Statement Following Meeting With UoY VC
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- Statement following a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students John Robinson and Director of Human Resources Joss Ivory
- This lunchtime a group of students met with the university's Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students and the Director of Human Resources to discuss potential solutions to the ongoing dispute over changes to the USS pensions scheme.
- We feel that university management are choosing to avoid making a statement to support maintaining the benefits currently given to pension scheme members, despite there being no apparent obstacles to them doing so. The request was made by representatives of the occupation that the Vice-Chancellor join the ranks of the VCs of the Universities of Cambridge, Warwick and Newcastle, among others. Professor Lamberts argued that complicated governance and legal restrictions on the pensions regulator prevented him from supporting the position that defined benefits should be maintained for USS members.
- We do not believe this to be the case given the recent positions taken by other VCs, nor that the arguments offered were sufficient to rule out issuing a statement supportive of striking staff and critical of the proposed changes to the pension scheme. We therefore consider that by not taking a publicly-stated position on pensions, not only is Professor Lamberts aligning himself against fair pensions for our staff, he is also supporting wider efforts to marketise education that have been ongoing for decades.
- We are furthermore concerned with the position taken by the university with regard to rescheduling teaching lost to strike action. Management informed us that it was allowing the decision to reschedule to be taken or rejected on a department-by-department basis. We feel that this does not adequately ensure that striking staff will not be subject to increased workload because it provides no safeguards against staff being compelled to take on additional teaching. At a time when many staff are employed precariously and on low pay, we believe that the university should take a clearer position on staff workloads after the strike, and also that it should consider that any rescheduled teaching might require students to rush to catch up in time to be examined. We therefore oppose rescheduling classes on the following grounds: (1) it puts unnecessary pressure on students to cram at the last minute, (2) it undermines weeks of industrial action in which crucial labour was withdrawn, (3) it creates more work for teaching, admin and support staff who are already behind due to strike action. We oppose any attempt to use rescheduling measures against union members un a punitive way.
- We have resolved to continue the occupation given the lack of progress made in talks today and will be staying at the university as long as the strike holds, subject to further developments.
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