Strikes to continue after academics reject new pension deal

A provisional agreement was made yesterday between the head negotiators of either side, but has now been rejected after pressure from UCU members

The Oxford branch of the Universities and College Union (UCU) has said “we are not going anywhere until our contracts are honoured”, as academics around the country rally against a deal struck by Union leaders.

A provisional agreement was made yesterday between the head negotiators of UCU and UUK (Universities UK), which, if ratified by UCU branch officials today, would have meant the strikes were suspended from tomorrow.

However, this has now been rejected by UCU, with the union calling for “urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved”.

It follows widespread backlash against the provisional agreement, with protests occurring outside the UCU headquarters in north London, where senior members were due to discuss the deal early this morning.

Many more striking staff as well as UCU branches expressed their discontent on social media, urging for the deal to be rejected with the hashtag #NoCapitulation.

Over 8000 people have now signed an open letter rejecting the proposed deal, including over 150 Oxford staff members and students.

The Oxford UCU branch has also added its voice to the revolt, describing the agreement as a “pathetic offer”, before urging negotiators to go “back to the table”.

Many Oxford students were vocal in their solidarity with staff’s rejection of the deal, and the potential for the strike to continue indefinitely.

A third year history and economics student at Wadham, Lucas Bertholdi-Saad, told Cherwell: “My dad’s a lecturer, and a lot of my friends are postgrads. This deal isn’t what they’ve been striking for, and until we get there we should support them every step of the way. We’ve got to stay standing in solidarity.”

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Labour City Councillor and academic staff member, Dan Iley-Williamson, told Cherwell: “I fully support the decision of rank-and-file UCU members to reject the proposals put to them.

“It was a derisory offer – capitulating on central demands of the workers.

“Moving forward, we need to continue the incredible staff-student solidarity we have seen in recent weeks, to show UUK that there’s a united demand for fair pensions for university staff.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “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.

“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.”

President of the Oxford UCU branch, Garrick Taylor, told Cherwell: “The overwhelming feedback from members (over 250 emails) was that we should reject the deal.

“This was fed into a national meeting of branch officers, and UCU’s Higher Education committee have now voted to withdraw from the ‘agreement’. The strike remains on.”

Last week, the union said that universities would be hit with a second wave of 14 strike days targeted at exams and assessment if the dispute was not resolved.

Oxford SU have been contacted for comment.

This article was updated at 0145, to include Cllr Dan Iley-Williamson’s comment.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Shows how dim students are nowadays. The students who are allegedly supporting the strikers obviously don’t realise the huge proportion of their fees that is simply going straight towards paying the unsustainable final salaries of their tutors – The same pension deal that the students themselves will never sea.

    • Academics at the end of their careers have their past pension contributions protected and will suffer almost no harm from these changes (and yet are still coming out to picket). We are on strike precisely to make sure that this pension deal is available tomorrow to today’s students. The pension fund is in healthy surplus and there is no justification for this attack on the future of our university staff. The students know this and have been amazing in their support.

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