Written by Benjamin Butcher, Deputy Editor-in-Chief
A nationwide assessment boycott has been suspended indefinitely after the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) agreed to negotiate terms of a proposed pension reform.
The UCU and UUK confirmed this morning that the action would be suspended until after the University Superannuation Scheme (USS) Joint Committee meeting scheduled for January 15th 2015.
The discussion will aim to iron out disputed claims over the USS, the pension scheme for academics and senior administrative staff. The UUK has argued that the USS as it stands is no longer sustainable, but the UCU claims that under the current proposals, staff will “lose thousands of pounds in retirement.”
The assessment boycott, which was in its third week, was marked by 69 universities across the country including the University of Bath.
Professor Bernie Morely, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Education, said “Both parties are committed to seeking a joint proposal that offers an affordable, sustainable and attractive pension scheme, for both current and future members.
“We are pleased that the agreement to suspend industrial action at this early stage has been reached.”
At the end of last week, the University of Bath UCU branch claimed that around one in three of the University’s five hundred taught programmes were being affected, with PhD transfers and visas already being hit.
However, whilst the action is temporarily over, the UCU are not ruling out further action. Sean Wallis, President of University College London UCU branch said after attending yesterday’s meeting that “the dispute is not over. Indeed it was emphasised by everyone that we needed to be prepared to take hard-hitting action in January.
The employers have not retreated from their deficit estimates and ‘de-risking’ strategy. We have a substantial political job to do in Senates, Academic Boards etc. to put pressure on our own employers to challenge the proposals.”
Meanwhile, the University of Bath has taken the decision not cut the pay of those who took part in the action.
The University of Bath Human Resources Department said, “in accordance with the agreement reached nationally, we will not be withholding pay for breach of contract in respect of any individuals who participated in the action short of a strike between 6 and 19 November 2014 on the condition that those individuals make up all work missed in a reasonable period of time.”
This comes after the University of Bath had threatened those members of staff who do taking part in the action would receive a 25% cut to their salaries for the duration of the boycott. The figure derived from the allocated amount of time to assessment, a figure the UCU claimed was “arbitrary”.
The University of Bath student body had previously voted to support the strike, with 57.7% voting for and 40.7% against.
In reaction to the indicative poll, the University of Bath Students’ Union President Jordan Kenny, yesterday backed the staff, saying, “[the]Bath SU will support members of UCU to ensure that staff teaching students are highly motivated and fairly rewarded”
The dispute arose over proposed changes to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS) structure were expected to help deal with the estimated £8 billion deficit in the £41.6 billion scheme. But the UCU had claimed that the figures used are “dodgy” and “misleading”, attacking the statistical methodology.