【中文版本附於英文版本之後】

While high school students over the States are boycotting classes for gun control and bus drivers of KMB striking for fairer remuneration, employees at UK universities also refuse to remain silent. Lecturers at multiple Universities are now striking because of a new proposal for their pension scheme. In this Snapshot, we will explain the causes of the strike. We have also interviewed three current students at the University of Cambridge, hoping to analyse this movement from a local, international and Hong Kong perspective, and further reflect upon the role and value of student movements and strikes.

*Answers to the interview only represent the stance of individual interviewees and do not represent the view of the Society

正當美國中學生為了槍械管制而罷課,香港九巴司機為了公平的待遇而罷工,英國的大學員工也沒有靜下來。多間大學的講師正因為退休金的改革方案而罷工。本期Snapshot將解釋是此罷工的前因後果,並訪問了三名在劍橋大學就讀的學生,從本地、國際、香港不同的角度看這次運動,也籍此反思學生運動與罷工的價值和意義。

*所有受訪者均以英語回應,中文內容為編者所譯;採訪內容僅代表個別學生意見,並不代表本會立場

Cover photos credit: Alvin Wong

 

 

The Universities Superannuation Scheme 大學退休金計劃 (USS)

【What is the USS and how does it work?】

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK and is the principal scheme for academic and comparable staff in UK universities and other higher education and research institutions. 

Under the unchanged USS, all members are subscribed to the USS Retirement Income Builder (USS RIB), an accumulation scheme that gives certainty about future pension benefits. Members contribute 8% of their salary every month, matched at 18% by employers, the value of which is protected against inflation. At retirement, members receive income based on their contributions every month, equal to 1/75 of their salary; alternatively they can take 3 times their total pension savings under the USS RIB as a one-off tax-free lump sum. They may also only take part of the tax-free lump sum payment in exchange for a higher monthly income.

For members earning beyond an income threshold (£55,000/year), the USS Investment Builder is a mandatory alternative that can offer a higher amount of savings, but contains risks of uncertainty (this alternative is optional for those below the threshold). Similar to the USS RIB, members contribute 8% of their salary every month, matched at 12% by employers. A ‘match’ mechanism also exists for the first 1% of voluntary additional payments into the USS Investment Builder to be matched by employers. These savings are invested in options chosen by the member, such that the savings’ value is now based on the investment and thus can fluctuate according to market conditions.

【How is the USS being changed?】

The proposed new scheme consists only of the USS Investment Builder, meaning the defined/guaranteed portion of the pension benefits are now removed. Instead, the scheme will base benefits on how well investments perform, meaning value of pensions can both rise and fall. The ‘match’ mechanism that benefitted voluntary additional payments is also proposed to be removed.

Employer contributions are proposed to remain at 18% of salary, though only 13.25% go directly into pension savings, whilst the rest cover death and incapacity payments,
deficit recovery contributions, and scheme running costs. Moreover, benefits already earned before the changes are made are not affected.

【什麼是大學退休金計劃(USS)?】

大學退休金計劃是英國其中一個最大的私人退休金制度,也是絕大部分學者和其他在英國大學、高等院校、研究機構職員的退休金計劃。

在現行的USS底下,所有成員會受惠於USS退休收入建設計劃(USS RIB)。此計劃為大學的職員提供穩定的退休保障。成員只需要每月從工資中供8%到這個計劃,加上雇主的18%(根據通脹調整),退休後便能根據每月供款,每月獲得相等於月薪1/75的退休金。僱員也可以選擇一次過從USS RIB中取得最多比他們總退休金儲蓄三倍的免稅金額。

假若僱員年薪超過£55,000,僱員就必須使用另一個退休金計劃(USS Investment Builder)(月入低於此水平的僱員也可以自願參加這個計劃)。這個計劃提供更高的回報,但同時帶來更多的不穩定性。類似於USS RIB,僱員需要供款月薪8%,而雇主則供款月薪12%。此外,計劃內還設有配對計劃,僱員假若願意自願將額外1%月薪放進退休金計劃,雇主便會進行配對。他們的儲蓄會用於投資在僱員選擇的產品,而退休金的金額則會根據投資表示和市場狀況而浮動。

【退休金改革方案】

新提出的退休金計劃只包含上述的USS Investment Builder 選項,設有固定退休保障的USS RIB計劃則被移除。因此,所有計劃內的僱員的退休金都會根據投資的表現而釐定,可升可跌。而自願額外公款的配對系統也被取消。

但是,雇主的供款依然會維持在18%。而在計劃改變前所取得的保障將不會受影響。

 

 

The Strike: For and Against 罷工行動

【Why is Universities UK (UUK) proposing a new scheme?】

Universities UK (UUK) is representing the views of more than 350 higher education employers on USS reform proposals. UUK states that difficult economic circumstances and increasing costs of paying out future pensions (by over a third since 2014) are exacerbating their deficit, which has reached £6.1bn. Moreover, they say an additional £1bn each year is required to keep the scheme as it is - which universities and staff cannot afford.

