Leicester students occupy corridor to strike back against unfair pensions for lecturers
By Sophie Sandberg
This week marked the second week of the University and College Union (UCU) strike at Leicester University and students occupied the university’s administrative corridor to demand better pensions for their lecturers.
Lecturers at the University of Leicester (UOL) have been taking a stand against unfair pension benefits and started a four-week strike.
In support, as part of the strike, 21 students ‘took over’ the administrative corridor outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office on Monday to show solidarity with their lecturers and to protest against the new chancellor elect, David Willetts.
One of the students who took part in the sit-in, Naomi Burnley, a Film Studies and English student at UoL, said: “We were occupying the Fielding Johnson building for the purpose of protesting against David Willetts as our chancellor elect and in support and solidarity with our striking lecturers and staff.
“It’s important to support our lecturers and staff whilst their pensions are being threatened, especially as our Vice-Chancellor Paul Boyle gets paid £250,000 a year.”
The cost of future pensions has risen by one-third in the last three years, and the USS has a deficit of £6.1 billion, which by law must be reduced.
David Harvie, from Leicester University and College Union, said: “Professor Boyle is a key figure in this dispute as he sits on the executive board of Universities UK, the body that manages academics’ USS pension.”
“Under the new scheme, the average loss for a new starter is likely to be close to £208,000.
“Here at University of Leicester, 86% of staff voted for a strike action on a turnout of 69% (the sixth-highest in the country).”
An extra £1 billion pounds a year would be needed to maintain current pension benefits, according to Universities UK.
Arther Mirza, Director of the News Centre at UoL, said: “Professor Paul Boyle met with staff who were part of UCU, as well as students, to listen to their concerns regarding the USS pension scheme.
“As well as the normal engagements with staff and students, the Vice- Chancellor suggested during the meeting that he meets again with the UCU and Students’ Union members to maintain discussions and dialogue around their areas of concern.”
The strike is set to end on March 16 and all lecturers are expected to return to normal, in the meantime UCU are organising free workshops for students to take part in.