Shadow Education Secretary calls for urgent USS talks

The Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, has called for urgent talks between the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) to settle the ongoing pay and pensions disputes.

In a statement, Rayner warned that recent changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) contribution levels “risk pricing staff in many institutions out of their pension provision”.

UCU is currently balloting its members on whether to take industrial action after universities backed proposals to increase USS member contributions from 8.8 per cent to 9.6 per cent.

The union insisted that any financial increases should be borne by the employers.

In an effort to resolve the dispute, Rayner called on both sides to “urgently return to unconditional talks” and work together to find a “sensible solution which addresses these important issues”.

She continued: “Recent changes to the USS risk pricing staff in many institutions out of their pension provision altogether.

“All staff in our universities deserve fair pay, a secure contract, a sensible workload, opportunities for professional development and a decent, affordable pension.

“I fully support higher education staff in their fight to defend pay and pensions for the future, but I also know that students and parents will want to see the current disputes resolved as soon as possible and avoid unnecessary disruption.

“I am therefore calling on both sides to urgently return to unconditional talks, assisted by ACAS as appropriate, and negotiate for as long as it takes to agree a way forward.”

UCU has said that it is willing to meet with UUK to discuss a possible solution.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “UCU welcomes the call by Angela Rayner for unconditional talks aimed at resolving these disputes.

“For our part, we are fully prepared to meet the employers in good faith for further negotiations on the two disputes now facing the sector.”

A UUK spokesperson added that it also wants to find a solution, saying:"Employers have already offered to meet with UCU to continue talks on USS, and are committed to working together on a long-term sustainable solution."

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