Following four days of strikes and a two-hour meeting in London over university pensions, the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) have agreed to talks at workplace arbiter Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).
The discussions will begin on Monday, March 5, but the strike will continue until Monday as well. The two-week strike will conclude on March 16, following a five-day walkout beginning March 12.
During the Tuesday debate, the union presented a series of proposals to UUK detailing what the UCU feels will end the issue with changes to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). The changes, which took effect in January, move professors from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution in an effort the fund’s £6 billion-£7 billion deficit—a figure the union does not agree with.
The UCU said if implemented, its plans would provide a guaranteed pension for scheme members at half the extra cost of the union’s previous proposal.
The new proposal would see universities accepting a small amount of increased risk through a return to the proposed risk level in September, defined benefits salary limits remaining at £55,000, and a reduction in the annual accrual rate from 1/75th to 1/80th.
The proposal also will increase contributions by 4.1%, divvying it up 65/35 between employers and employees. The initial proposal estimated the cost at an 8.3% increase.
“Today, UCU tabled proposals which provide the basis for settling this damaging dispute,” UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said in a statement. “We have listened not just to our members, but also to the many university leaders who have contributed ideas.”
“At the core of our proposals is for universities to accept a small amount of increased risk, but only at a level a majority have recently said they are comfortable with. Doing this would enable us to provide a decent, guaranteed pension at a more modest cost with smaller contribution increases,” she said.
UCU also expressed interest in working with UUK to avoid future issues regarding the pension scheme. These include comparing the USS benefits to members in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, a study of alternative ways of providing retirement benefits, a review of valuation methods, and a joint approach to government in the underwriting of the USS scheme.