Academics plan assessment boycott in university pension row

27 Oct 14
Lecturers at 69 UK universities will start an assessment boycott next week in a row over pension changes, the University and College Union announced today.

The action is part of the ongoing row over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which would shift academics from a final-salary to a less generous career progression scheme in order to plug an £8bn deficit.

Talks on the pension reforms broke down last week, with UCU claiming employers’ proposals were full of ‘holes’ and ‘misleading’.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘The employers failed to convince us of the need for the dramatic changes or the reasons behind the methodology for its deficit reduction plan.

‘We are setting out plans for an assessment boycott … because USS members have made it clear they are unconvinced by the employers’ argument as well. We are being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that is simply not acceptable.’

The boycott will stop exams from taking place and also prevent students from receiving feedback. Industrial action was supported by a ballot of lecturers with 87% in favour of action short of a strike and more than three-quarters (78%) backing strike action.

Negotiations will resume between both parties on November 7.

UCU said it was happy ‘to clear its diary and meet sooner’ and urged employers to come back to the table for ‘genuine negotiations’ aimed at resolving the gap between the two sides’ positions.

For the employers’ side, Universities UK said it was ‘disappointed’ that the union had decided to pursue a ‘damaging course of industrial action’ aimed directly at disrupting students’ education.

A spokesman said industrial action would not make the large scheme deficit and the risks to the future viability of the scheme go away.

‘The employers’ proposals for reform offer the best possible deal for employees within the constraints that the USS trustees have set.

‘USS falls under the remit of The Pensions Regulator. It has to meet certain minimum levels of funding, a test which it currently fails to the tune of at least £8bn. It is unavoidable that a recovery plan has to be agreed that would remove the deficit over a reasonable period.’



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