The University and College Union (UCU) has voted to reject proposals aimed at ending the pensions dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
UCU members at more than 60 universities across the country are currently on strike over planned modifications to the scheme, which they say would leave many academic staff worse off.
The UCU and Universities UK (UUK), which represents the affected universities and is responsible for administering the USS, negotiated an agreement to end the dispute at conciliation service Acas on Monday evening.
The proposed agreement would have put the proposed cuts to the scheme on hold, and the USS scheme deficit would have been independently re-evaluated.
UCU branch representatives from across the UK voted to reject the agreement at a meeting this afternoon. Over 7,000 UCU members signed an open letter after the agreement was announced, calling on the Union to ‘reconsider its position’ on the proposed deal and push for better terms.
UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt said:
Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal. UCU’s greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.
Ms. Hunt explained that both the strike and action short of a strike will now continue until the end of this week.
She added that the UCU is calling for further urgent talks with UUK to resolve the dispute, and is now making detailed preparations for industrial action over the exam and assessment period.
In a statement, UUK expressed its ‘disappointment’ at the UCU’s rejection of the proposals.
Their spokesperson said:
It is hugely disappointing that students’ education will be further disrupted through continued strike action.
We have engaged extensively with UCU negotiators to find a mutually acceptable way forward. The jointly developed proposal on the table, agreed at ACAS, addresses the priorities that UCU set out.
We have listened to the concerns of university staff and offered to increase employer contributions to ensure that all members would receive meaningful defined benefits.
We recognised concerns raised about the valuation and have agreed to convene an independent expert valuation group.
Our hope is that UCU can find a way to continue to engage constructively, in the interests of students and those staff who are keen to return to work.
A University of Southampton spokesperson told Wessex Scene that the institution would be monitoring the progress of further talks, and would continue to work hard to reduce the impact of any further walkout on students.
The spokesperson added that the University remains hopeful that a ‘positive resolution will come soon for all concerned’, so that all parties affected can ‘move on from what has been a very difficult period for everyone – especially for some of our students’.
The national Joint Negotiating Committee comprised of UUK and USS employers will meet again tomorrow.