Pickets across London universities as UCU strikes begin

Yesterday, university teaching staff walked out in the first of fourteen planned days of strikes over changes to their pensions.

The industrial action was organised by University and College Union, the largest union representing UK academic staff.

Picket lines formed outside the universities attended by both striking academic staff and students. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell spoke at the picket outside Goldsmiths university in south east London. He thanked the strikers and said that the response shows “the anger that people have felt over this threat to the pensions”.

The industrial action is going ahead after talks over proposed changes to pensions stalled. These changes could leave teaching staff up to £10,000 a year worse off once they retire.

Of the 58 per cent of union members who voted, 93 per cent backed action, which is set to include refusing to cover classes or reschedule classes lost to strike days, as well as refusing to undertake any voluntary duties.

Alexej Ullbricht, one of those striking outside SOAS and a teaching fellow there, told London Student:

“On average people stand to lose about 10,000 pounds per year… the guaranteed element of your pension would be gone.

“The strike is a good pressure mechanism. It’s really good that we’re doing a lot of days… 14 days is proper substantial action and I think it’ll really put pressure on the employers…there’s a good chance it’ll have an effect if we keep the pressure up.”

61 universities throughout the UK have voted for industrial action. Amongst them, twelve universities in London will be affected, including UCL, Imperial, Goldsmiths, City and Queen Mary.

The strikes will lead to a large number of students missing out on lectures and seminars.

A striking member of staff told LS: “While I sympathise with them ultimately I can’t apologise for being disruptive because disruption is the purpose of a strike. Of course, if I was a student and I paid that much money, I’d be annoyed as well.”

Anna Gretton, a SOAS student who was supporting the strikes outside, said: “It’s a great thing, it’s been really successful today.”

London Student News Editor - born in London, now study here and judging by this pollution, probably going to die here too.

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