UCU offers ‘significant concessions’ in pay and pensions disputes

Negotiators ‘within reach of agreements’ as union cuts demands on pay rises and pension contributions, says general secretary

三月 5, 2020
UCU strike at Goldsmiths, University of London
Source: Eleanor Bentall

The University and College Union has said that it has made “significant concessions” to some of its demands and has “extended an olive branch” in an attempt to break the deadlock over pay and pensions.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady says union negotiators had told employers that an offer of a 3 per cent pay rise for its members in 2019-20 could end ongoing strike action.

Previously, the union had demanded 3 per cent plus inflation as measured by the retail price index, which would equate to at least 5.2 per cent. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association has offered 1.8 per cent, rising to 3.65 per cent for the lowest paid.

Dr Grady says negotiators had also indicated that they would be willing to take an offer of 8.4 per cent employee contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, in a shift from the “no detriment” position, which maintained that any increase in pension payments should be covered by institutions.

Employee contributions have been increased to 9.6 per cent of members’ salary, up from 8 per cent last April – although employer contributions have already grown from 18 per cent to 21.1 per cent.

In an update to members, Dr Grady says union negotiators “believe that we are in reach of agreements that could put this union and the sector on the right footing and bring about real long-term change in the way staff are treated”.

If employers met the latest demands, the UCU would consult its members on whether to accept the offers, she says.

However, a spokesman for USS employers said that they “[did] not see this proposal as a serious move from UCU to find common ground” on pension contributions.

Union members at 74 universities are in their third week of strike action, with a four-day walkout this week ahead of five days of action next week.

Dr Grady says that while progress had been made on grievances tied to the pay dispute over workload, job security and inequality, Ucea had been “less open” to talks about improving the pay offer. However, she adds, employers “have not closed off all discussion of an improved pay offer”.

On pensions, Dr Grady says employers “have finally started to work with us with genuine commitment on longer-term reforms to USS, and they have started to push the scheme to adopt a better approach to its valuation”, but they “have not yet tabled an offer to cover the unfair contribution increases that are pricing members out of the scheme”.

“We are willing to be flexible, but we have to draw a red line somewhere,” said Dr Grady of the 8.4 per cent contributions offer.

However, a consultation conducted by Universities UK, which is representing employers in the pensions dispute, found last month that 84 per cent of 111 employers who responded did not want to make an improved offer.

The USS employers spokesman said that it was clear that “another rise of 1.2 per cent of salaries, in addition to the increase that employers have made from 18 per cent to 21.1 per cent is not affordable for the vast majority”.

“We are continuing further talks with UCU and would be willing to consult employers on a reasonable and fair proposal to resolve the dispute,” the spokesman said.

A Ucea spokesman said: “There has been no change on the pay offer, but talks remain ongoing.”

In her update, Dr Grady says the union “could not be clearer that our position is reasonable and we are anything but stubborn”.

She tells members: “What we need you to do is demonstrate your support for our negotiating position by continuing to take effective strike action over the next few days. Make it clear that we will do what it takes to achieve meaningful change for staff in our sector.”




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