Solidarity on the picket lines at Sussex university

As part of a national strike day, members of UCU at Sussex university have been picketing. They were joined by other education workers and students at the entrance to campus who expressed their support for industrial action. 

UCU are involved in a series of rolling strikes across the UK which started last week in Scotland and culminate in a FE and HE strike on Thursday. Strikes are nominally over changes to the pension scheme, however at Sussex it was clear that strikers see this as part of the wider fight against austerity. This was also in evidence from the solidarity from students and education workers well beyond the UCU membership.

Pensions under threat

Divide and rule game looks to undermine private and public sector workers' retirements

The number of people with final salary pensions in the private sector has declined dramatically in recent years.  There are now only 3.6 million private sector employees in company pensions and many of those are in middle and upper management. The savaging of private company pensions has left millions more dependent on the meagre basic state pension in old age, a state pension that an OECD report published in June 2009, found to be one of the worst in the developed world with income on average just 31% of pre-retirement earnings.

Interview with a French striker

2010 saw huge social unrest sweep France in response to proposed pension reforms which would have upped the retirement age, amongst other cuts. Jean-Marie Cosson, a striking teacher from the town of Saint-Nazaire talks about the revolt at one of the last bastions of the worker’s movement, where the entrance of the lyceéns (young students) into the movement was given an ovation by ‘their fathers in blue collars.’

What’s the situation  at Saint-Nazaire?

Labour Govenment - Pension-snatchers

It looks as if Labour has finally overcome the “problem” of funding pensions. By raising the age of retirement to 70, Labour hopes that we will all drop dead before we are able to draw them. The treasury has commissioned reports from several right wing “pensions experts” who, surprise surprise, argued for an increase in the age of retirement. As one of them shamelessly put it, “the role of the state is to alleviate poverty and not to fund a long and active retirement with a good standard of living”.

Strike action needed to defend Public Sector pensions

Workers across the public sector were set to strike on March 23rd to defend pension rights but the strike was called off when a deal was done with the government. The same attacks on pension schemes are due to be implemented in April 2006, and John Prescott is already under pressure to renege on the deal. Only effective strike action will defeat these attacks and workers have to be ready to take it.

Local government bosses still intend to raise the minimum retirement age from 50 to 55, as well as the age at which the full pension is payable from 60 to 65. If they get away with that then another set of cost-cutting measures such as average salary, as opposed to final salary, pensions and higher employee contributions will be brought in.

Fujitsu Attack on Pensions

The IT firm, Fujitsu Services, has announced it is closing its final salary pension scheme to existing members. It was closed to new joiners in 2000.

The union, Unite!, centred around the firm’s Manchester site, has condemned the plans. Peter Skyte of Unite! said:

Fujitsu Services is a highly profitable company and made profits of £177m in the last financial year. The company has yet to produce any proper justification for this latest attempt to raise profits by cutting pension benefits, and this action may hinder future bids for blue chip private sector outsourcing contracts.