In spring term 2018, some university staff took strie action due to the proposed cuts to their pension. Universities UK (UUK), the organisation representing Universities across the UK, put forward a proposal to revise the current pension scheme following consultation with employers which incorporated the views of employers responsible for 92% of USS active scheme members.
The University and College Union (UCU), who represent over 110,000 university academic and support staff, believe the proposal is not appropriate. Staff who are members of UCU and unhappy with the proposed plans took action to strike during a 4 week period in the spring term. The week commencing 12/3/18 was the last week of confirmed industrial action called by UCU over proposed pension reforms.
On 12th March 2018, following joint negotiations between both sides, UCU rejected a revised proposal and announced that further strikes may follow.
On 13th April 2018, strike action was placed on hold after UCU members voted to accept a revised deal which proposed to establish a Joint Expert Panel to re-examine the USS 2017 valuation. This means there is no longer any strike action planned during the examination period during the summer term 2018.
On 16th April 2018, in light of the fact that strike action was placed on hold, the Elections Committee and the Agent for the ‘Yes’ vote campaign agreed that the referendum (relating to RUSU’s stance on the strike action as a result of proposed cuts to University staff pensions) entitled ‘Should RUSU support strike action by University Staff and UCU?’ should be put on hold until further notice.
Gareth Mills, Agent for the ‘YES’ vote campaign confirmed the following:
On 13th April, the UCU membership voted by ballot to suspend industrial action planned for Summer Term, April 2018. UUK has agreed to accept an independent evaluation of the so-called pension deficit and to continue to pay staff pensions at their current rate until March 2019.
This means that the referendum we called for to gauge student support no longer has any specific strike action as its subject, though the dispute is far from over. It is very possible, perhaps even likely, that between now and next March, UUK’s actions may force staff to take further steps to protect themselves via industrial action.
We have agreed with Reading University Student Union that the upcoming referendum be postponed until more is known about what, if any, future strike action will be taking place. For the many of you who signed our petition, this simply means that your request for a democratic decision to be made on the topic of students supporting staff will take place when the nature of future strike activity is known. As the petition organisers as well as agents for the YES campaign, we remain committed to implementing your expressed desire for a vote.
On 17th April 2018, Tristan Spencer, RUSU President and Chair of Elections Committee stated the following:
Reading University Students’ Union will uphold the mandate of the submitted petition, which was accepted on 2nd March, and hold a referendum to support the strikes or not. This postpones the referendum until there is a clearer picture regarding the pension dispute and until more information is released thus ensuring students will be better informed before being asked to cast their vote.
The referendum question will remain the same which is 'Should RUSU support strike action by University staff and UCU?'
RUSU will resume the referendum and the Elections Committee will create a new timeline for the referendum on receipt of notification from the Agent for the ‘Yes’ vote campaign when it is clear that future strike action is set to take place. This will at the latest be by the 31st March 2019 at which point the petition and the mandate will expire.
Therefore, it has been agreed that the petition for this referendum will remain valid until 31st March 2019. After this date, a new notice of referendum would need to be called for.