This week our VC wrote to tell us that Lancaster would have supported the ACAS deal. But it is also true Lancaster would have supported the original UUK/USS proposal (perhaps reluctantly) which amounted to little less than criminal theft of our pensions.
This week our VC also wrote thanking those staff who have carried on working through the strike. I would also like to thank the strikers for having the courage to stand up for what is right. They are making sacrifices in order to protect the common good. They are striking because they care about Lancaster University, its students and the quality of education. Throughout the strike we have carried on teaching and learning at events in the city; this has not stopped. And any gains we make against the theft of our pension will benefit every USS member, not just those who are taking action.
The ACAS deal this week appeared at first sight to some to claw back some of what was being stolen from us. They would steal a little less. But we would pay a heavy price for that and end up all the weaker. It was firmly rejected because it too would signal the end of what we still have now – a mutualised scheme. And that is also why strikers are standing out there on the picket line every morning – because they don’t want to work in a glossy private corporation, they want to work in a university where education is seen as a public good for mutual benefit.
UUK’s position and governance processes are now exposed as a sham and are discredited. University leaders, students and even the financial press are calling for a rethink of the whole process and valuation methods. It seems no one can publicly defend the unethical practices which led up to the UUK’s decision to insist on ending defined benefits. An official complaint has been made about USS governance to the Charity Commission and there is now a crowdfunding initiative to sue the USS trustees. But we can’t give away our pension while the rethink takes place. Everyone will then lose.
So if you are a member of USS and you haven’t yet joined the action, join us for a warm welcome, and you can join UCU immediately. This will shorten the dispute and help us all do what we want – get back to work.
Apropos Bob Jessop’s ‘seven crane vice chancellors’ (subtext 174), some time in the 1990s I paid my annual external examiner’s visit to an MA exam board at an institution on the outskirts of Greater London – naming no names. The course – innovative, if not radical, and with a terrific track record in attracting and supporting non-traditional students – had been in the university’s sights for some time, partly for just those reasons but also because several of the staff had had the cheek to object to various managerial ploys. I arrived just after the startled chair of the board had received a phone call from the Vice Chancellor’s office, to say that the VC was planning to turn up in a few minutes, to exercise his statutory right to attend any exam board in the university (not one of his regular habits). We decided that this must be intended to intimidate me, since the internal examiners were well beyond intimidation. A kindly staff member said to me ‘I find it helps if you remember that all VCs are property spivs. Some are developers, some are speculators. Ours is a speculator. What’s yours?’ Since this was in the days of the blessed Bill Ritchie, I was slightly at a loss to answer, but I found the advice helpful, and persisted in writing a glowing report despite the menacing charm with which the speculator took me aside after the meeting and invited me to ‘tell the truth’.
Thank you for the review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand Theatre, I am pleased that you liked it. As the volunteer Stage Manager I feel I can answer the question that you pose. The Grand Theatre presents shows which aim to attract audiences from all walks of life. As a charity funded largely by ticket sales we aim to complement the subsidised Dukes Theatre in our programming and attract as wide an audience as possible. Therefore the audience that you were part of merely reflects the followers of the act in question.
In the last edition of subtext your cultural correspondent in his review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand invited readers to prove him wrong regarding his observation that he was the only member of the audience employed by the University. I was there on row C (that’s the second row for those unfamiliar with The Grand’s unusual seating plan) – a thorn between two retired/semi-retired colleagues. I’m sure there were others, although I will admit that I didn’t see any others from Uni, despite having plenty of time to look during the slexit (slow exit).