Birmingham Students stand with Lecturers over University Pension Row

By Henry Fox

December 1st 2021 — Staff at two Birmingham universities voted to strike from December 1st to 3rd, affecting 40,000 students.

Tensions bubbled between the University and College Union and Universities UK. 58 UCU branches are on strike nationwide.

Disruptions affect the University of Birmingham and Aston University.

University staff have complained of equality pay gaps, unsafe workplaces, and the casualized contracts of many employees.

The most contentious issues are a 35% slash to pensions and 20% pay cuts since 2009.

At Aston, the campus was almost empty, save for those holding the picket line.

Pam Lowe, Chair at Aston UCU, said: “We train the workers of the future. We educate the population.

Unless we have decent working conditions, who’s going to be attracted into this job?”

Pam worries for the future. She said: “We’re looking at retiring on a fraction of the income we would have had.”

One of the UCU’s key demands is a reversal of the pension cuts.

Across the city at the University of Birmingham, strikers demonstrated outside the university rail station.

Meg, a UoB student, stood in solidarity with her teachers. She expects to be here for all three days of the strike.

She said: “Their working conditions are our learning conditions. It’s so important for students to come out and support”.

Critics worry this will be detrimental to students’ wellbeing, however 73% of students support the strikers, while only 9% oppose the action.

Meg said: “There’s a range of views and there always will be, but I think the overwhelming mood among students is quite a willingness to support the strike.”

We’re supporting the @ucu strikes!✊🏼🪧📣⚡️

And you should too…

Support the picket lines TOMORROW!#UCUstrike #UCU #OneOfUsAllOfUs pic.twitter.com/5zlNEvse3S

— NUS UK #NewVisionForEducation⚡ (@nusuk) November 30, 2021

Dozens of other students joined her in unity with their instructors.

“We’ve been through the Covid crisis, we’ve been through Zoom, we’ve been through the scandal with exams. There’s solidarity”, Meg added.

UUK has declined to comment.

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