By Rosie Williams
Trade unions are urging students and lecturers not to enter Kingston University next Wednesday as the UK faces a mass strike over public-sector pension cuts.
“November 30 will be a fantastic step in a series of events that will inspire people to say, ‘no we are not going to have this’ and actually take control of their own lives,” said Francesca Manning, a member of Kingston Education Activists’ Network, who studies politics and international relations.
The strike is being called in protest over radical public-sector pension changes, which will result in government employees, including lecturers, paying more for their pensions but receiving less in retirement.
Simon Choat, lecturer in politics and also KU’s University and College Union membership secretary, told the River: “I have estimated that, as a young lecturer who won’t be able to retire until my late 60s, I could lose almost £300,000 over the course of my career. The Government wants us to pay more into our pension, work longer, and yet receive less in retirement.”
Protesters claim that a recent white paper published by the Government will also result in the effective privatisation of higher education and new visa restrictions for international students.
A series of protests and strikes are sweeping across Britain, as unions try to “keep the movement mobilised and step up the pressure”, say organisers.
On Wednesday pickets will be set up outside the entrances to the Penrhyn Road campus from 7.30am and at 10am a march will set off from the university through Kingston town-centre.
The UCU demonstration will merge with other pickets along its route, including at Kingston and Surrey councils and Kingston’s job-centre.
Manning said: “The strikes will help the 99 per cent move from a defensive position, to withdrawing their labour and saying that we can actually shut down the one per cent.”
The activists’ network is organising the pickets and hopes to have stalls, music and “teach-outs” at the event to “give it a carnival feel”, said Tom Rivers, 21, a third-year politics and economics student.
Dozens of student activists attended a planning meeting for the event earlier this week.
Some of them criticised the students’ union, arguing that it was not offering them enough support and should be doing more to help the protest financially and coordinate a demo of its own.