A provisional agreement over pensions has been reached between the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK)
The agreement comes after the strikes by UCU members over cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension pot disrupted lectures and classes for the past four weeks at more than 60 universities. The possibility of more strikes at a time which would affect end of year exams and assessment had also been raised.
However, the strike will only be suspended if the terms of the agreement are accepted and the agreement ratified at a meeting of UCU representatives today. If the UCU backs the deal, the strike would be suspended from Wednesday.
Many petitions called for students to be refunded for contact hours lost due to the walkout, including one at Southampton. Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has also backed the idea of refunding students.
The potential deal was negotiated through the Acas conciliation service. It states that the proposed changes to pensions would be put on hold, followed by a temporary deal on the pension deficit.
The deal would also includes a new evaluation of the USS deficit after disputes over the scale of the funding gap. Universities would be expected to re-schedule the classes lost due to the industrial action.
Universities affected by the proposal have also been asked by UUK to indicate their opinion by then end of today. In an update addressed to all staff and students, Southampton’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden,said that he would indicate the University’s support for the agreement.
It is clear that all parties have indeed recognised both the financial realities facing the pension scheme, and the very clear strength of feeling demonstrated by UCU members. This new proposal will require compromises on all sides, and will mean increased contributions to pensions by universities and by staff. I believe we should support this so that we can all move on from what has been a very difficult period for everyone concerned, and especially so for some of our students.
Although plans for new long-term pension arrangements would be pushed to 2020, some UCU membershave already asked via social media for the union to reject the deal and push for better terms.