Sunday, 19 October 2008

Staff and students unite over pensions

[By Lee Vernon, Brighton Thursday branch and University of Sussex Students' Union]

On 10 October, over 80 technicians, porters and IT services staff, members of Unite, went out on the first of four strike days as Sussex university launched another attack on staff. The university has refused to negotiate over its decision to bar the pension scheme to new staff as a prelude to closing it.

Pickets were set up early in the morning across all the main entrances to the campus. Many students stopped to offer their support. Brighton and Hove bus workers refused to cross the picket lines. Socialist Students were active throughout the strike and its build-up, supporting the pickets and raising over £50 for the strike fund.

At midday, the Unite members marched through the campus. At the rally, Unison, UCU and the students union members showed the university management that an injury to one was injury to all. Jeremy Marris of Unite, said: "[Management] have been stalling since May and they must have thought that people would be bought off with promises. They misread the resolve of workers to stand up for their rights and the rights of others. Once management are forced to accept the broad principle of equality in pension provision for staff, we'll make some progress."

Unite have vowed to strike for the next three Fridays until management listens to their demands. Management has relied on divide and conquer tactics in previous disputes. This plan is rapidly coming apart. Only by students, staff and academics standing up to the university management in joint, co-ordinated industrial action will they be effectively beaten. Socialist students and the Socialist Party will have a key role in making sure this happens.

Unison are facing the same pension dispute, however, they have so far not chosen to ballot, pursuing other legal avenues. Now they should see that the only course of action that will have any effect is to join their comrades on the picket lines. Management have shown they will not listen to workers and will not deviate from their marketisation plans for the university. Only by workers struggling together in solidarity will management be forced to back down.