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UCU members strike against pension changes and job cuts

On 22 and 24 March 2011, strikes took place on campus after the University and College Union (UCU) voted early in March to take steps to protect their salaries, pensions, and job security.

The plans for action including strikes were formed after it was announced that greater pension contributions from staff and an increase in the pension age, as well as a second consecutive drop in annual pay in real terms, would be imminent this year.

The strikes happened across the UK on Thursday 24 March.

Their faculty was joined by those from the University of Brighton, City College Brighton and Hove, Northbrook College in Worthing, Chichester College, the University of Chichester, Central Sussex College and Sussex Downs College, showing solidarity in a bid to raise awareness of their plight.

The Government’s plans for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme could cut up to a cumulative £852 million from pension plans, and nationally 40,000 are at risk of redundancy.

On March 18, the University of Sussex Students’ Union issued a statement asking pupils: “Please do not cross the picket line even if it means using the Library.

“Students and staff will be collecting funds to support the strikers (who do not receive wages on strike days) and students will be providing food for the picketers on Tuesday 22.”

Protesters took to the picket line at 7:30am on March 24 and stayed until around 2:30pm.

This date fell within the Easter vacation and so, for many students, the action was not a disturbance in any way. In fact, the protests were met with student solidarity. Many students were on the picket line supporting the strike as well as elected Students’ Union sabbatical officers.

A spokesman from the University of Sussex Students’ Union said: “In supporting them we see our biggest hope of saving higher education from the threatened position that it is in now.”

Brighton and Hove City College suspended classes to allow for students to lend their support.

The National Union of Students (NUS) also supported the action.

Members of the UCU organised various strikes and protests over the last year in order to fight against redundancies and financial cuts at Sussex and Brighton, and national, universities.

In March last year, staff and students at Sussex were involved in strikes and protests opposing the loss of over a hundred jobs to proposed redundancies.

In May 2010, further protests, including a march from the Level to the seafront which culminated in a rally against the job cuts, were organised and attended by both faculty and students of the Universities of Brighton and Sussex.

At the time, the representative for Sussex UCU, Paul Cecil, said: “Staff at Sussex have been left with little option but to strike today. Over 100 staff are at risk of imminent redundancy notices and further cuts have already been announced which would seriously damage the quality of education we can offer current and prospective students.

The city centre protests demonstrate that the cuts we are facing are vehemently opposed by the wider community.”

This year, action has continued as staff and students maintain their disappointment and disapproval regarding the proposed cuts.

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