Hope for end of university strike action as stalemate ends in pension dispute

Stephen Walter
University workers attend a rally over pension changes  - Getty Images Europe

An agreement has been reached between lecturers’ leaders and university officials over their bitter pensions dispute - potentially paving the way for strike action to be called off.

The University and College Union (UCU) said that talks with Universities UK (UUK) had concluded, and that a three-year transitional benefit arrangement had been agreed on - subject to consultation with its members.

In the talks, mediated by the conciliation service Acas, both parties agreed on an interim solution where both employers and employees will be required to pay higher pension contributions.

A spokesman for the UCU said the agreement would be considered by its higher education committee and branch representatives on Tuesday.

The interim arrangement says that the transitional period for which higher contributions would need to be paid would be implemented on April 1 2019 and last for three years. There is also a commitment from both sides to reconvene for longer term discussions.

Students joined protests in Cambridge ahead of the strikes Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Members of staff at universities across the country have been striking in protest at changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The row centres on proposals that would change the USS from a "defined benefit" scheme, which gives workers a guaranteed income in their retirement, to a purely "defined contribution" scheme, in which pensions are subject to fluctuations in the stock market.

A wave of 14 days of strikes is due to end with a five-day walkout between Monday and Friday this week, while further action has been threatened into the summer term. 

University strikes

Strikes have so far disrupted classes at more than 60 universities, with lectures cancelled and students facing sitting their exams amid lost teaching time. Universities minister Sam Gyimah has called for those affected to be given refunds.

There have been calls from some on social media to reject the deal, with university staff calling for better terms before ending the strike.

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