Staff and students at the University of Nottingham kicked off a potential four weeks of strikes over pensions on 22nd February, with a picket at the West Entrance of University Park Campus and a banner drop over Ningbo Friendship Bridge.
The picket is part of a wave of industrial action hitting 64 universities across the UK over changes to pensions that, if implemented, would leave the teaching staff potentially £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.
Impact spoke with protesters at the picket line at the West Entrance of University Park Campus.
Gareth Gee, tutor in English at the Centre for English Language Education (CELE), who was present at the early morning picket, told Impact: “This should never have come to this. We should not be standing here out in the cold; we should be teaching our students in the security that we will still get our pensions that we’ve been working for all these years.”
Another member of staff added: “I’m striking because of the way the pension issue has been handled. [This] points to a broader issue about the failure to listen to staff, the failure to engage meaningfully with staff about how to run and organise university affairs.”
“”Our teachers’ working conditions are also our learning conditions.””
SU Education Officer, Cassie O’Boyle, was present at the picket on behalf of the Students’ Union. She told Impact: “It’s really important to stand in solidarity with our staff, to support our postgraduates that are going to become academics and be part of this pension scheme […] We’re continuingly lobbying the Registrar and the Vice-Chancellor to speak out to Universities UK, because that’s going to end the strike, and as soon as the strike is finished, it’s not going to affect the students anymore.”
On the other side of the campus, the Left Society at the University of Nottingham staged a banner drop stunt in support of the strikes. The banner, reading “Solidarity with staff”, was hung off of the side of Ningbo Friendship Bridge by members of the society.
“It’s an important strike because our teachers’ working conditions are also our learning conditions. If they get affected, it accordingly affects the quality of the lectures as well as our education. I think it’s important to stand in solidarity with them,” said a member of the society.
“The University made a surplus of £33 million last year, so it’s not a question of not being able to afford it,” added another student.
Members of the Left Society also highlighted the importance of students taking a stance on the issue: “There’s a lot of people who are unaware, who don’t seem to know what’s going on, who don’t feel comfortable taking a stand on something they feel is much bigger than them […] speak to lecturers, find out why they’re striking, read stuff. They’re not doing it because they enjoy going on strike, they’re losing 14 days pay.”
A University spokesperson said:
“We are very sorry if disruption does occur. We are making every effort to ensure our students’ education is not adversely affected, and plan to recover any disrupted learning activities.
“This is a national dispute over how to solve an estimated £6 billion deficit in the pension scheme, which is why a national consultation will be held on the proposals in March.”
Image courtesy of Kristina Kiminiute.
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