No peace without justice

May 26, 2011

The imposition by employers of detrimental changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme signals their disdain for USS members ("War possible as USS battle is lost", 19 May). Their refusal to negotiate with the University and College Union, and their legal threats against our negotiators, show their willingness to force through cuts in our pensions, careless as to the consequences for universities and students from the inevitable industrial action.

Our members are extremely angry. They signed up to their jobs on the promise of final-salary schemes that would not discriminate against late starters or those with career breaks; they contracted for inflation indexing, not the consumer price index. They do not want a two-tier scheme that discriminates against younger colleagues.

We will be organising resistance and seeking joint action with teachers, lecturers and others in the public sector who are defending their pensions. We are forced to seek escalating action next year, beyond one-day strikes.

We will be coordinating action across the higher education sector and explaining it to students. We will seek to disrupt administrative and assessment processes while minimising the damage to students' education. We will do so with reluctance but determination. There will be no peace in the sector until there is justice on pensions.

This is what the employers have provoked. Their attitude, together with the culture of targets, rankings and "outcomes", is what has transformed universities from collegial institutions into profit-seeking operations courting future privatisation. As UCU presidents and chairs, we will not stand by and let this happen. Defence of pensions is part of the preservation of publicly funded post-16 educational provision.

Gavin Reid (University of Leeds), Jim Wolfreys (King's College London), Tom Hickey (University of Brighton), Mark O'Brien (University of Liverpool), Carlo Morelli (University of Dundee) and Mark Campbell (London Metropolitan University) University and College Union

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