University lectures' strike is off as both parties walk back pension demands

Agreement in bitter universities' pension dispute paves way for end of strike action

Staff at 64 universities in the United Kingdom have been intermittently striking since 22 February, against proposals to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a "defined benefit" scheme, which gives workers a guaranteed income in retirement, to a "defined contribution" scheme, in which pensions are subject to fluctuations in the stock market.

Employers and union leaders have struck a deal on reforming United Kingdom university pensions, raising hopes that strike action which is into its fourth week could soon be suspended.

The transitional deal is, however, subject to consultation with both UUK and UCU members, as well as subsequent agreement at the USS joint negotiating committee which will take place on 14 March.

Protesters called on Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, to listen to them and to continue the strike.

"We've had some great support over the past few days".

Union leaders threatened last week to stage another series of strikes during the important exam and assessment period in April and June.

During the three-year transition period, employers would have contributed 19.3% and staff 8.7% of salary.

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University staff have rejected a pensions deal that was struck by their union after weeks of strikes.

In a statement, a Universities UK spokesperson described the UCU's decision as "hugely disappointing".

The Financial Times has reported that "the settlement, which will have to be approved by UCU members, means the union will now nearly certainly not go ahead with plans, announced last week, to disrupt end-of-year exams with a series of strikes between April and June", adding that 'UCU's branch representatives, the heads of the union's local groups, and its higher education committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether formally to call off the strike action.

He said the deal had been jointly agreed by union and employers as a "mutually acceptable way forward".

The Guardian reported that the new proposal retained a "meaningful level" of defined benefits for lecturers.

Since USS' triennial actuarial valuation was published past year along with a number of other estimates of the scheme's funding position, academics, unions and universities have debated the validity and accuracy of the different figures put forward to illustrate USS' liabilities. The objective will be to inform the next USS valuation and therefore will be completed by the end of 2019'.


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