UCU marking boycott over pension changes suspended until January

Staff members who participated in the boycott prior to its suspension will not have their pay docked

The University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) have confirmed the suspension of the marking and assessment boycott until a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting on Thursday 20 January.

Image: churchofpunk

Image: churchofpunk

UCU and UUK have also agreed to a series of meetings between now and January with the aim of reaching an agreement on the reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The marking boycott, which began on 6 November, originated from the proposed plans to move university staff to a career revalued benefits (CRB) pension scheme in order to reduce the Universities Superannuation Scheme’s estimated £8bn deficit.

A spokesperson from the University of York said the University welcomed the development and hoped it would “[give] both parties the opportunity to explore an agreed solution in the negotiations”. They added: “We are keen to work with York UCU to communicate our joint views to the national negotiators.

“More generally, we look forward to continuing our constructive working relationship with York UCU.” The University’s announcement that it would dock all the pay of staff participating in the boycott for it’s duration, attracted widespread criticism, with several academics publishing open letters on the subject. Dr Simon Hall, a Senior Lecturer from the University of Leeds compared the University’s reaction to that of a nineteenth century mill owner, while Leigh Wilks, Presidents of the York & District Trades Union Council called it “unnecessarily hard-line and draconian”.

A third-year English Literature student told Nouse she was “appalled” by the decision and called it a “condescending snub … which makes a complete mockery of the University’s principles of equality and upholding the best ethical standards.” The University has since confirmed it will not be withholding the pay of the members of staff who participated in the marking and assessment boycott before UCU suspended it.

However, it was suggested this decision may be reviewed depending on the outcome of the planned talks. The University said: “Should the action be resumed at a later date, the University’s Senior Management Group will re-consider its position with regard to the withholding of pay.”

Speaking of the suspension of the boycott, a second-year English Literature student from said: “I do sympathise with the staff who will be affected by the pension changes and it seems that there has not been clear communication between the University and its employees.

“However, it’s a relief to know that the boycott has been suspended – I was really worried about the impact on my degree as it was happening so close to some important assessments.”

Earlier this month, in a blog post, Sam Maguire, YUSU President, stressed the need for the University to communicate with its employees more effectively. He told Nouse: “The delay of the marking boycott is obviously good. We pressured our university and UCU to communicate better about their shared desire to consider other options for the pension plan which they did. This has also been the case between UUK and UCU nationally.

“Now it is up to them to work together and get a solid plan in place, however I am concerned that this may not happen and the University must put a plan in place for if the boycott restarts so that the effect on students is minimal.”

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