Following significant progress in negotiations with university employers on pay, working conditions and pensions, the university staff’s union UCU are for the next two weeks suspending the remaining seven days of their planned 18 days of strike action.
Negotiators have agreed this with the employers to create what they call a “constructive environment...(and) a period of calm”. In case the employers are under any illusion, all the action scheduled after these dates remains in place and a ballot is already under way to give the union a mandate to continue action for the next six months.
The development shows the power of a united workforce. UCU general secretary Jo Grady, gives her regular progress updates on Twitter. She points to the power of the union’s 70,000 members and told them: “Let us be crystal clear – you have delivered this.”
Many members wonder whether the employers can be trusted not to take advantage of the suspension of action. To that Grady said: “they will fear us extending our mandate by another six months far more than they will the next two weeks of strike action.
“…a genuine chance at resolving the dispute…”
“This, alongside the progress we have made, is why this is a win/win for the UCU and our members. We get a genuine chance at resolving the dispute as well as giving our branches and representatives the time needed to deliver the YES vote.”
Negotiations with Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) at arbitration body ACAS are on the basis that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This sits alongside the union’s separate talks with Universities UK on university pensions.
In the negotiations on the university pensions, the union is at the start of a process that will restore University Superannuation Scheme pensions. This could potentially lead to a reduction in the percentage of salary members pay into it every year, based on newly published data which supports the union’s case for restoration.
On pay and working conditions the union is establishing time-limited negotiations for new agreements on: tackling casualisation, improving work life balance by reducing workloads, and addressing equality pay gaps.
UCEA are currently consulting their members with a recommendation that they give them a mandate to end the use of involuntary zero hour contracts on campus. Progress has also been made on pay with the removal of the lowest point from the pay scale, and a review of the pay spine that will benefit all staff covered by the union.