On Saturday 10 March, Marion Sporing – a member of Dundee University UCU – seconded a motion at the Scottish Labour Party conference on the USS strike. The text of her speech is copied here:
“On Thursday we celebrated International Women’s Day, standing alongside colleagues here at Dundee University on the picket line- the 9th day over the past 3 weeks, instead of doing our usual jobs.
We were not along- we stood with colleagues on picket lines across universities in Scotland and all over the UK to defend our pension.
Our dispute with the employers’ organisation Universities UK is not over- next week we start a full week of strikes- this is the biggest university strike in the UK we have ever seen.
Instead of teaching, researching, looking after IT systems, libraries, student services, recruitment- dealing with the vast array of tasks we normally do- we have been braving the snow, ice and rain which the weather has thrown at us- to make our stance clear.
(We suspected that UUK had conspired with the weather gods to keep us off the picket line, but it did not work!!)
Our stance is very clear and understood by everyone, except the employers.
We have the support of our students who have been standing alongside us, the unions, the Labour party and members of the public- as everybody can relate to the importance of having a fair pension to be able to retire in dignity.
Cutting £10,000 each year in retirement off the pension is an outrage!
One of my students wrote in support: I know that we will win this, together, because we cannot afford to lose!
We have not yet won. Talks with ACAS are ongoing- we got the employers back to the negotiating table, demonstrating that industrial action had an effect. But we need to keep the pressure up and continue industrial action- if necessary, affecting the exam period after Easter.
The employers need to listen to our concerns. This is not just a fight for pensions in the university sector, but for the right to a fair pension in all sectors, for all workers.
The attacks on our pensions, wages and working conditions are carried out under the camouflage of the austerity agenda. We need to rebut the attack on hard won workers’ rights not just for us, but also for the future.
I would like to finish with some words, loosely based on work by the author Wolfgang Borchert:
When they come and tell you that there is a deficit in the pension scheme
And you need to pay MORE, but get LESS when you retire
When they come and tell you that your students will suffer and that it is your fault because you are on strike
When they come and tell you that there is no money and that we have to rely on the performance of the stock market ,
Just Say NO
When they come and tell you that universities are businesses and that students have to pay for their education
Just say NO
If we don’t say NO and fight back and stand in solidarity we will all lose.
In this spirit, I ask Conference to support the motion.”