On Tuesday 22nd UCU members at Leeds University went out on strike over drastic cuts to pensions. Under the new scheme lecturers could face losing up to £10,000 a year from their pension contributions as well as facing a potential loss of over 1,200 jobs and the closing of two departments. This is coming from one of the wealthiest universities in the country, a member of the elite Russell group whose management has enthusiastically supported the recommendations of the Browne review.
Joseph Muller, Hyde Park & Headingley Socialist Party
The day saw sixty picketers, an unprecedented number for Leeds Uni, cover all the main entrances to the campus. Socialist student members and other student activists stood alongside their lecturers on the picket lines, conversing with the strikers and asking fellow students to refuse to attend scab lectures and join the picket lines. Our presence was well received by the picketers who recognised that the struggle of higher education staff is intrinsically linked to the ongoing student protest movement; an attack on the jobs and pay of staff will inevitably have a damaging effect on the quality of education, particularly considering the sky high fees future students will be forced to pay.
The strike ended with a rally outside the university’s main entrance, attended by about one hundred staff and students. Amongst several UCU speakers, Socialist Party member and Leeds student Alicia Blackett made a rousing speech to the crowd arguing for the day’s strike to act as a springboard for further co-ordinated action between workers and students starting on March 26th, and leading to a general strike against the Con-Dem government’s savage austerity programme.
Thursday sees the UCU strike being rolled out nationwide. Socialist Party members will again be intervening at the numerous campuses across Leeds, raising consciousness amongst students and encouraging academic staff to continue the fight against the destruction of our education system.