We want to talk; do they?

October 20, 2011

Your headline "Pension action plans threaten NUS-UCU alliance" (13 October) is a little more exciting than the story itself. Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, highlights the importance of this alliance and clearly shares the University and College Union's frustration that employers' representatives so far have been unprepared to agree to further talks to resolve the Universities Superannuation Scheme dispute. Quite rightly he does not want matters to escalate; nor do I. However, you cannot negotiate with an empty chair.

The more interesting story in your article is the confusion over who speaks for the employers in this dispute. Since March, the union has been told that it is not possible to reopen negotiations. Therefore, I was delighted to read that in response to our industrial action, Universities UK would "welcome proposals" from us. We will soon find out if this is a serious offer.

The students Burns represents have a right to expect that both sides would grab such an opportunity to begin meaningful talks aimed at settling our dispute. I promise that the UCU, at least, will do everything it can to achieve that aim. I call upon the employers, and whatever body they choose to represent them, to do the same.

Sally Hunt, General secretary, University and College Union

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