In the evening of 12 March, the University and College Union (UCU) came to an agreement with Universities UK (UUK), essentially accepting the proposed changes to staff pension plans after a three-year ‘transitional benefit arrangement’. After ten days of unprecedented industrial action, UCU negotiators have completely folded to the demands of UUK, with little in the way of compromise in the long-term. The proposed changes to USS could prove detrimental to the livelihooIn short, UCU have betrayed their members.
But let’s be clear: this is not a finalised deal. This is not necessarily the end of industrial action. UCU are currently in talks with the Higher Education Committee (HEC) and their branch representatives, in which the deal will be scrutinised, criticised and ultimately decided upon by all present members. The joint report on negotiations outlined that the HEC and Branch representatives are expected to capitulate to this deal.
This judgement is overwhelmingly misplaced.
Across the country, in emergency meetings, UCU branches have voted to reject the proposed deal. Sussex, Cambridge, SOAS, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Keele, Goldsmiths, Exeter, UEA, Bristol, LSHTM, Queen Mary’s, Cardiff, Bath, Manchester, Reading, Ulster, Nottingham, Newcastle, York, Hull, Liverpool, Stirling and now Warwick branches have all stood in union against UCU’s capitulation. Warwick UCU alone voted 116-0 against the proposed deal, with five abstentions.
This deal would effectively render every strike day worthless. Every cold morning on the picket line, every hour of teaching cancelled, every penny of pay sacrificed by every striking member of staff would simply have been a futile gesture. And as if this isn’t sufficiently pitiful, UCU have also agreed to encourage teachers to reorganise the teaching that members of staff were asked to cancel. UCU negotiators have betrayed every union member in proposing this deal.
The outcome of discussions with HEC and branch representatives will be released after 2pm. In the meantime, it would seem individual branches are not ready to give in.