Why I’m on strike today #ucustrike

I’m on strike today. I’m going to take the day to spend some time with my family who I have been dangerously neglecting recently. Hence I’m not going to be on the picket lines or doing anything else strike related. So I thought I’d just do a bit of e-activism before I head off today. If you are missing out on updates on strike action then head over the the UCU Campaigns site (http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5615)

So why am I on strike today?

I wrote about why I went on strike last time (http://adventuresincareerdevelopment.posterous.com/why-i-went-on-strike-today) and the reasons are basically the same. I work hard, I try and do something positive and I don’t expect or recieve particularly good pay in return. I therefore get a bit angry when the government starts to try and trim my pay and particularly when it is done in a sly, underhand way through my pension. Cuts to pensions are just cuts to pay and it is important that we keep that in mind when we are discussing the rights and wrongs of public sector pensions. The UCU leaflet on the strike is also useful if you want to understand the issues (http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/5/1/tps_whywerestrikingleaflet.pdf) and there is more details in the unions June briefing document (http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/k/q/ucu_ussbriefing_jun11.pdf)

I’m also on strike because I’m pretty sure it is the right thing to do. I’m a UCU member and I want to abide by the democratic decisions of the organisations. I also want to stick by the other people who are going on strike because I know that together we are stronger. The moral decision is clear and unambiguous for me and I find it difficult to understand other people who don’t feel the same.

One of the interesting things about going on strike is that it forces you to engage with the issues at a far deeper level than you would normally have to. I want to feel in a position to defend the stance I’m taking so I spend some time reading and writing about pensions and public sector financial planning. This morning I’ve found some useful stuff that I thought I’d share with you.

Steven Court (UCU Senior Research Officer) has produced an interesting presentation on Analysing college and university finances (http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/g/i/ucu_analysingfinances_v2.1.pdf) which basically provides you with some tools to hold your institutions financial narrative to account. I think that we’re all going to have to get good at this and stop seeing finance as something boring that goes on elsewhere. Money makes the world go round and therefore understanding how the money works is an essential skill.

I found a briefing note (http://www.box.net/shared/e9d8hm92hr) from a financial advice company called Informed Choice. This sets out a brief overview of the Hutton proposals (http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/indreview_johnhutton_pensions.htm). In essence there are three proposals on the table:

  • Career average rather than final salary
  • Working longer
  • Changing the way inflation is calculated

I don’t think that the idea of a career average is necessarily wrong. There doesn’t seem any reason why you should base pensions on a short time at the end of someones career rather than an assessment of their salary across their life. However the devil is in the detail – if this ends up just being a way to reduce the bill then the principle of career average is just being used as a way to justify cuts. The issues around working longer and inflation are also just ways to achieve cuts.

Ultimately the question boils down to what kind of public sector do we want to have. Should it be a well funded, decently remunerated sector that can attract and retain high quality individuals and offer them a decent standard of living. Or should it be a poor relation to the private sector which constantly gets hit by government cuts as well as snide verbal attacks. I’m proud to work in the public sector and williing to do it for a reason other than big bucks, but I’m not willing to do it for love alone.

Before you say it is impossible to afford a decent public sector pension or a decent public sector have a look at The Guardians summary of public spending since 1948 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/interactive/2010/oct/15/comprehensive-spending-review-2010-public-spending) and ask yourself – where is the crisis?



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