The University and College Union (UCU) voted last Wednesday to suspend all industrial action which came into force on the 6th November in response to proposed changes to the pensions of university professors.
One aspect of industrial action that the UCU planned to implement was a marking boycott that would see lecturers refuse to mark students’ coursework or exam papers. The announcement of such action became the centre of a vicious row between UCU and certain universities, including UEA, after the employers announced that they would dock 100% of pay from any members of staff who did not mark their students’ work.
However, following negotiations between UCU and Universities UK (UUK), the organisation representing higher education institutions, all industrial action has been suspended until after 15th January 2015 while further talks are held on how both organisations can come to an agreement over changes to pensions.
In an email sent to all students UEA’s Vice Chancellor, David Richardson, said: “Any staff at UEA who were participating in the UCU assessment boycott will now stop their action.
“In response to the suspension of all action, it has been agreed with UCU not to withhold pay in respect of any action taken so far as part of the assessment and marking boycott, on the condition that any colleague who has taken action makes up all work missed in a reasonable period of time.
“Clearly this is a welcome development which will protect the interests of students, and hopefully lead to an agreed resolution of the very real funding problems faced by USS. We will continue to press for the fairest settlement for members of the Scheme that can be afforded”.
Following the agreement to suspend all industrial action UCU and UUK released a joint statement highlighting their commitment to finding a solution that was in the interest of both higher education institutions and their staff: “Both parties are committed to seeking a joint proposal for reform that offers an affordable, sustainable and attractive pension scheme, for both current and future members”.
The dispute over pensions comes just months after university professors took similar action. The refused to mark exam papers following disagreements over university staff’s pay.