Trinity College, the richest college at the University of Cambridge (net worth £1.5bn), recently took the decision to remove itself from the USS pension agreement — the same agreement that saw 2018’s mass industrial action on dozens of university campuses.
This verdict, taken based on flawed financial grounds and with disregard to the wider education sector, puts at greater risk the pensions of over 400,000 university workers across the UK, and is already leading other universities to re-consider their long-term commitment to the scheme.
University and College Union members in Cambridge have begun a series of demonstrations each week at the College’s entrance, are actively campaigning for all university academic staff to withdraw their teaching commitments to Trinity’s undergraduate students, and have been lobbying members of the College’s Executive body to reverse their decision.
Fellows of Trinity have called for a Special College Meeting on 21 June in which they hope to force either a revocation of the decision, or a commitment to re-join the USS. Should this fail, UCU nationally must be prepared for stronger and more concerted action to support local workers and students who are rightly outraged with Trinity.
This struggle may be an early test for newly-elected General Secretary, Jo Grady, who has come out strongly against the college’s decision. Over the long summer break and with students away from full-time undergraduate study, the withdrawal of teaching commitments is less likely to focus the college’s attention as sharply, therefore an escalation of tactics must be considered more urgently.
The long-term survival of the national USS pension scheme may be decided by a small, unaccountable body in just one of Cambridge’s colleges. UCU Rank and File are set to meet on 30 June in Leeds. This offers an opportunity for grassroots activists to help organise the fight-back against Trinity’s withdrawal, plan for our upcoming strike ballot in September, and develop the wider fight for the democratisation of our union and holding our new leadership to account.