St Andrews lecturers went on strike on Wednesday 30 November to protest against pension cuts. Members of the St Andrews branch of the University and College Union (UCU) rallied in support of the organisation’s National Day of Action. Students and the general public were also among the picket lines in support of the action.
The rally and march, organised by the UCU in conjunction with the Students Association, overlapped with the St Andrews’ Day graduation ceremony, which could be seen as an antagonistic measure. The UCU is the largest trade union for lecturers, researchers, and other academic-related staff working in the UK.
The protesters met in College Square to gather and listen to speeches. The speakers included Dr Chris Hooley, president of the UCU at St Andrews; Patrick O’Hare, the Students Association president; and Chloe Hill, a third year geography and philosophy student.
Some attendees carried signs, a few of which read ‘Ms Principal, Get Some Principles’ and ‘Students + Workers + Unite + Fight’. After the speeches, the protestors marched to Younger Hall, chanting slogans such as, ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’. The protesters awaited the emergence of graduates from the ceremonies in Younger Hall and cheered as the graduates strode down North Street.
In a statement to The Saint, Chris Hooley said, “It was heartening to see many staff, students, and members of the public taking part – well over a hundred in total. Publicly funded education, open to all, is under attack on all sides; it is vital that even in these times of austerity we do not give up on such key ingredients of the country’s and the world’s future.”
Patrick O’Hare declared his support for the protests, saying, “I think it is important that students stand by staff when they are fighting pension reforms which will make them work longer and contribute more, for a smaller pension. The UCU marched with students on the streets when they opposed tuition fees and education cuts; on Wednesday, we stood with them on the picket lines.”
Dr Tom Jones of the School of English was in attendance. “This day is about defending the idea of education as a public benefit and a public service,” said Jones.
The UCU is negotiating with the Employers’ Pension Forum about the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The USS is a private pension scheme provided by universities, higher education, and other institutions for their employees.
According to Hooley, “The employers are threatening to impose severe and detrimental changes to the pension scheme – beyond we feel what is justified by the financial situation. Indeed, the USS scheme is well funded, so the kind of drastic action proposed is not required.”
The University of St Andrews press office was not available for comment on the strike before The Saint went to print on Monday.