Monday 14 March, 2022
Why are we still striking and what can you do?
To our students,
You will be aware that industrial action continues at Sussex and at 67 other universities across the UK, including five further days of strike action over 21 - 25 March, as part of UCU’s dispute with our employers over pensions (USS) and pay cuts, inequalities, job security and unmanageable workloads (4 Fights).
To all our students at Sussex, we as Sussex UCU members wish to send our deep gratitude for your solidarity and your patience over the course of these disputes. Student-staff solidarity at this time is not just important, it is everything. We understand that it is not easy especially in a protracted period of strike action, which is hard on us all and affects different people in different ways.
As staff at Sussex, the last thing we want is to be taking industrial action again. We do not want to be on strike. We want to get back to work, and to be working with you, our students, who are the reason we joined the Higher Education sector in the first place.
But, we have now been betrayed by our employers with ramifications that will affect you and all future university students and workers. The below offers a short summary of recent, worrying turns in the USS pensions dispute.
• A pension is a worker’s deferred wages to live on in retirement.
• In February 2022 devastating cuts to our pensions were approved by national and Sussex employers, including our own University Council.
• Our pensions will be typically cut by around 35%.
• This is a theft of £100,000s of a typical member’s deferred wages.
• The cuts will hit junior, precarious staff the hardest and will have concerning equalities implications.
• Cuts were approved on the basis of flawed data, false narratives and in the face of passionate resistance from staff, students and finance experts across the UK.
• You can read about the salaries of some of the Vice Chancellors who approved these cuts, here.
We are more worried than ever before for our most vulnerable colleagues and for the future of the sector. It would not be right to let this rest; we have a generational responsibility to fight it. As UCU members, we continue to take collective action as a way of standing up for ourselves, for the future of our sector, and for all future workers’ rights to a fair pension, including your own. Global pensions expert for the Financial Times, Josephine Cumbo, outlines what is needed now for these cuts to be revoked, a possibility that depends on our employers’ willingness to work with us to find a solution.
Concerted action is necessary and we need your help to end this dispute so that we can all get back to the thing we care about most: education.
Look here for a variety of actions you can take, ranging from in-person to digital, from collaborative to solo and from immediate to long-term.
The first step you can take is to sign the Sussex Community Open Letter to our Vice Chancellor, here: https://bit.ly/3ifnWhB
We can achieve positive change in Higher Education if we work together. Please come to see us on the picket lines next week for conversations, to find out what broader action is being taken, and to share any questions you have. To find out how we can work together and to contribute ideas, you can also get involved in the Sussex Students’ Union (https://twitter.com/ussu) which supports striking staff and is holding democratic student elections during strike week.
UCU Sussex Executive Committee on behalf of our branch
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sussexucu
Full Student FAQs: https://bit.ly/SussexStrikeFAQs2021