Posted by: John Brace | 3rd June 2018

Why did University of Liverpool staff go on strike?

Why did University of Liverpool staff go on strike?

                                                    

University Square (Liverpool) 24th April 2018

University Square (Liverpool) 24th April 2018

Above is a photo of University Square, Liverpool where hundreds of people gathered on the 8th March 2018 (not the day that photo was taken) as part of a UCU (University and College Union) strike to do with proposed changes to pensions.

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UCU (Universities and Colleges Union) protest in University Square, Liverpool (8th March 2018)

The video above is of an interview between myself and one of the people involved in the protest. Below is a transcript of the interview. JB stands for John Brace and KG for Kirsty Gates.

JB: Could you just introduce yourself please?

KG: Sure, who are you a journalist for?

JB: Sorry, I’m a freelance, I work for online and broadcast.

KG: Right ok, my name’s Kirsty Gates and I’m a lecturer in sociology at the University of Liverpool.

JB: OK, is part of the strike to do with changes to pensions?

KG: Absolutely, so there’s a change proposed which will end costs, sorry cuts of up to 40% of pensions, so it’s a change from what’s known as a defined benefit to add a contribution which essentially changes your benefit from being something of a security to a pensions being based on market like err.

JB: So like the previous one was a final salary scheme?

KG: Yeah so similar to that, it’s just creating less security, so bearing in mind the pensions are deferred pay, right so this is pay that we have contributed to in our scheme as employees.

JB: So when are they making those changes then or have they already happened?

KG: Well no, this is the debate and the discussion that’s happening. So Universities UK have put this forward and the union here UCU is opposing these cuts.

JB: Yes.

KG: And we want to have discussion about this, so the strike was really to initiate that discussion, because…

JB: To get a debate going?

KG: because UUK at that point hadn’t been participating in discussions of alternatives. So this was to initiate that, so now, subsequently since we’ve been on strike, those talks are taking place, they’re taking place today. So we have you know pushed progress. So we are in discussions.

JB: Are you hopeful that things will stay the same?

KG: Absolutely, like I think it’s our strike was never about absolutely defending the defined benefits although I think we should, it was about having those conversations going. So there are different alternatives as to how we take the negotiations with the UCU are going forward and they’re part of the discussions.

Should we have a defined benefit pension scheme? Yes. Should other sectors have it? Yes.

There’s often this talk, well we shouldn’t have it, it’s like this gold-plated pension.

These are important, if a pension is not a defined benefit, then it’s not a pension!

JB: Yeah, so of course you’ve paid into it as a pension so you believe you should get most of it back?

KG: Pension should be a security, but it’s a form of benefit you’ve paid into and it’s important you know for lots of reasons, even the nature of our job, we train for ten years, ten years which involves student debt and I didn’t start paying into my pension until I was in my thirties.

I work you know well over like forty, fifty hours a week you know each week. We do extra all the time for students. This was one of, this was part of the social contract you know, it was part of what we agreed when we were you know working in academia that having this pension was part of it. So to have that ripped away and this about the degrading of higher education, it’s becoming increasingly privatised. You know students are paying like fees that have never been higher!

JB: Of course, fees have gone up a lot recently as well.

KG: Of course, so where’s the money going if it’s not going into staff resources? Where is that money going? So there’s lot of questions that have to be asked beyond pensions.

JB: So is it a decision of the university management then about the pension scheme or is it another body?

KG: So Universities UK are kind of a body, a public sector body who are supposed to be the voices of universities. So yeah, they have a kind of key role in this. That’s made up of vice-chancellors from other universities.

JB: Yes, I think I noticed some protest banners about this.

KG: Yes, so there are other Russell Group universities that are involved in that so yeah.

JB: OK, well thank you very much for your time.

KG: No problem, you’re welcome thank you.

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Responses

  1. Employee’s get screwed every which way but loose in this country. you work pay taxes, pay into a pension they knock a bit of income tax off each pay day, you retire and get your pension you pay tax on it, utter bollocks

    • Thanks for that comment.

      Paying into a private pension does attract tax relief, I presume partly to prevent people being taxed on the income paid into the pension and taxed again when they receive their pension.


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