By Dr Simon Choat
Lecturers don’t enjoy cancelling classes and going on strike: It’s something we’ll only do as a last resort. We know that it’s frustrating when seminars and lectures are cancelled. However, many students joined us on the picket lines last Wednesday and we’re asking all students to support us.
The trade unions called the strike because of changes to our pensions. The Government claims that they want to ‘reform’ public sector pensions: What they actually mean is that they want workers to pay more, work longer, and get less. If the Government’s plans go through, then it’s estimated that lecturers will lose thousands and thousands of pounds over the course of their career.
The average pension is already only £5,000 a year, and it’ll be even lower if the Government gets its way. The real pensions divide is between a tiny elite of very rich people and the rest of us. The average pension of a director of a big company is £175,000 per year.
The Government claims that our pensions need reforming because the country can no longer afford them. But the figures show that the costs of pensions are relatively stable. If public finances are in a mess, it’s not because nurses and teachers get a modest pension when they retire: it’s because we spent more than £1trillion bailing out the banks.
We think that the real reason the Government wants pension reform is because private companies don’t want to pay decent pensions to their workers, and if the Government gets its way then it’ll be private companies who will be running our universities.
It’s not just that these changes would fail to save any money and are deeply undemocratic. The Government’s proposals are designed to benefit those at the top. Universities like Kingston will lose out.
We don’t want to have to teach student ‘consumers’ who have to pay £9,000 a year in fees.
Most of us became lecturers because we believe that education is both a public good and an individual right and should be available to all regardless of ability to pay.