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UCU suspend summer strikes over pensions

UCU suspend summer strikes over pensions
William Bowkett

Bill is the Website News Editor for InQuire. He's currently doing a BA in politics, and therein lies his interest. If you’re looking to break regular news online, both locally and nationally, drop him an email at website.news@inquiremedia.co.uk

Further strikes at UK universities have been averted, after members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted to accept new proposals aimed at resolving an ongoing dispute over pensions.

Over 50,000 UCU members, a record turnout for the union, voted by a margin of 64 per cent to 36 per cent to accept a new proposition made by Universities UK (UUK) – the representative organisation for the UK’s universities – to end the ongoing industrial action.

A joint expert panel will now re-evaluate university staff pensions schemes, provided through the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The dispute began after UUK proposed to change the pensions of staff on the USS, which the University College Union (UCU) claimed that would leave lecturers £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

The prospective changes to staff pensions prompted 14 days of industrial action at 64 UK universities in February and March, and more strikes were planned to go ahead during the summer exam period.

However, the news of an agreed settlement between the two parties has resulted in the suspension of any further strike action.

A spokesperson for University UK (UUK) said: “The decision by UCU members to support the creation of a Joint Expert Panel means that strike action is immediately suspended.

“This gives students important reassurance that they won’t be affected by further disruption during their summer study and exam period.

“Reviewing the methodology and assumptions in the current valuation will build confidence and trust and increase transparency in the valuation process.

“It will provide an opportunity to consider the questions raised about the valuation by scheme members and employers.”

“Working in partnership with UCU, we will now appoint a jointly agreed chair for the panel as soon as possible before developing its terms of reference, order of work and timescales.”

Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: “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.

“We hope this important agreement will hearten workers across the UK fighting to defend their pension rights and was won through the amazing strike action of UCU members.”

The decision to suspend industrial action was also welcomed by the National Union of Students (NUS).

“We are pleased to see a deal has been reached,” said Shakira Martin, NUS president.

“Students have wholeheartedly chosen to support their staff during this dispute, and we have seen inspiring displays of solidarity on campuses across the UK since day one.”

University of Kent Vice-Chancellor, Karen Cox, assured student via email that “We will continue to focus on minimising the impact of the past strike action and will continue to update you as more information becomes available.”

The newly formed Office for Students has urged UK universities to make clear to students what impact the previous strike actions had and how any related disruption will be handled in the future.

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