UCU members vote in record numbers to accept proposals in pensions dispute

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In a record turnout for a national ballot, UCU members voted by two to one to accept proposals aimed at resolving the university pensions dispute.

A second wave of strikes due to begin next week and to continue into May and June has been suspended, as has the action short of a strike. The result:

Yes to accept the UUK offer 64%
No to reject the UUK offer 36%

Turnout: 63.5%

The dispute started because of proposals by Universities UK (UUK) to remove the guaranteed 'defined benefit' pension for members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) - a move the union said would see a typical scheme member lose around £10,000 a year in retirement.

Those plans prompted an unprecedented 14 days of strikes at 65 universities and revised offers from UUK. The proposals agreed by UCU members mean that a joint expert panel will be set up to re-examine the USS valuation and make recommendations. 

The employers have also stated that they do not intend to return to their original proposals to end the guaranteed pension, have made a clear commitment to defined benefits and agreed to discuss a wide range of issues raised by UCU. These will include inter-generational fairness, comparisons with the Teachers' Pension Scheme and the role of government in providing support for USS.

UCU and UUK will now jointly present the plans to the USS Board and the Pensions Regulator. The union said it expected the agreement between the fund's two key stakeholders to be welcomed. However, it said that, while all planned strike action is suspended, UCU will keep its strike mandate live as a precaution until this has process taken place.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Members have participated in record numbers in the consultation, with a clear majority voting to accept the proposals. The union has come a very long way since January when it seemed that the employers' proposals for a defined contribution pension were to be imposed.

'Now we have agreement to move forward jointly, looking again at the USS valuation alongside a commitment from the employers to a guaranteed, defined benefit scheme. USS, the regulator and government now need to ensure that UCU and UUK have the space to implement the agreement effectively.

'We hope this important agreement will hearten workers across the UK fighting to defend their pension rights and was won through the amazing strike action of UCU members.

'UCU has more work to do to ensure that the agreement delivers the security in retirement that university staff deserve. On behalf of all UCU members I want to say thank you to students and other staff for their inspiring support throughout the dispute.'

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