University lecturers are preparing to begin an assessment boycott in protest at attacks on pension provision.
The action, due to start on 6 November, will mean no setting or marking of exams and coursework so long as employers refuse to make concessions. It affects sixty-nine universities, mainly the older “pre-92s”.
The University of York has already threatened staff with 100% pay deductions if they participate in the action, effectively a lock-out. UCU has said that any such move will prompt strike action, and it remains to be seen whether management at York will go ahead. Other universities have been more restrained. Management at Oxford and Warwick have said publicly they have concerns about the plans, and there are clear splits on the employers' side.
The employers’ proposals would mean closure of the final salary scheme (already closed to new entrants) and for the first time a proportion of pension provision would be on “defined contribution” terms, shifting the risk of poor stock market performance onto workers. Although some of the motivation for the changes comes from government policy — firmly opposed to final salary schemes — universities are using regulatory requirements as an excuse to make unnecessary cuts.
Union branches need to organise regular meetings and collective protests to make sure members stay engaged with what can be an isolating tactic.
Students can support the action by backing the boycott publicly and getting involved in demonstrations and protests on campus.