University and college staff across Brighton are due to strike today

Posted On 24 Mar 2011 at 2:11 am
By Claire Smyth

Staff from City College Brighton and Hove will join their university counterparts today (Thursday 24 March) in a national strike.

They are striking to protest against proposed changes to pay and pensions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) were due to form picket lines from 8am in protest against government plans to cut up to £852 million from their pension scheme.

Lecturers from Sussex University also took strike action on Tuesday (22 March) in a one-day protest.

The Spearhead

The UCU is angry at proposed changes to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, increased pension contributions, raising the age of retirement and the potential loss of a final salary scheme.

Fine art and critical and cultural studies lecturer at City College and at Brighton University Jonathan Gilhooly said: “This is not purely about money.

“It is also about the dignity and worth of a profession whose status is being severely undermined, making it more difficult to recruit the best people and ultimately having a negative impact upon students’ education.

“Striking really is a last resort.

“Those who take part in industrial action lose out in the short term (they forfeit pay for strike days) but are acting in order to benefit teachers and students in the long-term.”

Staff at Brighton University and Sussex University are also due to walk out today in the first UK-wide strike in universities for five years and the first in further education (FE) colleges since 2008.

The UCU claims the government cuts could see a typical FE lecturer pay an extra £88 a month into the scheme.

But the total value of the pension is expected to decrease because the government is basing rises on a lower measure of inflation.

Sussex UCU regional support official Adam Lincoln said: “UCU members make sacrifices each year, with cuts to real wages, increased workloads, larger class sizes, increased efficiencies and constant downsizing of the workforce.

“It is time for the bankers, tax dodgers and the wealthy few to make sacrifices instead of students, education workers and the general public.”

Most classes in colleges will be cancelled today, although City College Brighton and Hove will keep its library resources and catering facilities open.

The strike has support from the National Union of Students.

Phil Frier, the principal and chief executive of City College, said: “We respect the right to take strike action and on a personal level may feel sympathetic to the cause.

“However, the college’s legal position is clear and has been set out in the letter sent to all staff either by email or post last week. 

“Our first duty is towards our students and to ensure that we do our best for them.”

The strike comes ahead of Saturday’s union-organised march in London against public sector cuts, including job losses and pension changes, which is expected to be attended by more than 100,000 people.

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