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We've got no clue how big strike will be, says Union of Brunel Students

(Picture - Brunel University London)

Worried student union bosses say they have no idea how the lecturers’ strike will affect their members, because it is not clear how many staff will walk out. Over 80% of lecturers surveyed at Brunel University London voted in favour of a strike concerning changes to their pensions. The Union of Brunel Students voiced their concerns over the planned strike. Ammaar Ikram, Vice President for the College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences for the Union of Brunel Students said: “The problem is, the university are not allowed to ask staff if they're striking and staff don't have to disclose it until they've began striking. Each of the Colleges are meeting at some point this week to discuss what the contingency plans are, but essentially, we've got no clue on how big it is and if it will effect some departments more so than others until it happens.” However, Brunel University London has suggested that a majority of students could be ‘unaffected’ by the planned industrial action. “At Brunel, we estimate that 150 of our 800 academic staff have supported the ballot and may strike, so the majority of our students could well be unaffected. For those that are, we will ensure that the impact is minimal, by rearranging lectures or using pre-recorded materials, for example, and we have communicated this to our students. Since we cannot ask for staff’s intentions prior to the strike, we ask that students turn up for lectures and submit work as usual.”

The walkout could affect thousands of students across the UK later this week. Lecturers and staff who are members of the University and College Union, are backing industrial action after Universities UK proposed a new scheme for pensions. According to the UCU website in an ‘independent modelling of the proposals’ lecturers’ are faced with losing £200,000 out of their retirement allowance, slashing their pensions by an estimated 40%. Staff working at universities currently pay into the Universities Superannuation Scheme, guaranteeing an income for retirement. The UUK want to change this current scheme to a defined contribution system, where pensions will be subject to changes in the stock market.

The strike will potentially affect 61 universities throughout the UK that hold a membership with the University and College Union.

The UCU represents over 100,000 staff at universities and colleges across the UK. The strike action will commence on 22 February and could last for 14 days if the row over changes to pensions cannot be resolved. University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff who have delivered the international excellence universities are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by vice-chancellors who seem to care more about defending their own pay and perks than the rights of their staff. Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out.” The first week of strike action will start with a two-day protest but this could increase to walkouts lasting up to five days.

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