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30 November – Professor Catherine Pope’s speech

Tomorrow at 12.30PM, following our picketing in the morning, we will be marching down to Guildhall Square for a rally with our sister unions in Southampton.  Professor Catherine Pope, our Equalities Representative, will be speaking on behalf of Southampton UCU.   What follows is an excerpt from her remarks.


I’d like to say a few words about why UCU – the University and
College Union – is on strike today. UCU is the largest trade union
for staff in the post 16 education sector in the UK. We have 120,000
members in FE colleges, Universities, Agricultural Colleges, Prisons
and Adult education. We are educators, researchers, librarians,
technicians, IT staff and administrators.

Members of University of Southampton UCU branch are on strike
today to defend our pension – the Universities Superannuation
Scheme. Our UCU colleagues in FE colleges are also on strike to
defend their pension – Teachers Pension Scheme. And many of you I
know are here to defend public sector pensions.

By striking we know that we have an impact. Lectures, seminars,
research meetings, and parts of the day to day business of running
the University have been cancelled. This is bad for our students’
education and bad for our research. It is probably also a bit of an
inconvenience for colleagues who are not in the union.

I know that strikes are not a ‘good thing’. That is probably the only
thing Frances Maude and I will ever agree on.

That is why I and my fellow UCU members do not take strike action
lightly. When we withdraw our labour and take strike action we
do so as a last resort. We strike because our employers (and the
government) have refused to engage in meaningful negotiation with
us about our pension.

USS is a final salary pension scheme. We pay 6.35% of our salary into
the scheme. It is the second biggest occupational pension scheme in
the UK and according to its website is ‘one of the largest and most
stable pension schemes in the UK’.

USS is also, in fact, a private pension scheme. It is not a public
sector pension scheme. It is stable and not in serious financial
difficulty. But despite that it is being attacked in exactly the same
systematic ways by the government and our employers as public
sector pensions and that is why we are on strike today: to defend our
pension, and to stand in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in
local government, NHS and Social care, Border Agency, schools and
so on.

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