College lecturers go on strike

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OUTRAGED college lecturers will join colleagues from across the country on a national strike against cuts to pay and pensions.

Sixty academic staff from New College Stamford walked out today to protest government proposals on public sector pay and pensions.

And a delegation from the college will unite with staff from more than 250 colleges in Market Square, Nottingham, to demonstrate against the cuts.

The college has called a study day to minimise the impact on students.

The strike has been called by the University and College Union (UCU), which argues that its members are being treated unfairly.

Godfrey Jennings, UCU Branch Secretary at New College Stamford said: “We are outraged that the government is pushing to reform pensions when as recently as November 2006 we agreed reforms to make the pension scheme sustainable in the long-term.

“Union members are not prepared to stand by and watch our pension scheme destroyed.

“Members in colleges and universities across the UK are under attack on all fronts from cuts to funding, jobs and pay and now pensions too.”

New public sector pension reforms, proposed by Lord Hutton earlier this month, demand savings of up to £852m from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

This would raise pension contributions from lecturers from 6.4% to almost 10% by 2015, according to the UCU.

For a typical further education lecturer this could result in an extra pension contribution of £88 per month.

The retirement age could be rise to 65, and a lower inflation measure for pensions could be implemented. Pensions will also be linked to career average earnings rather than final salaries.

Mr Jennings added: “Our education system is under attack at a time when students and our communities need it most in these difficult economic times.

“The consequences of these attacks will not just be felt by every UCU member but by every person who seeks to benefit from further and higher education.”

College principal Andrew Patience said: “To ensure that there is limited impact on our students we have designated Thursday as a study day.

“All students, parents, guardians and carers have been informed. Students have also been informed of these arrangements by text.

“Classes and lectures will resume as normal on Friday. Some services will remain unaffected. Evening classes will operate as normal and the Gallery restaurant will provide its usual evening service and menu.”

The college did not say whether it supported the strike or not.

Chaiman of the Employers Pensions Forum, Professor Brian Cantor, defended the proposals. He said: “The union is ignoring the past three years’ of negotiations. The strike action will be damaging to students and the sector as a whole.

“It is not the answer. Unless these changes are approved, any future funding shortfalls for the scheme must be met by employers.”