【Why is the University and College Union (UCU) opposing it?】

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 employees in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK. UCU opposes the changes proposed as they estimate losses to retirement of 10-40% to employees.

As the value of existing benefits are to be protected, the changes also discriminate new entrants to the education industry, costing them £200,000 on retirement. UCU believes this phenomenon attacks the future of represented universities. Moreover, they argue that loss of new entrants will only create a worsening spiral of deficits for the USS, as no additional income is received to fund existing pensioners.

【The Strike】

Discussions between UUK and UCU ended without an agreement, and the proposed changes above by the UUK were passed through by their chair’s casting vote. In response, UCU has opted to place sustained pressure on employers.

On the 19th January, votes for industrial action by the UCU showed that members were largely in favour of strike action, with 88% voting for action consisting of strike and 93% for action short of strike (ASOS). For members employed by the University of Cambridge, that number reached 89.4% and 95.8% respectively.

Strike action began on 22nd February, with a planned 14 days of strikes spread over four weeks. Strikes entail doing no work at all on strike days, and refusal to enter university premises except to join picket lines. ASOS is to be conducted from the first day of strike on non-strike days to the end of the industrial action, which includes ‘working to contract’ (only working minimally as required by contracts), not taking on voluntary work, not rescheduling classes, and not covering for any colleagues.

【UUK為什麼提出新的改革方案?】

UUK代表超過350間高等教育的雇主就退休金改革的意見。UUK表示不明朗的經濟狀況,加上未來持續增加的退休金付款(從2014年起已佔總開支超過三分之一),令其財政虧損達到 £61億。再者,他們指出每年將需要額外£10億來維持顯示的計劃,而大學和職員將不能負擔這筆資金。

【UCU為什麼反對新的方案?】

大學與學院聯盟(UCU)代表超過11萬大學、學院、監獄、成人教育和進修機構的僱員。UCU反對退休金改革方案的原因在於改革將令僱員的退休金減少大概10-40%

由於現有的福利將會受到保障,有關的改革將對新入職高等教育業的僱員造成歧視性的影響,令他們退休時需要多付£20萬。UCU相信這次改革將影響大學的未來。他們也擔心因應雇主沒有在退休金上有額外的投入,退休金計劃只會有更大的虧損。

【罷工】

UUK和UCU的談判沒有達成共識,而有關的退休金改革由UUK的主席通過;因此UCU以罷工行動來向雇主施壓

在1月19日,UCU就工業行動在會員間進行了投票,88%投票的會員支持包含罷工的工業行動,而98%支持非罷工的行動。而在劍橋大學,兩者的支持度分別達89.4%和95.8%。

罷工行動在2月22日開始,計劃將會在四個月內分階段罷工14天。罷工行動包括在罷工日子內不工作和拒絕進入大學範圍(加入糾察線除外)。在沒有罷工的日子將進行其他類型的工業行動,包括按章工作,不參與大學裡的義務工作,不補課和不為其他同事代課等。

Katie Nelson - 2nd Year law student

Q: Why is the strike relevant to students?

The strike is important and relevant to all students simply because the proposed pension changes will have a detrimental impact on staff who work hard to provide us with a good education. The proposed pension changes seek to switch pension income from a guaranteed amount to one which depends on investments. Given that the University’s pension scheme (USS) is in a financial deficit, it is very likely that staff will lose a percentage of their retirement income. Students should stand in solidarity with staff.

Beyond this, though, the proposal to make pension income dependent on investments is deeply concerning and reflective of the wider issue of the marketisation of higher education. It logically follows that the university will have to up their investments in lucrative areas, which are often not the most ethical, if staff are to receive a decent pension.

Q: Is this just a “British issue”?

This is by no means just a British issue. All students are implicated in the strike as it affects almost all departments. As international students often pay far higher tuition than British/EU nationals, a particular concern might be the quality and value of teaching which might diminish if staff are not confident that they will be able to retire on a decent pension.

Q: 這次大學講師罷工與學生有什麼關係?

這次罷工不但重要,更與學生息息相關。現在提出的退休金改革方案將退休金由受保障的金額轉移至會根據投資而浮動。有見現時USS是處於財政負債的狀態,大學職員的退休金很可能會有一定百分比的損失。這個方案將負面地影響那些孜孜不倦地為我們提供優質教學的講師,我們作為學生應該與他們並肩團結,支持他們的訴求。

再者,這個方案引申出更大的憂慮——高等教育商業化。將退休金與投資掛鉤後,大學要令職員有合理的退休金,便需要將更多資源投資在有利可圖的行業上。此舉很多時候並不道德。

Q: 你認為罷工反映的議題只局限於英國嗎?

