BREAKING: Agreement reached between UCU and UUK

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Universities UK (UUK) are expecting that the University and College Union (UCU) 'will suspend industrial action from and including Wednesday 14 March, following an agreement to a revised benefits proposal.

The agreement is subject to consultation by both UCU and UUK, meaning that a suspension of industrial action is not yet confirmed. The agreement will be going to members of UCU tonight to decide whether they will accept it or continue the strike.

Both UUK and UCU have agreed to a transitional benefit arrangement, which will take effect from 1st April 2019 and last for three years. The arrangement maintains a meaningful level of defined benefits for all scheme holders.

UCU will hold a meeting of their Higher Education Committee (HEC) and their Branch representatives tomorrow (Tuesday 13 March). The meeting is expected to conclude early afternoon of Tuesday, in which UUK expect the industrial action on Wednesday 14th March, which should continue until a USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) takes place.

In a summary of this agreement, UCU and UUK said: 'To achieve this interim solution both employers and members will be required to pay higher contributions. This includes a total employer contribution of 19.3% of salaries and a total member contribution of 8.7%. These increased contributions are only in place for the duration of the 3-year transitional arrangement.

'Given the concerns raised by some employers and UCU about the scheme’s valuation methodology and assumptions an agreement has been reached between UCU and UUK to convene an independent expert valuation group.

'By recognising the agreement on benefits is set as a transitional 3-year solution there is commitment between both sides to engage in meaningful discussions as soon as possible to explore risk sharing alternatives for the future from 2020, in particular Collective Defined Contributions (CDC).'

For the transitional benefit arrangement, both sides have agreed to maintain a meaningful element of Defined Benefits, which include a salary threshold of £42,000 and that Defined Contributions above the salary threshold will remain at 12 per cent.

Bristol UCU said of the agreement: 'This is the best deal our negotiators feel they can get now. We - members as a whole - are faced with first a) determining the circumstances by which we decide on a deal (suspend or not?) and b) the real debate itself - do we want to accept or reject?'

The agreement comes as we enter the fourth week of industrial action, in which the University of Bristol's Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady joined the rally, and following a further 14 days of strikes being sanctioned if an agreement is not found.

From eight minutes in, Professor Hugh Brady addresses the rally at Senate House (Facebook / Bristol People's Assembly)

Cameron Scheijde, Online Editor at Epigram and Second Year Politics student, said: 'I welcome the fact that the strikes might be ending soon - after all, we are still expected to keep up with our work and do our reading.

'It’s especially reassuring that the strikes probably won’t affect exams which was a huge worry. Hopefully the UCU and UUK have reached an agreement that will stop the strikes having a hugely adverse affect on the student body.'

Not all lecturers are happy with the deal, and an open letter has been created to reject the agreement. The letter states: 'The current agreement kicks a serious solution to the pension dispute in the long grass, committing to a three year process of re-evaluation. It further does so at the very moment we are strongest and able to force a more decisive victory.

'The employers' valuation has been demonstrated to be bogus, yet the UCU leadership is now accepting to increase our contribution while we re-evaluate. Employers' contribution however will rise by only 1.3%.

'In three years time we will be demobilised and pressured to accept a worse deal. In our opinion we should keep going and throw UUK's offer out all together.'

The Student-Staff Solidarity group, who have been supporting lecturers in the strike action, also described the deal as being 'in no way acceptable'.

Featured Image: Epigram / Evy Tang


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AUTHOR

Ed Southgate

Co-Editor in Chief 2018-2019 / Editor of Epigram Comment 2017-2018 / Second Year English student

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