Since the Coalition Government got into power in 2010 we’ve seen the fastest reshaping (read; dismantling) of the public sector in history. Under the guise of “cutting waste” and “reducing the deficit”, the government have almost completely removed state funding from the higher education sector, raised tuition fees to £9000 a year, cut EMA, set the wheels in motion to destroy the NHS and sacked hundreds of thousands of public sector workers. These are all horrendous things, and exploration of each one could merit its own essay, but today we need to talk about pensions.
The media has successfully twisted the disputes over pensions to make it look as though the workers in the public sector are receiving “gold plated” pensions that they don’t deserve. In doing so, they have managed to gloss over the fact that the government is stealing from people who have been working for years and saving for their retirement. They are also stealing from the people who have yet to join the ever shrinking ranks of the employed. (That includes students, by the way.)
A pension is deferred pay; money is taken automatically out of a salary every month and put away for retirement. Public sector pensions tend to be fair, and better than the pensions that many workers in the private sector have. What the government is trying to do, rather than improve the pensions of those people working in the private sector, is attack the pensions of public sector workers, which forces a “race to the bottom”.
The attack on peoples pensions must be looked at like the government is dipping their thieving mitts into ordinary people’s bank accounts with no warning; we wouldn’t stand for that and we shouldn’t stand for this.
In past strikes students’ union officers have gone out and got hundreds and hundreds of students to sign pledges of support for their striking lecturers, and often they add reasons onto their pledge of support, some of which include:
“Students wouldn’t be here without everyone that works at the uni.” Jason, Music Production
“[their] work is valuable, it deserves appropriate economic reward.” Heidi, Counselling and Therapeutic Studies
Bang on. Lecturers work, they work hard, and like any worker should be remunerated appropriately. Why on earth should lecturers have their right to a decent quality of life once they retire snatched away from them? Indeed, it’s been found that when workers are paid a decent wage they are motivated to do their job to a higher standard. This has a direct effect on the quality of teaching in a university. As students, if we want a good quality of teaching, we should be demanding our teachers are paid properly. The strike to save pensions is ultimately a strike to save higher education from becoming an exploitative employer and losing its high standards.
“They should get what they originally [planned] for; no change to the goal posts!” student, MSc Psychology
Precisely. This also doesn’t just apply to lecturers; it applied to thousands of workers who have carefully planned their retirement based on their pension plan. How much they’ve paid in, for how long impacts on the age when they can retire, and now they’re suddenly being told that they need to work for longer, pay more into the pension fund and receive a smaller pension when they do finally get to retire at an older age. Already the average age of retirement is 68 and with the attacks on pensions is only set to rise higher. Which leads me neatly on to:
“The time now is to reduce [not increase] retirement age! I don’t want to work til I’m 90!” Paula Smith, Hospitality and Retailing
Fact of the matter is what we’re seeing is the beginning of a plan to ensure that people have to work longer and longer. At the rate things are going now, anyone currently studying their undergraduate cannot hope to retire before 70 years of age. Considering that the average age of death is about 80, it’s not really leaving us much time for R&R!
There are some reasons to support your lecturers, and there are the reasons that the Students’ Union will be supporting the University and College Union in its strike action on Thursday.