University strikes are set to continue after union members rejected a proposed deal over pensions.
Lecturers and university staff across the UK will enter their 12th day of strike action tomorrow – and the union will begin preparing walkouts for the exam period.
Last week, the UCU said that universities would be hit with another 14 days of strike action during April and June if no resolution is found, causing major disruption to students’ exams.
The union is calling for urgent negotiations with Universities UK (UUK) to resolve the dispute over pensions, which has seen staff at more than 60 universities across the UK striking.
Angry strikers on social media, using the hashtag #NoCapitulation, called for an agreement between UCU leaders and UUK – announced on Monday after six days of talks – to be rejected.
More than 9,000 university staff signed a letter calling for the “unacceptable” deal – which requires employees and employers to pay higher pension contributions – to be rejected.
Strikers staged a protest outside the UCU headquarters in north London to show their dissatisfaction with the proposals – and union branches across the UK voted against the deal.
On the decision to reject the proposed deal, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: “Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal.
“UCU’s greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.”
She added: “The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period.
“We want urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.”
A UUK spokesperson said: “It is hugely disappointing that students’ education will be further disrupted through continued strike action.
“We have engaged extensively with UCU negotiators to find a mutually acceptable way forward.
“The jointly developed proposal on the table, agreed at Acas, addresses the priorities that UCU set out.”
Tens of thousands of students have signed petitions demanding refunds for lost university lectures and classes over the four weeks that university strikes have taken place so far.
And King’s College London is looking to directly compensate affected students and other universities are looking at putting the money they save from not paying striking staff into support funds.
The row centres on proposals that would change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a “defined benefit” scheme, which gives workers a guaranteed income in their retirement, to a purely “defined contribution” scheme, in which pensions are subject to fluctuations in the stock market.
UCU has warned that the changes would lead to members losing £10,000 every year of their retirement.
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The UUK spokesperson added: “We have listened to the concerns of university staff and offered to increase employer contributions to ensure that all members would receive meaningful defined benefits.
“We recognised concerns raised about the valuation and have agreed to convene an independent expert valuation group.
“Our hope is that UCU can find a way to continue to engage constructively, in the interests of students and those staff who are keen to return to work.”