Oxford SU will stand with academic staff in their upcoming pensions strikes, following an ‘Extraordinary Council’ meeting last night.
Delegates passed a motion by 56 votes to 13, mandating Oxford SU’s sabbatical officers to issue a statement in full support of the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action. It also called on the University to oppose the impending pension reforms which will impact thousands of University employees.
However, while passing with a large majority, several students expressed concern at the impact on teaching. One student told Cherwell that the SU “now supports finalists being left with potentially no teaching whatsoever for three weeks”.
The emergency meeting, held at St Catherine’s College, was called after a failure to pass an acceptable motion regarding the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike last week.
The SU had previously faced widespread criticism for their initial statement, which said it was “regrettable” that the proposed strike could adversely affect students’ education.
In contrast, last night’s motion offered a far stronger support for the academics’ industrial action.
It called on students to support their lecturers and tutors, even if that means not attending classes, with an exemption being made for compulsory assessments.
It also mandated the vice president for graduates, Marianne Melsen, to contact all graduate students and encourage them to join the UCU.
However, despite the amendment excluding compulsory examinations, concerns were still raised at impact the strikes will have on students.
One fourth year told Cherwell: “Tutors and academic staff are absolutely justified in being aggrieved by changes to their pensions.
“But, it’s also important that our student union supports the interests of students. Despite claims made about solidarity and long-term effects, the motion Oxford SU passed today – encouraging students not to attend classes, and offering support to strikers – means that the SU now supports finalists being left with potentially no teaching whatsoever for three weeks, which is deeply worrying.
“Oxford SU is there to represent students, and while we should show our support to tutors in other ways, we should not be supporting the strike.”
UCU’s planned walk-outs are a response to proposed reforms of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the fund which provides the pensions to academic staff at universities such as Oxford.
Independent estimates suggest that the changes would cause a typical lecturer to lose £200,000 in pension contributions by the time of their retirement.SU votes to support UCU strike