BY EATHAN SERGEANT-FOSTER
Students turned out in force to support lecturers over plans to slash their pensions.
Talks to end their ongoing strike and settle the dispute were planned for yesterday at the conciliation service Acas.
Hundreds of students occupied the Goldsmiths University of London campus to support the University College Union (UCU) strikes that are happening across the country.
More than a million students in the UK are affected by the strikes, with 10s of thousands demanding compensation for the loss of teaching.
The proposals put forward by Universities UK (UUK) could leave the typical lecturer up to £10,000 a year worse off during retirement, according to UCU figures.
Abdi Abdullah, 15, one of the youngest in attendance, was inspired to come out and support the lecturers.
He said: “Lecturers’ pensions are being slashed and they’re apparently going on the free market.
Obviously no good is going to come from that at all, we have already seen the collapse of Carillion where privatised corporations have ruined our country.
“More and more people my age, in Year 10, are getting more and more politically active, and what I’m trying to do is set an example and get others involved because these things are affecting our future.”
The new proposed pension plan would see the scheme change from its current defined benefit system, which gives members a guaranteed income in retirement, to a defined contribution scheme where pensions would be subject to changes in the stock market.
A UCU spokeswoman said they were pleased that UUK had now agreed to further talks to end the strike action.
The two parties met yesterday for talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas, but strikes are still set to go ahead today, tomorrow and Thursday and a five-day strike planned the following week.
The UCU spokeswoman said: “We do not want a prolonged dispute that drags out towards exam season, but our members were determined to fight for fair pensions.”
A spokesman for UUK said: “Union leaders need to listen to the concerns of the Pensions Regulator and USS.
“Pensions risk is very real. Their dismissal of the funding challenges is hugely concerning, the very reason employers and the scheme must act responsibly to protect pensions and students. We remain at the negotiating table to engage with UCU on the long-term sustainability of the scheme and we continue to seek further talks.
“If a credible, affordable solution were to be put forward by the union, employers would want to consider it.
“This industrial action is targeted at students.
“It will be young people and the next generation of students who will also suffer if their education deteriorates because employers are forced to make cuts to pay more into pensions.
“Employers are committed to continuing to pay in 18 per cent to staff pensions for the next five years, double the private sector average.”