UPDATED: Strikes remain as UCU members reject earlier UCU/UUK agreement

Written by Natalie Tuck

University strikes will continue as members of the University and College Union (UCU) have rejected an earlier agreement made by the union and Universities UK.

A deal had been agreed that would have seen a three year transitional period, effective from 1 April 2019, which would have kept the defined contribution arrangement, with a promise to look at collective defined contribution arrangements for future years.

However, a meeting at the union's headquarters by UCU representatives from the universities where staff are on strike has led to a u-turn. The union is calling for urgent negotiations with the universities' representatives Universities UK aimed at resolving the dispute. The union said the strikes and action short of a strike remain on, and it would now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period.

Last week the union said that universities would be hit with a second wave of 14 strike days targeted at exams and assessment if the dispute was not resolved. 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.

"The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period. We want urgent talks with the universities' representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved."

UCU and UUK have been in discussions since 27 January 2017 over changes to the pension scheme, in which UUK proposed to replace the DB arrangement with a DC savings system. USS is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK, and has a £6.1bn deficit. It is required to submit a recovery plan to The Pensions Regulator by 30 June 2018.

Both parties had agreed to a transitional period that would have lasted three years, commencing from 1 April 2019. Employers and members would have been required to pay higher contributions, including a total employer contribution of 19.3 per cent of salaries and a total member contribution of 8.7 per cent.

In addition, due to concerns raised by some employers and UCU about the scheme’s valuation methodology and assumptions, an agreement had been reached between UCU and UUK to convene an independent expert valuation group.

Both sides had also committed to working together to engage in discussions to explore risk sharing alternatives for the future from 2020, in particular a collective defined contribution arrangement.

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