Sir Keith Burnett: speak out to defend our education, save staff pensions!

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We - students, staff, parents, carers, alumni, and people of Sheffield - are writing to you concerning the future of university staff pensions.

The new scheme proposed by Universities UK (UUK) will end ‘defined benefit’, forcing staff to give up all security over their pensions, risking a loss of up to 50% in retirement. We are pleased that you have called these proposals ‘unfair’: we further believe the changes are disastrous, unacceptable, and unnecessary.

The level of planned strike action reflects the sheer scale of damage such a proposal would cause. However, this can be avoided if UUK comes to a fair settlement, and we ask you to come out publicly against the change and to urge other members of UUK to do the same.

You have been a strong and welcome critic of the rise of marketisation in Higher Education, having openly criticised the current funding model, the ‘students as consumers’ agenda, and the moves towards ‘value for money’ fast-track degrees. These proposals are an ideological choice to further marketise and privatise our education, the same agenda driving up tuition fees and cutting vital funding for students.

This is not just about pensions: the future of education is at stake. As we’ve seen in workplaces like Royal Mail, pensions are some of the first things to come under attack when industries are privatised. We see this proposal as a significant leap in this direction, and a critical blow to the status of universities as public institutions.

Allowing this to go through would feed this government’s toxic marketisation agenda. The proposals have been proven to be unnecessary: it is an ideological choice and it must be stopped.

In your final year you can change things: you’re getting your pension, please defend those of your colleagues, and defend the future of our education.

We call on you to:

  • Publicly speak out against the proposals, calling for a fresh round of negotiations based on a fair offer that retains a defined benefit.
  • Use your influence to lobby other members of Universities UK to do the same and back a fair proposal.
  • Ring-fence all savings deducted from striking workers’ pay into projects which serve students and the people of Sheffield, including grants for participation in sports and activities, bursaries for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and local initiatives in the city. There is precedent for this at Universities such as UCL and Goldsmiths.

We are seeking to organise an open meeting jointly for staff and students and we would like to extend an invitation to you to address us.



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