid. It will be very important to highlight this to students — we are so desperate that we are prepared to forgo our pay. Our lost pay goes to the student hardship fund.
Action short of a strike (working to rule) starts on the first day of strike action.
Even if the strike goes the full duration, we will loose less pay during the strike than we will loose every year, forever in lost pension.
Key facts – The Deficit
The employers claim there is a deficit in the pension fund. This is nonsense.
The “deficit” is a estimation of the value of the pension if everything goes wrong. Jut two of the assumptions:
- That every employers goes broke. That’s right. The valuation assumes that Queen Mary, the LSE, Oxford and Cambridge, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham and all of the other members of the school close.
- We get a 4% pay rise, every year. Forever. We last got a 4% pay rise in 2006.
You can read the full take-down of the valuation here:
Key facts – The Cuts
This round of cuts to our pension is not the first:
- Our pay has been falling in real terms for a long time. 16% across the country in the last seven years. In London, this means around 20% in the same period.
- This is the third cut to our pensions in seven years.
- This cut is worth at least 5% per annum, on average around £200000 over a full career.
- The average pension could drop to £12000 per annum. Students know how hard it is to live in London on their £11k maintenance loan. Imagine how hard it will be in retirement when we are too old to take part time and summer jobs.
Pay and pension cuts will hit us all hard. The cuts will hurt younger, female and BAME staff hardest, because they are paid less, have smaller pensions and have less opportunity to save independently.
Key facts — Affordability
Employers can afford to maintain staff pensions (and indeed stop our pay from falling in real terms).
- Queen Mary is on track to make £50 million in surplus (profit) this year. That will mean more than £100m between this financial year and the previous three.
- The sector (that the valuation assumes will go broke en mass), made more than £1.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) in surplus in 2015/16 (the latest year figures are available).
Cutting pay and pensions is a choice, not a necessity.
“Think of the students”
Senior management will try turn students against staff for trying to protect our pension. We must be prepared to counter this claim in two ways:
- With the facts of the case, as above.
- With some honest discussion how senior management choices about pay, workload and profit affect students every day of their degree not just a few days of industrial action.
Anyone who has regular direct contact with students, through teaching, support or administration, should take the opportunity to show students that pay and pension cuts are a choice, striking to prevent them is not, given that senior management refuses to negotiate.
Industrial Action isn’t just for Union Members
Employees do not have to be a member of the union to take part in industrial action. All USS members are having their pension drastically cut and all should join us in this action.
Take time to ensure that our colleagues know how dramatic are the cuts, that the deficit is a fiction and that universities can afford to keep our existing pension intact.
We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday at 1300 in G.O. Jones Lecture Theatre.