Industrial action is always the last resort when it comes to workers or unions voicing their opposition to plans and schemes proposed by their employers, however this is the situation for University and College staff, ranging across managers, librarians, lecturers and administrators.
The dispute comes as the University and College Union (UCU) disputes Universities UK (UUK), the employers’ representatives, and their proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), pension scheme. The UCU claims this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 per year worse off in their retirement, a drop of £208,000 compared to under the current scheme.
Talks broke down last week, even after an agreement appeared to have been reached between the two unions, however members of the UCU voted overwhelmingly against the new proposals. These talks came at the beginning of the last week of the four planned weeks of strikes that affected the staff of 61 universities across the UK.
At one stage, it looked as if a deal had been agreed, that was until protestors took to Twitter to vent their frustrations at the deal, using the hashtag #NoCapitulation, which galvanised the union, prompting the USU to drop the deal.
The timing of this situation is precarious for universities and students alike, as the UCU urge external examiners to resign at the striking universities in solidarity, throwing into doubt the examinations and subsequent graduations of students.
Education is an area that we should all take a great deal of interest at all levels as the future of our country and the fate of our children depend on a well-functioning education system and the dedicated employees that work within it.
eShare will be attending the AUA Conference later this month, March, attended by university administrators from across the UK to help get a better feel for what’s happening inside the industry and the pressures that this key group of workers are facing. Whilst the agenda is firmly focussed on Brexit and the complexities that this brings, talk will undoubtedly turn to the negotiations between the UCU and UUK for employees of universities within the UK, and how this may potentially affect their futures.
As a company, eShare was born out of the pensions crisis after CEO, Alister Esam, saw how poorly managed pensions funds were becoming and the scandals that broke out of this crisis in his role as an actuary. Ever an innovator, Alister saw the benefits that utilising technology to help board run better could bring, and from this realisation, the award winning BoardPacks was born.
Sadly in the time since BoardPacks was created, not all companies have realised this potential, and some still have fallen into the same trap, as we have seen recently with the scandals at BHS and Carillion. Universities UK will be keen to avoid a pensions scandal engulfing the education sector and the public bad will that this brings on top of the devastation to the workers caught in the middle.
The UCU are confident that sufficient progress can be made in the talks, but nonetheless are making ‘detailed preparations’ for further strike actions in the coming weeks and months. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will be keen to gauge the mood of the attendees at the upcoming AUA Conference.