On 28 February, Universities UK (UUK) agreed to enter into conciliation talks with University and College Union (UCU) to try and resolve the ongoing dispute.
Staff at 61 universities across the country took industrial action beginning on 22 February over proposals for pension reform, which has caused severe disruption to lectures and classes at these institutions.
Both sides of the dispute have agreed to begin talks to try and end the disruptive action. Talks are set to begin on Monday 5 March and are to be mediated by the conciliation service Acas.
Ahead of discussions, UCU have outlined a table of proposals that it believes will help to solve the dispute. These proposals include providing a guaranteed pension for members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) at around half the extra cost suggested in their previous plans. This means contributions would increase by 4.1%, split 65/35 between employers and employees, rather than the previously proposed 8.3%. This plan would mean universities accepting a small amount of increased risk, but in response to a UUK consultation, 58% of institutions said they were happy to accept the current risk levels or increase them.
“Our proposals for long-term reform reflect an attempt to reach a consensus around the challenges we face”
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt
UCU has called for collaboration with employers on a number of issues in order to avoid disputes like this in the future, such as a study into alternative ways of providing pension benefits.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “We are pleased the employers have agreed to more talks. 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.
“Our proposals for long-term reform reflect an attempt to reach a consensus around the challenges we face.”