The four weeks of strikes that have hit campus end today, a few days after a deal to resolve the pensions dispute was rejected. The agreement would have seen members of the University and College Union (UCU) make larger pension contributions while the current scheme is phased out.
The proposal, which was considered by the UCU’s Higher Education Committee, would have seen members and universities paying larger amounts into pension funds for three years as part of a transition phase beginning in April 2019. Independent experts would also have been called in to evaluate the size of the pension deficit, which Universities UK claims is around £6 billion. Following feedback from UCU members, however, the deal was rejected. It was deemed “insufficient” and “far worse than anything that members could consider accepting”. One UCU member, who has previously spoken to Felix about the strikes, said: “There have been mixed feelings in the UCU. We would love to return to our jobs but the deal on offer was truly terrible.
“The point of the strikes was to keep the defined benefits pension scheme. All this deal offers is a transitional three years – during which we pay more to receive less – while the defined benefits scheme is phased out,” they added.
In a statement Dr Michael McGarvey, president of Imperial UCU, said: “Under intense pressure from senior management of universities around the country, UUK stated it would like to meet with UCU as soon as possible. We now expect UUK to come back with a serious offer that staff can accept which leads to an end to the dispute.”
He added: “We hope members of UUK, including Imperial College, will finally act responsibly and help to resolve the dispute by stopping their attempts to destroy the value of our pensions for the sake of the students and staff at our universities.”
If no agreement is reached, 14 days of further strikes will go ahead between April and June. Dates have not yet been decided but strikes are expected to be organised around exams in order to maximise impact.
If a fresh deal is reached, UCU members hope to be given more time to look over the proposals – rather than having to hold emergency meetings in the street, as was the case at Imperial. “We’ve been disappointed in both UUK and UCU in their communications with members,” said Felix ’s UCU source. “We hope any future detail is communicated with enough detail and time to consider carefully before a national vote.”
The Imperial UCU Twitter account announced the postponement of “Not the President’s Address”. A UCU-sponsored event is planned for the near future.