Union members are to be balloted on proposals aimed at ending UK higher education’s pensions strike.
The University and College Union’s higher education committee voted on 28 March to put the latest offer from Universities UK to a vote next week.
This came after vice-chancellors confirmed that the element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme at the heart of the dispute – defined benefits, which guarantee members a set income in retirement – would be maintained while an expert panel considered the valuation of the fund.
Estimates of a £6.1 billion deficit led UUK to propose the end of defined benefits, triggering 14 days of strike action at 65 universities.
Also on 28 March, UCU served notice of the dates of further strike action at 13 universities, beginning on 16 April. All universities would be hit with a further 14 days of strike action, coinciding with exam and assessment periods, if the dispute is not settled.
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.”
Under the new offer, the expert panel would be composed of actuarial and academic experts nominated in equal numbers by UUK and UCU. It would be tasked with recommending measures “aimed at stabilising the fund to provide a guaranteed pension broadly comparable with current arrangements”.
UCU had warned that UUK’s previous proposal to end defined benefits would leave the average lecturer £10,000 worse off a year in retirement.
A UUK spokeswoman said that, while employers had indicated their support for the new proposal, “this is conditional on the suspension of industrial action”.
“We expect the union to provide urgent clarity on the action planned for the week of the 16 April,” she said. “Suspension of this action would be a huge relief to students ahead of the main examination period.”
Institutions affected by proposed strike action from 16 to 20 April
- Brunel University London
- Cardiff University
- Cranfield University
- University of Dundee
- University of Leeds
- Loughborough University
- University of Manchester
- University of Oxford
- Ruskin College
- University of Salford
- University of Southampton
- University of St Andrews
A three-day strike has been proposed for Bangor University, covering 16, 17 and 19 April.