University strikes could be called off after breakthrough in talks over pensions dispute

Chris Baynes
Guy Bell/Alamy Live News

Strikes by university staff could be called off this week after employers and union bosses appeared to reach an agreement over a bitter pensions dispute that has disrupted campuses across the country.

The University and College Union (UCU) agreed on an interim solution with Universities UK (UUK) on Monday after six days of talks through the conciliation service Acas.

The deal would require both employers and employees to pay higher pension contributions in a three-year transitional arrangement.

A spokesman for the UCU said the agreement would be considered by its higher education committee and branch representatives on Tuesday. If they approve of the proposals, the industrial action is expected to be suspended from the next day.

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.

Under the deal agreed on Monday, universities would be expected to reschedule classes disrupted by the strike.

But the terms of the agreement have been met by anger from many university employees on social media.

The UCU’s branch at the University of Liverpool issued a statement which said “members in our branch and across the country did not join one of the most impressive shows of collective solidarity in the face of restrictive trade union laws for a compromise offer that does not guarantee them decency in retirement.

“Liverpool UCU call on all branches to reject this unacceptable offer and demand that UCU ensure a deal is brought about that is commensurate to the sacrifice of their members.”