The second wave of strike action at Universities across the UK has been suspended, following UCU members' decision to accept the new propsal with UUK.
The ballot opened on Wednesday 4 April and had a record national turnout of 63.5 per cent. It saw 64 per cent of union members vote in favour of the new propsal and only 36 per cent vote against. Details of the proposal can be seen here.
The dispute began over a change to the USS Pension Scheme, which UUK argued needing revising due to it being in a deficit. UCU argued that the removal of the guaranteed 'defined benefit' scheme would see some members lose up to £10,000 from their pensions.
Epigram was told by UCU that employers have now made a clear commitment to defined benefits, and have agreed to discuss a wide range of issues raised by UCU including inter-generational fairness, comparisons with the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the role of government in providing support for USS.
fun fact: I'm still working to contract because that's what I'm paid to do— Madhu Krishnan is working to contract (@DrMadhuKrishnan) 13 April 2018
UCU and UUK will now jointly present the plans to the USS Board and the Pensions Regulator. The union said it expected the agreement between the fund’s two key stakeholders to be welcomed. However, it said that, while all planned strike action is suspended, UCU will keep its strike mandate live as a precaution until this has process taken place.
Not all lecturers will stop working to contract following the accepted proposal, however. One lecturer said on their Twitter that they will continue working to contract because 'that is what [they are] paid to do'.
The ballot, which had a record national turnout of 63.5 per cent, saw 64 per cent of union members vote in favour of the new deal and only 36 per cent vote against.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘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.
Voted yes in #ucuballot with much trepidation. This whole pension dispute is about assumptions and trust. No one trusts UUK, but it seems to me that (esp. following our powerful industrial action) they have insufficient power for us to trust *either* a bad proposal for a [1/5]— John McTague (@johnjoemctague) 12 April 2018
‘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.
‘UCU has more work to do to ensure that the agreement delivers the security in retirement that university staff deserve. On behalf of all UCU members I want to say thank you to students and other staff for their inspiring support throughout the dispute.’
Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady told Epigram: 'We welcome the news that UCU members have voted to accept UUK’s proposal. While much remains to be done and discussed, we’re pleased there won’t be any further uncertainty for students as they prepare for their exams. We are very aware that the first round of strike action caused anxiety and disruption for all concerned, and we’re putting the final touches to a programme of extra support for students in the run-up to the exam season.'
Key line @BristolUni VC: "...the dispute has acted as a lightning rod for a range of important issues in our community, and I would like to reaffirm my commitment, and that of all the senior management team, to working with all of you to address these issues" #USSstrikes #UCU— Bristol UCU (@Bristol_UCU) 13 April 2018
The Student-Staff Solidarity group, who actively supported lecturers during the strike action and campaigned for the new proposal to be rejected have been approached for comment.
Feature Image: Epigram / Evy Tang