Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are expected to return to work on Wednesday after the union and the Universities UK (UUK) group reached an agreement over pensions.
Despite over 35 meetings of the Joint Negotiating Committee since the start of 2017, no agreement had been reached before fourteen days of strike action, over four weeks , began on February 22.
The dispute, which has caused ten days of strike thus far, looks to have been finally concluded with a settlement announced on Monday evening, after a week of negotiations.
The two sides have agreed a three-year transitional arrangement, commencing next April, during which both will make higher contributions to pensions.
They will also seek a new valuation of the pension scheme, to inform options once the transitional period ends in 2022.
This is what has come out of the Acas talks between UCU and UUK – https://t.co/fbiRLgoqoN
It is going to members this evening. Our higher education committee and branch representatives are meeting tomorrow to consider it. #USSstrike
— UCU (@ucu) March 12, 2018
The agreement will still have to be ratified at a key meeting of workers in London on Tuesday, however.
If the deal is rejected, strikes are likely to continue.
The Vice-Chancellor receives a formidable reception prior to a meeting with students regarding changes to staff pensions
Posted by The Gryphon on Friday, March 9, 2018
A number of commentators on Twitter have criticised the agreement, with many calling for the UCU to reject it.
I refuse to: pay more for the next 3 years, for a lower salary cap, with 4.5% of contributions used to pay down a deficit which doesn't exist, to reschedule teaching with no pay, in exchange for weaker DBs and just kicking the can down the road. @ucu @ucustandrews Clear enough?
— Natasha Saunders (@NEGSaunders) March 12, 2018
Over 64 institutions have taken part in the strike over UUK’s plans to end the defined benefit element of the UCU members’ pension scheme. UUK had stated that is was necessary to eliminate a £6.1bn deficit in the Universities Superannuation Scheme, one of the UK’s largest pension funds.
The change would mean that final pensions would depend on investment performance, rather than contributions. This had been described by Students Union UCL as staff’s financial security depending “entirely on stock market gambling by fund managers”.
Analysis by independent experts First Actuarial has suggested that this switch could leave staff £200,000 worse off over the course of their pension.
The University of Leeds also threatened a 25% dock in pay for UCU members observing Action Short of a Strike, which includes staff failing to rearrange lectures missed during strike action. This comes on top of expected strike deductions.
UCU have encouraged members to reschedule classes missed by the industrial action. Assuming academics return to work on Wednesday, 11 days of work will have been lost.
Both sides have not commented, apart from an official statement regarding the agreement.
Both the UCU and UUK been contacted for comment.
More to follow.
(Images: Silvia Blanco Tejerina)