UK university staff to vote on latest pensions offer – The Guardian


The bitter dispute between universities and their staff over pensions may soon be resolved, after staff were asked to vote on the latest offer to renegotiate the changes being proposed by employers.

The University and College Union (UCU) announced on Friday that it would electronically ballot its members next week over an offer to reconsider the controversial pension proposals, which the union claimed would have cost retired staff thousands of pounds a year in lost benefits.

A statement from UCU said the union’s higher education committee had sought clarification, but after a close vote opted to ask its members to decide on the proposal for a joint panel of experts to look at the valuation of the pension scheme that provoked the dispute.

The Universities UK (UUK) proposal also pledges to maintain the current contributions and retirement benefits until at least April 2019 while the review by the panel of experts takes place.

What’s on offer?

The new proposal will see a jointly agreed expert panel created that will form the basis of both the UUK’s and UCU’s future approach. Subsequently, the current deal in terms of pension contributions and benefits will remain in place until at least April 2019.

The panel will focus on reviewing the basis of the scheme valuation, and will reflect the clear wish of staff to have a guaranteed pension comparable with the current system of defined benefits.

What happens next?

Union members will vote electronically on the offer. However, strikes that have been planned for April will still go ahead. They will be at the universities of Bangor, Brunel, Cardiff, Cranfield, Dundee, Leeds, Loughborough, Manchester, Oxford, Salford, Southampton and St Andrews, as well as Ruskin College.

Twelve institutions will be hit with a full week’s strike from Monday 16 to Friday 20 April, while Bangor will be out on 16, 17 and 19 April.

Will exams be affected?

The union has said that if the dispute isn’t resolved, industrial action aimed at disrupting the examination period at 65 universities would be held.

Hundreds of external examiners have already resigned, which has created difficulties in running this summer’s exams.


Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, said: “These latest proposals were won by the solid action of UCU members and now is the time for them to have their say on what happens next.”

Lecturers, librarians, researchers and administrators at more than 60 British universities have held 14 days of strikes since February, over the proposals by the UUK group that would have ended defined benefits pensions that give a protected retirement income.

The union said that strike action already approved for the week beginning 16 April would still go ahead as planned, affecting 13 universities including Manchester, Cardiff, Oxford, St Andrews, Leeds and Southampton.

UCU also warned that if the dispute was not resolved there would be industrial action aimed at disrupting exams and assessments period at 65 universities, starting in April and continuing into July – raising the prospect that end-of-year exams would be cut or cancelled.

In a worst-case scenario, students at the end of their courses could find themselves unable to graduate if crucial exams cannot be invigilated, marked or assessed.

Already hundreds of external examiners – who provide vital oversight in maintaining academic standards between institutions – have resigned after a call by UCU, creating further difficulties in running this summer’s exams.

Whether you are a university lecturer or a student affected by the strikes, we want to hear from you and understand the issues from your perspective.

Share your views and experiences using our encrypted form here. One of our journalists may contact you to discuss further and we will feature some of your contributions in our reporting.

At the centre of the dispute is changes employers want to make to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the country’s largest private sector pension scheme with 400,000 members at more than 60 universities and nearly 300 similar institutions, such as the Royal Society and Cancer Research UK.

Proposals by UUK would sharply curtail university staff pensions by ending defined benefit. Instead, UUK proposed to use defined contributions instead, that tailor retirement payouts to the state of the pension fund at the time.

A desire to keep defined benefits pensions has been behind the industrial action taken across 65 universities and campuses, but the complex nature of pensions schemes and regulations has meant that restructuring the UUK proposals has been fraught with difficulty.

The strikers have particularly disputed the USS management’s valuation of the pension scheme, which showed a £6.1bn deficit and provoked the UUK effort to end defined benefits.

USS institutional members currently make contributions worth 18% of salaries into the scheme, while staff members each contribute 8% – but the recent valuations suggest that one or both parties would have to raise their contributions substantially to keep post-retirement benefits at the levels currently enjoyed.

A spokesperson for UUK said a joint panel of experts “will help to build confidence in the valuation process and assumptions. It will also give time to pause, to reflect and to rebuild the trust that has been damaged over the past few months.”

But the employers group also wanted strikes to be put on hold. UUK said: “Suspension of this action would be a huge relief to students ahead of the main exam period.”



Source link

Comments are closed

Featured Links

    Search Archive

    Search by Date
    Search by Category
    Search with Google
    Flirt online

    Flirt online

    Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes