As the University of Stirling braces itself to be plunged into 4 four weeks of strikes at the end of this month, I sat down to discuss the effects of the strikes on students, staff and the institution.
Dr Derek Hodge, teaching fellow and press officer for the university’s branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), was eager to assure students that this mass action was necessary.
Dr Hodge said: ‘any form of action we can take that is effective also causes student problems.’
The strikes cover most of the second half of the semester and if completed will allow just 16 teaching days after reading week. Whilst to many this may seem excessive Dr Hodge warned that: ‘the consequences of [staff] not taking action will be even greater for students in the long run.’
The strike has been caused by an ongoing dispute over pensions. Staffs pensions are organised on a national level and a movement to a new scheme is set to have a dramatically negative effect on staff and possibly students.
According to Dr Hodge staff are set to lose up to £10,000 per year on the new scheme: ‘for early career people, the effect will be horrendous. Someone who starts a career in their early 30s and retires at 67 will lose in the new scheme upwards of £200,000.’
Some newer institutions are covered by a different pension scheme, Dr Hodge worries that there will be a ‘real incentive’ for staff to work elsewhere. This could lead to Stirling failing to attract leading academics resulting in a degraded academic experience for students.
Dr Hodge was adamant that this could be ‘avoided very easily.’ The negotiations are being conducted nationally and it is Universities UK who have ‘unilaterally walked away from negotiations.’
Dr Hodge was careful not to point any fingers at individuals but did have some scathing comments about those at the top of the tree: ‘Older academics [are] willing to pull up the drawbridge behind them.’
These older academics may be those in a position like Principal and Vice-Chancellor Gerry McCormac who Dr Hodge said ‘certainly has a good enough pension.’
The Principal has not personally commented on the strikes but in a statement from the University of Stirling, it was said that: ‘in the event of strike action, the University’s priority would be to minimise disruption to students.’
Staff voted with one of the highest turnouts across the country in favour of strike action. With 13 days to go until the start of the national strike and 20 until Stirling’s strike there may still be time to avert the action. It seems however that there is a long way to go to this happening.
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