On Monday 12 March, negotiators from UUK (representing university employers) & UCU (representing university staff) presented a proposal to the current pensions dispute. The proposal was strongly rejected by local branches of the Union, and consequently by the Union as a whole.
Q: WHY DID WE REJECT THE PROPOSAL AND CONTINUE TO STRIKE?
We welcome one part of the proposal: to convene an independent expert evaluation group to assess the future financial health of our pension fund. Much of the current dispute revolves around how healthy the pension fund is. UUK say the scheme has a multi-billion pound deficit. Others say the scheme actually has a multi-million pound surplus. An independent evaluation is therefore crucial.
We could not accept the proposal, however, because:
- The proposal accepted implicitly that the valuation is wrong and yet wanted to proceed with cuts anyway of between 30-35% to colleagues’ pensions. That means losing £6000-£8000 per year from our current pensions, leaving most people on or below the poverty line in retirement.
- The proposal would still have disproportionately disadvantaged early career and lower-paid colleagues.
- It introduced a Consumer Price Index (a measure of inflation) cap of 2.5%. This means the ‘defined’ benefit will actually lose value in real terms whenever inflation is higher than 2.5% (like 2017, when CPI was 3%).
- Contributions by employers and employees would still have increased, amounting to a significant loss of income for staff.
- The expectation to recover missed teaching undermines the principle of strike action and is logistically impossible.
We seriously regret having to continue this dispute
We would much rather be doing our jobs. We have been encouraged by the support we received from students and the wider public. We have achieved some important concessions, but the struggle continues.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Strike days are scheduled to continue in Edinburgh up to and including Tuesday 20 March.
The UCU has also approved a further 14 days of strike action in case the dispute is not resolved after the current round of action, but dates for these have not been set. We hope the situation will be resolved without the need for further strikes.
Universities UK has lost the trust of its front line workers. The best course of action for UUK – if genuinely committed to front line staff – is to maintain the status quo until a truly independent expert group reports on the valuation of the scheme.
Academic and academic-related staff are seeing their work stripped of social, cultural and political value at a time when the economic value of universities is at an all-time high. In 2014/15 the contribution of universities’ work to UK GDP was £21.5 BILLION. In 2015/16, they also provided £3.2 BILLION worth of pro-bono (unpaid) work to the British economy.
If you support keeping our universities strong and socially vital, please contact the Principal, Prof. Peter Mathieson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask him to use his influence with Universities UK to bring this to a sustainable and fair conclusion for staff and students.
Please also sign the open letter to the Principal at http://bit.ly/LettertoPeter
You can also download this as a printable leaflet.
Update, 20/03/2018 – There is now an updated version of the leaflet to download – includes link to pensions modeller rather than the open letter to the Principal (which has now been delivered)