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Jeremy Corbyn tells universities to get back to the negotiating table in pensions row

22 February 2018

As strikes begin on campuses across the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has told university representatives - Universities UK (UUK) - to halt the disruption to students' education and get back round the negotiating table.

In a boost to striking staff Corbyn posted a YouTube message warning of the damage cuts to staff pensions would do and that, without decent pensions, universities would struggle to recruit and retain staff.

Echoing UCU's thanks to students for their support of striking staff, the opposition leader said it had been great to see strong support from students, but it was time to find a solution which avoids further disruption. He then called on UUK to commit to meaningful negotiations, through the arbitrations service Acas if necessary, to resolve the dispute.

The Labour leader's message comes a day after universities minister Sam Gyimah called on UUK and UCU to get back to negotiations. In a strongly-worded tweet he said that UCU and UUK needed to "find a way through this damaging and avoidable impasse ASAP."

The National Union of Students have also called on UUK to return to talks and tens of thousands of students have signed petitions demanding compensation from their universities for loss of teaching. Some vice-chancellors have broken ranks and publicly called on UUK to get back to the table to sort the mess out.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Jeremy Corbyn's support is a huge boost to staff striking today and we thank him for taking the time to send the message. In a rare show of unity both Labour and the Tories are now telling UUK to get back round the table with us.

'We are ready to meet at any time for serious negotiations about how we resolve this mess - either directly with UUK or through Acas. The time has come for UUK to listen to the many voices telling them to start talking.'

UCU members are walking out over plans to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

The strike days are:

Week one - Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)

Week two - Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)

Week three - Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)

Week four - Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

The union is meeting on Friday 2 March to consider universities' response to the first wave of strikes and what further action might be necessary.

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