The UCU Strikes Back: Proposed Deal Rejected

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University strikers have voted to reject an agreement reached on Monday between the University and College Union (UCU) and the University UK (UUK) over a pensions dispute.

The UCU – University of Leeds branch, along with the majority of other UCU branches, voted unanimously against the deal.

Staff opposed to it have pushed for a more “decisive victory” and therefore, strikes will continue.

Sally Hunt, the leader of the UCU, stated that strike action remains on, and that detailed preparations will be made for strikes over the exam and assessment period in the summer term.

“We want urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved,” she said.

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.

On Monday evening, it was announced that an agreement had been made between the two parties, after talks with the ACAS conciliation service.

This would have put disputes on hold with a three-year transitional deal to tackle the deficit in the pension scheme, beginning next April. There would have also been an independent re-evaluation of the size of the deficit.

It was also indicated that staff would be expected to re-schedule classes cancelled as a result of the strikes.

UCU’s representatives, at the meeting in London earlier today, warned that the deal was “completely unacceptable” and argued that it was only postponing long-term decisions about the pension scheme.

Both the UCU and UUK have been contacted for comment.

More to follow.

Jonny Chard

(Images: Silvia Blanco Tejerina)