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UCU declares 'historic victory' as members vote to move forward with university pension proposals

17 April 2023

UCU has today declared a 'historic victory' after members voted overwhelmingly by 85% to move forward with pension proposals agreed with employers, paving the way for benefits to be restored.

In the pay and conditions dispute, UCU members voted by 56% to reject proposals agreed with employers. 

The results follow a two-week electronic consultation in which over 35k UCU members voted on whether to proceed with further negotiations over proposals agreed with employers, or to pursue further industrial action in the form of a marking and assessment boycott. 

The proposals in the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension dispute include commitments from employers to prioritise the restoration of retirement benefits. In April 2022, employers cut the guaranteed future retirement income of the average scheme member by 35%. 

University employers had repeatedly tried to claim that benefits could never be restored and that any future improvements would be unaffordable. However, UCU has today said that it has 'proven the doubters wrong' and will withdraw the marking and assessment boycott at universities in the pension dispute. 

In the pay and conditions proposals, employers committed to ending the use of involuntary zero hours contracts and tackle other forms of casualisation. The proposals also included time-limited negotiations to close equality pay gaps and reduce workloads. On pay, employers began imposing a pay award of between 5-8% earlier this year. 

The rejection of the pay and conditions proposals means a marking and assessment boycott will now commence at 145 UK universities on Thursday 20 April, unless employers put an enhanced offer on the table. Last month, UCU successfully renewed its industrial action mandate, allowing industrial action to be called for a further six months. 

A meeting of the union's special higher education sector conference (SHESC) will take place on Wednesday 19 April to formally decide the next steps in the disputes. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'UCU members in their tens of thousands have voted overwhelmingly to move forward with pension proposals agreed with employers which will pave the way for the restoration of benefits. When we launched our pensions dispute, university vice chancellors doubted us, and government ministers criticised us. We were told it was impossible to win back a stolen pension but today UCU members have proven that it can be done, and we have taken a giant step towards a historic victory that will change lives. 

'In the pay and conditions dispute, UCU members at 145 universities will now prepare to begin a marking and assessment boycott on 20 April. University staff have been clear that they want a better deal, and it is in the interests of employers to make an enhanced offer and prevent serious disruption hitting graduations.' 

Last updated: 26 April 2023