London Student

THE STRIKES ARE OVER – Union members accept proposals in pensions dispute

In a record turnout for a national ballot, UCU members voted by two to one to accept proposals aimed at resolving the university pensions dispute.

The second wave of strikes due to begin next week and to continue into May and June has been cancelled.

Of the 63.5 per cent of the union that voted, 64 per cent voted to accept UUK’s offer against 36 percent who voted against it.

The proposals agreed to mean that a joint expert panel will be set up to re-examine the USS valuation and make recommendations.

The employers have also stated that they do not intend to return to their original proposals to end the guaranteed pension, have made a clear commitment to defined benefits and agreed to discuss a wide range of issues raised by UCU. These will include intergenerational fairness, comparisons with the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the role of government in providing support for USS.

UCU and UUK will now jointly present the plans to the USS Board and the Pensions Regulator.

The dispute started because of proposals by Universities UK (UUK) to remove the guaranteed ‘defined benefit’ pension for members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – a move the union said would see a typical scheme member lose around £10,000 a year in retirement.

Those plans prompted an unprecedented 14 days of strikes at 65 universities and revised offers from UUK. The impacts of the strikes in London and across the UK have been felt across the country, with students and staff alike joining the picket line in protest. In the capital, some turned violent; while other took the form of peaceful occupations.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, commented:

“Members have participated in record numbers in the consultation, with a clear majority voting to accept the proposals. The union has come a very long way since January when it seemed that the employers’ proposals for a defined contribution pension were to be imposed.

“Now we have agreement to move forward jointly, looking again at the USS valuation alongside a commitment from the employers to a guaranteed, defined benefit scheme. USS, the regulator and government now need to ensure that UCU and UUK have the space to implement the agreement effectively.”

During the strikes Sally Hunt came under fire from members and a number of regional branches of the UCU organisation:

In light of the vote, Jo Grady industrial relations expert and senior lecturer at Sheffield University, has called for the solidarity formed between UCU members to not fall part.

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Emily Horton