Unions and students step up fight to save education
The fight to save public education in the UK took a step forward this week as two more unions declared ballot results in favour of strike action this Autumn.
Yesterday the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) announced a programme of escalating action short of a strike beginning on October 10th over attacks on pensions. In a turnout up on previous action in March members voted by 77% to 23% in favour of action short of a strike and by 58% to 42% in favour of strike action. More details on the precise nature of the action short of a strike, which in previous years has included the non-marking and setting of exams and is likely to begin with working to rule and to contract, should become available over the next few weeks.
UCU will join 6 education unions for a mass lobby of parliament on the 26th of October and will join coordinated strike action on November 30th.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said
UCU members made it quite clear that they were prepared to strike to defend their pensions when they took action earlier this year… We remain committed to a negotiated settlement, but if the government doesn’t reconsider its approach then we will look at further action.
In Wales UCAC, the Welsh langauge teaching union, has also announced that it will be striking over changes to the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS) on October 5th. On a turnout of 56% an overwhelming 89% of members voted for industrial action.
Elaine Edwards, UCAC’s General Secretary said
The fact that members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike shows that they are united in their opinion that the Westminster Government’s attack on public sector pensions is entirely uncalled-for and wholly unfair.
We know that the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is sustainable. Despite the Government’s rhetoric, sustainability is not what’s driving these changes; they are raiding people’s pension pots as a direct result of the banking crisis. It’s immoral to destroy a system that’s working effectively and giving people security in their old age– just for the sake of political expediency.
In Scotland the education union EIS, which represents 60,000 school teachers and teaching staff in FE and post 92 HE institutions, has begun the process of balloting its members over pension changes. If successful it could mean that for the first time in this fight education staff across all sectors in all parts of the UK will take part in coordinated strike action.
Meanwhile student action against fees and the privatisation of higher education envisioned in the HE white paper is coalescing around a national demonstration on November 9th. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, who called the demonstration, are coordinating a series of meetings to build for the action and calling for a demonstration on the streets of London, and for localised student walkouts beforehand and afterwards.
NCAFC are also calling for a day of direct action and walkouts in support of the strikes at the end of November.