Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Open University workers in Milton Keynes strike over pensions

Open University workers in Milton Keynes strike over pensions Open University workers in Milton Keynes strike over pensions
Patty Aguilar | 13 March, 2018, 22:53

The University and College Union said that talks with Universities UK had resulted in a transitional arrangement under which employers and employees will be required to pay higher pension contributions for three years. This deal isn't what they've been striking for, and until we get there we should support them every step of the way.

Staff at 64 universities in the United Kingdom have been intermittently striking since 22 February against proposals to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a "defined benefit" scheme, which gives workers a guaranteed income in retirement, to a "defined contribution" scheme, in which pensions are subject to fluctuations in the stock market.

"This was fed into a national meeting of branch officers, and UCU's Higher Education committee have now voted to withdraw from the "agreement".

Nationally tens of thousands of OU workers are joining the 15 days of strike action.

The move comes after talks over the USS reforms, overseen by the government's Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) concluded today. They have described the content of the agreement as "a massive concession" in the UCU's stance as changes would "only tenuously maintain a defined benefit pension, under very unfavourable conditions". The branch will be holding an emergency all members meeting in the Arts Centre tomorrow morning to continue discussions.

For more information on Warwick UCU's current position, please see their Facebook page here.

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An open letter from staff opposing the deal had argued that it was only postponing long-term decisions about the pension scheme and called for industrial action to continue to "force a more decisive victory". This includes a total employer contribution of 19.3% of salaries and a total member contribution of 8.7%.

The transitional deal is, however, subject to consultation with both UUK and UCU members, as well as subsequent agreement at the USS joint negotiating committee which will take place on 14 March.

In three years time we will be demobilised and pressured to accept a worse deal. "In our opinion, we should keep going and throw UUK's offer out altogether".

The Oxford UCU branch has also added its voice to the revolt, describing the agreement as a "pathetic offer", before urging negotiators to go "back to the table".

"The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period".

This article will be updated as the story develops.

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