Why I am striking

I am currently on strike as part of the University and College Union’s (UCU) industrial action to defend our right to a fair pension.  Please support university staff by writing to university management asking them to resume negotiations with UCU immediately. https://www.ucu.org.uk/why-we-are-taking-action-over-USS

This is the strike notification from UCU and I stand by the Union’s commitment to fight for fair pensions for all USS members. It’s not a difficult decision to make, despite the loss of wages, supporting the strike is a simple ethical choice for me.  All my colleagues across the university sector are deeply committed to their work and their students, they work incredibly hard, and regularly put in many, many long hours for which they are not paid.  It goes with the territory and there is an expectation that we do it for the love of our domain, which of course we do.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve decent employment rights, fair wages and a secure pension.  Academia may be a calling, but it’s also a job.

However I also have more personal reasons for supporting this strike. As is so often the case, punitive moves like this have a disproportionate impact on women, who already earn less over the course of their careers than their male colleagues, and those employed on precarious contracts.  I was recently struck by this report in The Economist on the gender pay gap: The roots of the gender pay gap lie in childhood.  The research was undertaken at Princeton University using data from Denmark but I suspect the findings, which highlight the disparity in men’s and women’s salaries after having children, are equally true of the UK. Becoming a father has little impact on men’s earnings in the long term, while the opposite is true of women.

It was sobering looking at these graphs as they are a perfect illustration of my own career.  Like many women, since having a child, I have worked part time in order to accommodate childcare and I have only been able to apply for jobs that provide a degree of flexibility.  And this is with the support of my partner who plays an equal role in childcare.  Clearly this has had an impact on my earnings, but more importantly, it has also had an impact on my pension contributions. Like many women with children, my pension will already be lower as a result of working part time, so I really, really can not afford to see it eroded further.

So that’s my added incentive for joining the strike, but when all is said and done, we all deserve a fair and secure pension, and that is something we should all fight for.

Read more

Kleven, H., Landais, C., and Sogaard, J. A., (2018), Children and Gender Inequality: Evidence from Denmark, Working paper 24219.

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