UCU Strike Action at Gower College Swansea
24th March 2011
For a report from the UCU rally outside the Welsh Assembly and full reports from other picket lines around Wales, see Socialist Party Wales - "Enthusiastic response to lecturers strike"
Gower College Swansea was shut to students today (24th March 2011), all lectures cancelled because UCU members were taking strike action in defence of their pensions. Pickets at the Gorseinon campus were in a cheerful mood, fortified by bacon butties (they were frying up the bacon on a camping stove) and welsh cakes.
Ronnie Job, a UNISON steward at Gower College, interviewed UCU steward Gavin Palmer on the Gorseinon picket line near Swansea:
Q: Can you explain the reasons for the strike today?
A: We've been forced into taking this action to defend our pensions. The government want to increase how much we have to pay in pension contributions, make us work longer before receiving them and reduce the value of the pensions we eventually receive.
Q: How would you respond to the suggestion from the government that your pensions are unaffordable?
A: The Teachers Pension Scheme was reviewed and changed in 2006. It is UCU's contention that it is affordable. Pension costs are actually set to decrease over time.
Q: Millions of other public sector workers pensions are also under threat. What do you think we need to do in order to defeat this threat?
A: Solidarity across the trade unions is needed. UCU has acted today; my hope is that this is a spur to action for other unions in education and across the public sector as a whole to join us in taking coordinated strike action.
Q: What do you think to the idea of a one day public sector strike not only to defend pensions but against all the public sector cuts?
A: I think it's absolutely essential. We all need to stand together on this.
I asked Gavin what he thought of a Labour peer (and minister in the last government), Lord Hutton, preparing an attack on public sector workers' pensions on behalf of a Tory/Liberal Democrat government but his reply was unprintable!
Gavin said that he thought trade unionists should support candidates and parties that fight all cuts. "No cuts are acceptable in education or the public sector in general."