Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of Sheffield (UoS) joined 43 other universities across the country in national action on Monday, February 14, with a number of different picket lines organised across the university campus.
Today’s action focused primarily on the cuts to pensions, with striking staff claiming they stand to lose 30 per cent of their retirement income.
Speaking from a picket line outside the University's politics department on Northumberland Road, Crookes, striking lecturer David Duriesmith said: “After working for years on insecure, non-permanent contracts, I finally got a permanent job, which is great. But now, the university wants to cut 30 per cent of my retirement which is a huge cut, with no increase in pay and conditions, and increasing workloads, which the universities have recognised.”
David, who teaches gender and politics, added: “This is an all-out attack on the viability of our retirement, which is being done incredibly cynically after Covid, with the hope that we’re not going to resist it.”
To resolve the pension dispute, a UCU spokesperson says it is demanding employers revoke the cuts to staff pensions and formally accept the union’s ‘compromise proposals’.
A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “We have been notified that UCU has asked its members at Sheffield and 67 other universities across the country to take part in further strike action over national pensions and pay and working conditions, for up to 10 days.
“We do not expect the upcoming strike action to affect the majority of students. Our priority is to minimise disruption for those students who are affected to ensure that learning and teaching continues to be delivered. Student support services will continue to be available and we will be communicating regularly with our students and staff to let them know about any changes that may occur as a result of the strike action.
“We will continue to work with our local trade unions and national representatives and encourage both parties to work together at a national level to explore ways to resolve these disputes.”
PhD student and social research teacher Elena Simon said the staff participating in today’s strike action were ‘effectively fighting for the future of the sector’.
“Tuition fees have gone up every year but this hasn’t been invested in staff,” said Elena, adding that staff were also facing a real terms pay cut with less-than-inflation payrises during a ‘catastrophic cost of living crisis’.
Eva Giraud, a lecturer in sociological studies at UoS, is also among those walking out today, and said ‘no-one wants to go out on strike’, but ‘enough is enough’.
"Everyone’s sad about missing teaching, and the implications of that; but there’s just a sense that things can’t go on as they are. I think it’s really a sign of people feeling that enough is enough,” she said.
Strike action focusing specificially on pay and working conditions will begin on February 21, with a further 24 universities, including Sheffield Hallam University, joining the action.
UCU estimates that by the end of the strike action, approximately 50,000 university staff will have taken part in the walkout, nationally, with the impact set to be felt by around one million students.
To end the dispute concerning pay and working conditions, UCU is demanding a ‘£2.5k pay increase for all staff, as well as action to tackle unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of insecure and exploitative contracts,’ a union spokesperson said.
The final day of industrial action is due to take place on March 2, co-ordinating with the student strike organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), the latter of which will culminate in a protest in Central London.
Staff are also engaged in ‘action short of a strike’ which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, or undertaking any voluntary activities.
The University of Sheffield has been approached for comment.