HUNDREDS of students missed out on classes and lectures as tutors took strike action.
University and college staff in Huddersfield were out in force yesterday to protest against proposed changes to their pension scheme.
Dozens of lecturers from Huddersfield University and Kirklees College abandoned their classes for the day to mount picket lines.
They joined thousands of protesters from colleges and universities around the country in the first nationwide strike for five years.
The members of the University and College Union (UCU) were protesting against changes to their pension scheme as part of the Government’s review of public sector pensions.
The dispute centres around attempts to raise the retirement age, increase contributions for members and bring an end to the final salary element of the scheme.
Members of the UCU at Huddersfield University had been demonstrating outside the campus since 7.30am.
One protester said: “We’re a small but select group but I think we’ve definitely had a lot of impact, particularly on passing traffic.
“It’s important that as many people as possible are aware that people are concerned and affected by the changes being made.
“This strike is aimed at the Government and not individual universities.”
The Government is demanding cuts of up to £852m from the teachers’ pension scheme. It wants staff to pay more into their pensions, meaning a typical FE teacher could pay an extra £88 a month and a university lecturer an extra £124.
Other recommendations include raising the retirement age and ending the final salary for new pension scheme members.
A spokesman for the university said he was unaware of major disruption to lectures.
At Kirklees College the staff walkout had more of an impact with classes forced to be abandoned across the Huddersfield and Dewsbury sites.
College principal Chris Sadler said a number of courses were disrupted, with 11 curriculum areas completely closed.
He said: “We have managed to maintain course provision as much as possible as well as keeping the library and flexi learning centres open and running exams. However, due to the absence of some of our staff a number of courses have been disrupted.
“We’re making support available to any students who need it”
Thea Ferguson, Kirklees College’s UCU branch secretary, said the protest was justified and some pupils had even stood beside them as they waved banners by the roadside.
She said: “There’s not a department that hasn’t been affected today, some have had significant disruption.
“But staff who are not union members and students have been supportive – some students have come down and supported us.
“Some of them want to be teachers and they understand that by looking at what’s happening to us they are seeing their future which is under threat by these changes.
“The Government is continuously asking us to give more to receive less and now to attack our future is adding insult to injury.”