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Deal struck in university pensions row

13 March 2018

The action has disrupted studies at more than 60 universities and strikes have seen lectures cancelled and threats to end-of-year exams and assessments.

Employers and union leaders have struck a deal on reforming United Kingdom university pensions, raising hopes that strike action which is into its fourth week could soon be suspended.

However, a meeting of union officials from branches nationwide resigned itself to reject the deal on the table, amid strong opposition from its members.

"The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period", said Sally Hunt, the leader of the University College Union. 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.

"We want urgent talks with the universities' representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved".

Under the deal, struck last night with mediation service Acas, the DB element of the scheme will now remain open to academics for another three years, with the deal covering the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2022. Any staff earning above that threshold would have accrued additional benefits in a defined contribution scheme.

The terms of the transitional deal state the salary threshold will be reduced from £55,500 to £42,000, with 19.3% employer contributions and 8.7% employee contributions, up from 18% and 8% respectively.

USS members are now down to be on strike for all of this week over UUK's original proposals for pension reforms, which UCU says would leave the typical lecturer £10,000 worse off every year in retirement.

In a statement, a Universities UK spokesperson described the UCU's decision as "hugely disappointing".

The Guardian reported that the new proposal retained a "meaningful level" of defined benefits for lecturers.

UCU branches across the United Kingdom took to Twitter to declare a mass rejection of the agreement less than 24 hours after it was made public.

There would also be an independent evaluation of the pension - after there were disputes over the scale of the funding gap that had to be filled.

UCU said that the deal would be considered by its higher education committee and branch representatives on 13 March and, if they back the deal, strike action now under way at 65 universities would be suspended as of 14 March.

Deal struck in university pensions row