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National Union of Students' message of support to staff ahead of USS pension strikes

30 January 2018

The National Union of Students (NUS) has sent its support to UCU ahead of a wave of strikes set to hit 61 universities next month.

In a joint statement, NUS president Shakira Martin and UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said staff are the cornerstone of the university experience and that proposals by Universities UK to cut the pensions of USS scheme members would be hugely damaging.

NUS said it is worried that the imposition of cuts would lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and consequent recruitment and retention problems as staff move elsewhere. Keen to avoid any disruption NUS called on university employers to meaningfully negotiate directly with UCU or through the conciliation service Acas.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Nobody wants to see disruption at our universities and that is the clear message from NUS today. We can reassure them that we are ready for talks to resolve this dispute at any time. We hope the universities will listen to their message and come back to the negotiating table directly or through Acas.

'We welcome the support of NUS in our fight for a decent, guaranteed pension. Students understand that it is staff who are the backbone of our university system - not vice-chancellors too concerned with their own pay and perks - and we will do everything we can to bring this dispute to an end as soon as possible. For our part we are prepared to go to Acas or anywhere else today in order to resolve our differences with the employers before damaging strike action begins.'


The full statement:

The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff and in challenging the marketisation of education.

We believe that fairly rewarded staff are the cornerstone of the university experience and that the proposal by Universities UK to substantially cut the pensions of members of the USS pension scheme will be hugely damaging if implemented.

As representatives of students, NUS is worried that the imposition of these cuts in the face of sector wide opposition will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and consequent recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere.

As representatives of staff, UCU is concerned that alongside recent cuts in the real terms value of pay and the very high rates of casualisation, these proposals are seen as yet another kick in the teeth for hard working staff.

We believe that the current policy of paying ever higher salaries for vice-chancellors and principals while cutting pensions for those who do the work sends a hugely damaging signal to both students and staff.

In sending its full solidarity to UCU, NUS asks its members to:

  • continue to call for the university employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and agree to meaningful negotiations either directly with the union or via Acas
  • write to their institution head to complain about the impact the strike will have on their learning
  • participate in local demonstrative solidarity action during the strikes in support of UCU members.

In response, UCU agrees to:

  • work closely with NUS to explain to students why action is taking place
  • commit to meaningful negotiations in order to settle the dispute if possible
  • continue to support NUS in our wider struggle for a fair and just education system. 

Shakira Martin, NUS president
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary

Last updated: 5 February 2018