這當然不只是英國學生所要面對的議題。所有大學學生都會受到罷工的影響。作為海外學生,很多時候需要付更高的學費,他們更應該關注這個議題,因為教學的質素有機會因為講師失去信心能夠在退休的時候取得合理的退休金而下降。

 

Jun Pang — 3rd Year HSPS student, member of Cambridge Defend Education

Q: How will you convince an international student who is paying more than £20,000 a year for the education here to join in?

International students need to realise that the strike has implications for all of us. UCU isn’t just fighting for pensions – its members are exercising their right to engage in industrial action in order to defend their right to fair employment. Many students who have expressed broad support for the strike but who are continuing to cross the picket line say that the strike is inconvenient, and that it is obstructing their learning. But that is the point of a strike – to be disruptive, to shut the university down, to show that workers will not accept precarity and a loss of dignity and respect while lying down.

It is important to remember that the extortionate fees we pay to go to this university are not going to the lecturers and educators who make this place what it is – a place of critical thinking and learning. Instead, they are going to management officials, to infrastructural projects that do nothing to improve our educational experience. Looking at the UCU strike from the perspective of an individual consumer is incredibly myopic; you may be losing three supervisions, or two weeks’ worth of lectures, but our teaching staff and all future potential academic staff are losing the possibility of even the most minimal amount of financial security and stability.

Do not forget that lecturers on strike do not get paid for the days that they are striking – for many, that could amount to as much as a 6% loss of their annual salary, in addition to the proposed cuts to their pensions. Do not forget that striking lecturers who offer to reschedule supervisions are doing so out of a dedication to their profession – they are not being paid to engage in this labour. Do not forget that our lecturers would rather be teaching – that is their vocation – and they are striking not only for themselves but for the sake of the public good of education.

I believe in the liberatory power of education as a public good and in the importance of labour rights. In Hong Kong, the education system has been a political battleground (e.g. in the 2012 Scholarism protests) and industrial action has recently gained traction – people are mobilizing for the freedom of knowledge for future generations, and demanding better socioeconomic conditions in the face of growing disparities between rich and poor. It is our duty as those with privileged access to education to fight for a better society that works for the many, not the few – I firmly believe that this is a duty incumbent on us regardless of whether we are at home or abroad.

Q: How do you think the strike shed lights onto student movements in Hong Kong?

The USS strike has demonstrated to me the power of collective mobilisation in pursuit of coherent and meaningful political goals. It has rallied staff and student unity in support of fair employment rights, decolonisation, divestment, anti-neoliberalism and anti-marketisation – in such a crucial political moment, this is a particularly important and stark warning to the powers-that-be that the demands of the people will not go unheard. Participating in the strike has returned to me the same feeling of hope that I felt in Occupy in 2014 and in the summer of 2017 as a reporter covering the imprisonment of the NENT land right activists and Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow. This time around, I am helping to organise breakfast runs to picket lines, speaking with striking staff – I am trying my best to put political beliefs into action.

We cannot do much as individuals – but again, it is a mistake to see the strike in individual, myopic terms. When we come together, we achieve so much more, and we gain and learn so much more from one another.

Q: 你怎樣說服一位每年需要交超過£20,000 學費的海外學生支持這次罷工?

海外學生需要明白這次罷工對我們所有人都有密切的影響。UCU(大學職員聯盟)不單是爭取退休金,而是行使他們應有罷工的權利,以保障他們公平受僱的權利。很多學生雖然支持罷工,卻對於需要穿過糾察線才能到自己的院系感到不便。但這正正是罷工需要達到的結果——帶來不便,使大學不能運作,展示職員不會接受剝削,沒有尊嚴和尊重的待遇。

我們也不應忘記我們所付的昂貴學費並不是轉到讓這裡成為批評思考學習的講師、教學人員身上;反之,卻被用於管理層的工資,或用來興建難以令我們受惠的新建築。假若我們只從個人角度去看罷工是很短視的。我們可能會失去一兩個小組指導課,或一兩個星期的講堂;但是如果不罷工,現在和未來的教學人員將失去的是得到最基本的退休保障和穩定

同時,我們也不要忘記罷工的講師是不能取得他們罷工期間應該所得的工資。對於很多講師來說,他們可能會面對6%的年均工資減少。而願意重新安排小組指導課的講師是完全出於他們對於教學的熱誠,他們不會得到任何工資。此外,講師其實更希望能夠在講堂裡教學——這是他們熱愛的職業,他們之所以罷工不單是為了他們自己,更是為了教育本身

