University strikes: Further talks agreed in dispute over staff pensions

'The strike action remains on', say union leaders 

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 28 February 2018 00:39
Demonstrators outside Queen's University Belfast as the first five-day strike began
Demonstrators outside Queen's University Belfast as the first five-day strike began

University officials and the union representing university staff have agreed to hold further talks in a bid to end the strikes which have seen staff walk out of 61 UK universities because of planned changes to their pensions.

The University and College Union (UCU) said it was pleased that Universities UK (UUK) had agreed to further talks to try and end the strike action, and UUK described negotiations as “positive”.

The two parties will meet for further talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas.

But the promise of talks has not put the brakes on plans for more walkouts.

“The strike action remains on”, UCU said in a statement.

University staff are planning to strike on Wednesday, and for four days beginning on Monday 5 March.

The wave of a total of 14 days of strikes will culminate with a five-day walkout beginning on Monday 12 March.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We are pleased the employers have agreed to more talks. Today UCU tabled proposals which provide the basis for settling this damaging dispute. We have listened not just to our members, but also to the many university leaders who have contributed ideas.

“At the core of our proposals is for universities to accept a small amount of increased risk, but only at a level a majority have recently said they are comfortable with. Doing this would enable us to provide a decent, guaranteed pension at a more modest cost with smaller contribution increases.

“UCU has been impressed by the ideas of many vice-chancellors who have intervened in the dispute. Our proposals for long-term reform reflect an attempt to reach a consensus around the challenges we face.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK said: “Today’s talks have been positive with both employers’ representatives and union leaders showing a willingness to work together to address the scheme’s financial challenges.

“Further talks are being arranged. In the interest of students, we have asked UCU to stop the industrial action while talks continue to find an alternative, viable and affordable solution.

“Both parties agreed to involve ACAS in facilitating further talks to bridge the significant distance between both sides.”

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