UK University Strikes Continue after Union Rejects Pension Deal

UCU gearing up for additional 14-day strike during exam, assessment period.

After it seemed that a major UK pensions strike had reached a Monday deal, the union soundly rejected the proposal the following day, with a second wave of strikes planned.

The strike between Universities UK (UUK) and the University and College Union (UCU), now in its fourth week, has seen several discussions over changes to the University Superannuation Scheme’s defined benefit plans. If the UCU had supported the deal, the strike, in which 65 universities are participating, would have been suspended Wednesday. Much to the disappointment of UUK, the UCU chose to continue to strike for a proper deal after Tuesday discussions at its headquarters and responses from several of its union branches.

As per the proposal, defined benefits were to be protected under transitional arrangements that would begin April 1, 2019, and last until 2022. During this time, university employers and employee contributions would have increased to 19.3% and 8.7%, respectively. Both sides were also to explore risk-sharing alternatives, such as collective defined contributions.

“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,” UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said in a statement. “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.”

Union branches rejected the proposals almost immediately after they were announced Monday.

“Members in our branch and across the country did not join one of the most impressive shows of collective solidarity in the face of restrictive trade union laws for a compromise offer that does not guarantee them decency in retirement,” Liverpool UCU said in a statement shared on social media. “Liverpool UCU calls on all branches to reject this unacceptable offer and demand that UCU ensure a deal is brought about that is commensurate to the sacrifice of their members.”

Last week, the UCU warned that if the pension dispute was not resolved, an additional 14 days of strikes would occur, hitting the exam and assessment periods between April and June. In the announcement, the UCU said it would gather information on which strike period would hit which universities the hardest.

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