Around 30 UCU branches across the country including Sheffield have resoundingly rejected a deal that could have seen the strike suspended from tomorrow.
A motion to reject the latest deal was unanimously passed by more than 350 Sheffield UCU members at an EGM this morning.
There were hopes for the deal to be ratified as union leaders and staff meet today to discuss the latest proposals, but this now seems unlikely given the widespread rejection.
A proposed agreement between the UCU and vice-chancellor body Universities UK was announced last night after discussions were held through mediating body Acas.
Ulster, Cambridge, Sussex, SOAS, Goldsmiths, Bath, Manchester, Reading, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Warwick, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Keele, Liverpool, Hull, York, LSHTM, Exeter, Stirling, UEA, QMUL, Bristol, Cardiff reject deal #NoCapitulation
— Oxford Brookes UCU (@BrookesUCU) March 13, 2018
If union leaders ratify the deal at the meeting today, lecturers and staff will return to work across the University from tomorrow.
But many have criticised or rejected the deal, including Sheffield UCU, with an open letter calling for the UCU and vice-chancellors to oppose this deal and lobby for a “more decisive victory”.
An ‘emergency protest’ against the deal is also currently being held by students outside the Arts Tower this morning, along with an open-air meeting.
Stuart McMillan, Sheffield Students’ Union Education Officer, called the deal “incredibly disappointing” and urged solidarity between lecturers and students in rejecting it.
— Sheffield UCU (@sheffielducu) March 13, 2018
It comes after more than three weeks of intermittent strikes because of a row over the ‘Universities Superannuation Scheme’ pension. Thousands of students across 60 British universities have had classes and assessments disrupted, with the strike planned to continue until the end of this week.
UCU claims the new scheme could leave lecturers up to £10,000 a year worse off in retirement, as pensions are changed from “defined benefit”, guaranteeing staff a stable income in retirement, to a “defined contribution” scheme where pensions are vulnerable to fluctuations on the stock market.
What’s the deal?
The proposed deal announced last night would see the controversial changes to pensions set aside, with temporary deal covering the pension deficit until 2020 when long-term discussions would recommence.
An independent re-evaluation of the scale of the pension scheme deficit would also be launched.
Another contentious stipulation in the deal is that universities would be expected to re-organise all lectures and seminars cancelled by the strike action.
Calls for better deal
The hashtag #NoCapitulation has been trending on Twitter overnight, with many labelling it unfair that lecturers would have to re-schedule classes and calling for the UCU to use widespread support from lecturers and students as bargaining power for a better deal.
— stuart mcmillan (@mcpooart) March 13, 2018
An open letter opposing the deal urges university staff to campaign to “force a more decisive victory”, and claims it is only shifting long-term decisions two years into the future to avoid addressing them now.
Universities UK have told Vice-Chancellors that if they do not back the deal by Wednesday afternoon, the initial USS pension will be reinstated making it likely more strikes could be held over the coming months.