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Agreement reached in pension dispute

An agreement has been reached between the University and College Union (UCU) and higher education representative Universities UK (UUK), in the pensions dispute.

After talks held with industrial conciliation service Acas, an offer was made today. It will be voted on by UCU members tomorrow.

The UUK said they expect a suspension of industrial action “from and including Wednesday 14 March,” following this meeting.

It is understood strikes are still scheduled to take place at UEA tomorrow, Tuesday 13 March.

The two organisations agreed to a revised benefit reform proposal, which is still subject to consultation by both parties and subsequent agreement at the USS [Universities Superannuation Scheme] Joint Negotiating Committee.

UEA’s UCU branch have not yet decided their stance on the offer and will consult members.

A Twitter poll by the branch suggested 85 percent of UEA UCU members believe the offer is ‘not good enough’. 10 percent remain unsure and 5 percent support the offer.

The agreement proposes a transitional benefit arrangement, which “maintains a meaningful level of defined benefits for all scheme members”.

PHD student Ruth Flaherty told Concrete she was angry and disappointed, saying she felt “completely let down” by UCU representatives.

“People have come out on picket lines in the coldest weather we have had for years to support this movement because it is important to us that we have a secure retirement.

She continued: “This agreement calls for increasing contributions from staff into the pension for three years, with no promise that at the end of the three years that things will improve. Procrastination is not the answer here.”

“I am concerned that the agreement calls for staff to reschedule strike hit seminars with no extra pay. This seems like a complete acceptance of the marketisation of higher education, which will only hurt students in the long run.

“Should this agreement stand I will have to think hard about continuing to support UCU,” she added.

A document released by the UCU this evening explains: “To achieve this interim solution both employers and members will be required to pay higher contributions.

“This includes a total employer contribution of 19.3% of salaries and a total member contribution of 8.7%. These increased contributions are only in place for the duration of the 3-year transitional arrangement.“

The transitional arrangement is scheduled to take effect from 1 April 2019 and last for three years, if the offer is accepted tomorrow.

A national open letter rejecting the offer has circulated among university staff.

It calls on union leadership to reconsider: “The current agreement kicks a serious solution to the pension dispute in the long grass, committing to a three year process of re-evaluation. It further does so at the very moment we are strongest and able to force a more decisive victory.”

It was announced today UEA staff will no longer have pay deducted for just working to contract.

An email from the university executive team sent to staff stated: “The University does not withhold salary from staff who work to contract.”

“While we do not underestimate the disruption of recent weeks, we understand how passionate our staff are about their students and their futures.

“Students need to achieve their learning outcomes and we appreciate that many staff are responding positively to reasonable requests from line managers to prioritise student-facing activities over others. We do not anticipate withholding salary in these circumstances.”

It was previously the case that staff would have 25 percent of their pay withheld for working to their contracts, known as Action Short of a Strike.

Only earlier today the Vice-Chancellor said a pay deduction would have taken place over a four month period “to help mitigate the impact on people taking industrial action.”


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May 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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