我重視勞工的權利,也相信教育作為公共資產(public good)是崇尚自由的。在香港,教育制度成為政治發聲的平台(例如2012年的學民思潮示威),而工業行動也漸漸獲得牽動力——大眾開始為了下一代的思想自由而發聲,爭取更好的工作環境待遇以減少貧富的差距。我們作為有幸能夠接受教育的一群,更應該為爭取一個為大眾而非少眾而設的社會——無論身在何方,這都是我們的義務。

Q: 你認為這次罷工能夠為香港的學生運動帶來什麼啟示呢?

這次罷工展示集體行動能夠帶來實質的效果。罷工令職員、學生團結一起,爭取公平受僱的權利,更反映對 decolonisation, divestment, anti-neoliberalism, anti-marketisation 等其他教育議題的關注。我相信在今天的政治環境,這次行動向當權者清晰展現人民的聲音是不能被輕易模式。這次罷工亦讓我重新找到過往在2014年佔中,以致在去年暑假作為記者採訪新東示威著以及佔中三子的聆訊,所感受到的那股希望。這次我不再是一位旁觀者,而是在糾察線上為義工安排早餐,和罷工的職員談話,盡力將我的信念轉化為行動。

我們作為個人可能不能做什麼。但這次罷工不能夠以個人能衡量,當我們團結一起的時候,就能夠達成更多,從大家身上學到更多。

 

Alvin Wong - exchange student at Cambridge University from the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Q: What are the differences between the strike and student movements in Hong Kong?

“Students and Workers, Unite and Fight!” This chant marks the difference. When I was on
King’s Parade yesterday, I could not distinguish between students and lecturers. We were all standing next to each other, chanting the same slogan, fighting against the management for fair pensions. Teaching staff and students were united to battle against the common enemy.

However, it has quite not been the case in Hong Kong. When students attempt to push forward initiatives, teaching staff often choose not to play a role in the movements. For example, in the recent “Mandarin Incident” in the Hong Kong Baptist University, where students were trying to push the management to review the discriminatory graduation criteria (only Hong Kong students are required to pass the National Mandarin Test to graduate, while mainland students and international students have no such requirement), there was no sign of teaching staff taking part in the whole movement. Student movements in Hong Kong are, in the end, “student” movements.

Q: Some may say that the new pension scheme is part of the marketization of university education in the UK. To what extent do you think Hong Kong’s universities are affected by this trend of marketization?

Universities in Hong Kong may not be commodified in the same way it is happening here, but marketization has no doubt topped the agenda. Universities have been trying to ask for more funding from the government and donors by establishing greater reputation. They employ more international staff, attract more international students, and establish new faculties and subjects which no one has heard of just for the sake of being ranked higher in the QS ranking. What the universities care, is not the education provided to the students, but the QS ranking so that their universities can be marketized with a better gift wrapper.

A friend of mine in one of the universities in Hong Kong told me, “our university is higher in the QS ranking this year, but my lectures have only got worse.”

Q: 這次罷工與香港的學生運動有什麼不同之處?

“Students and Workers, Unite and Fight!” 這個口號就恰恰展現了兩地學生運動不同之處。當我昨天(22/2)在 King Parade’s 上參與罷工集會,我幾乎不能分別出學生和講師。我們並肩站在一起,喊著口號,向管理層爭取合理的退休金。教學職員和學生是一同面對共同的敵人。

但是,這在香港卻鮮有見。當學生推動改變的時候,教學職員往往選擇不在運動中參與。例如在浸會大學普通話事件中,學生嘗試推動管理層重新審視畢業的普通話考試(只有香港學生需要通過普通話評核才能畢業,而內地生和海外生沒有這個要求),但是教師卻好像沒有踪影。香港的學生運動,似乎始終還是有「學生」推動。

Q: 有人說新的退休金計劃是大學商品化、市場化的結果。你認為這個趨勢怎樣影響香港的高等教育?

A: 縱使香港的大學沒有像英國一般將退休金與市場風險掛鉤的計劃,市場化絕對是大學重要的策略。大學為了從政府和捐款人取得更多的資金,便著力提高聲譽,包括聘請更多海外職員、吸引更多海外生、設立鮮有人知的院系等,其目的都旨在提高大學在QS的排名。大學並不是重視提供給學生的教育,更多的知識提升國際排名,使得自己在市場化的教育系統下能夠有更好的包裝。

我有一位在香港其中一間大學的朋友告訴我:「雖然我們的QS排名今年有所上升,但是講課教學的質素卻節節下降。

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