University strikers reject pension deal

University strikeImage copyright

Image caption

University staff are now threatening another 14 days of strike action

University strikers have turned down an agreement reached by university union leaders and employers to end the pensions dispute.

It means the strike will continue – with threats to disrupt final exams and assessments in the summer term.

University staff opposed to the deal announced on Monday evening have pushed for a more “decisive victory”.

The strike over university pensions has lasted four weeks and cancelled classes in over 60 universities.

Deal turned down

“The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period,” said Sally Hunt, the leader of the University and College Union.

“We want urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.”

Image copyright

Image caption

University staff have been on strike over threats to their pensions

The union has threatened a further 14 days of strikes, “designed to hit the exam and assessment periods between April and June”.

A Universities UK spokesman said: “It is hugely disappointing that students’ education will be further disrupted through continued strike action.”

He said the deal had been jointly agreed by union and employers as a “mutually acceptable way forward”.

This would have put disputed changes to pensions on hold – and a temporary deal would have tackled the deficit, with talks to be re-opened on long-term pension arrangements from 2020.

There would also be an independent re-evaluation of the size of the pension scheme’s deficit.

But this has been rejected by a meeting of the union’s representatives – with warnings that it was “completely unacceptable” after weeks of strikes and loss of earnings.

An open letter from staff opposing the deal had argued that it was only postponing long-term decisions about the pension scheme and called for industrial action to continue to “force a more decisive victory”.

Universities UK had warned vice chancellors that if the agreement was not accepted, the previous pensions proposal would be reinstated, with the “likely outcome” that there would be more strikes in April and May.

The universities minister Sam Gyimah has called for students to be given refunds on fees for lost teaching time.