Pay and Pensions: The UCU Strike

The eight-day strike action requires student support to bring into effect real change and secure a better future for universities.

Illustration by Grace Han

The strike action taking place this week is a regrettable but necessary action for the future of our universities. Proposed changes to pensions that see teaching staff left worse off by an estimated figure of £240,000, and wider dissatisfaction with the casualisation of work, has prompted lecturers and PhD teaching assistants to strike for a period of eight days. Quoted in the Guardian’s editorial, the head of the University and College Union (UCU) Jo Grady said that Universities UK have “learnt nothing from last year’s action where this sort of behaviour solidified strikers’ resolve and angered students.”

Before attending the picket on its first day I read around the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is the body that controls university staff pensions - but after a Wikipedia deep-dive and reading various articles, I’m none the wiser. Nor did I quite understand the term casualisation. This left me concerned. Will my peers find the strike doubly frustrating when, on top of a week without lectures, we can’t quite grasp the issue at hand?

At the picket, I was provided with a concise version of the pension changes and quickly convinced of the importance of the strike. Moreover, I haven’t heard anything particularly negative about the strike from fellow students; so either we recognise the importance of university staff exercising their right to have a voice, or we are relieved to finally be granted a reading week. But we sh