Thursday, 1 March 2018

#459 Sounds from the picket line

On my way to work today, I encountered a striker. Not a pro footballer. An employee who was refusing to do her job and thought it a better use of time to stand outside in the cold, trying to persuade members of the public to give a damn about some change to her pension.

Her story was that her employers had decided to change her pension scheme from defined benefit to defined contribution. It seemed an odd thing to protest about. Defined contribution schemes were common. Many employers had made the same decision as a way of addressing the UK's ageing population. She explained that the decision had been made to correct a deficit but that she didn't believe it had been calculated correctly.

Her gripe seemed understandable based on her rationale, if it could be validated. If not as a reason to loiter in the cold, then at least as a reason to feel some sense of injustice. She carried on talking as I walked past, reciting facts and trying to find an angle from which her plight also affected me in some significant way. It didn't. Higher Education seemed like a pleasant sector all in all and defined benefits were rare, most people could never hope to have one.

What irritated me was her supposition that I might agree with her about the existence of the deficit without having actually reviewed the figures myself or at least a report on them. Maybe she didn't suppose it. Perhaps she was just dishing out as much information as she could about her cause because she was desperate to do what she could to influence the outcome. I couldn't stay and listen to more information though. I had a lecture to go to.

Any comments made above represent opinions or interactions that I have had in a personal capacity, not as an employee of an organisation.


Fizzfan said...

Pensions are a mystery to most people. I’ve got one but don’t understand it at all really.
All I know is they used to be much more generous and failsafe.
Like a lot of things in life now, it all feels quite insecure and slightly treacherous.

Difficult for outsiders to sympathise over the wranglings of financial ‘trickery’ when they have no involvement or proof though.
Also most employees like you say, are on that scheme now.

Must be galling to be expecting one thing but then be told hard luck you’re getting a lot less.

Here’s a comment from an article about the strike, written by a Uni Lecturer.......
I'm a lecturer at a UK university. I wish I could tell you that the story you hear was crazy but it's not. Pensions may be the catalyst for our strike but this strike is also about the commodification of education. We're sick of seeing our students charged through the nose (the tuition fees discourage people from lower-income backgrounds from going to university). We're sick of short-term contracts. I'm lucky enough not to be on one but there are people in my department who've been there for years - intelligent, good people who give their all to students - who go from short-term contract to short-term contract. They can't plan, get a mortgage, nothing. Universities are a public good, they're not private enterprises. This strike needs to make it hit home!

Dan Copping said...

I feel for the lecturers who can't get long-term jobs.