Cambridge UCU votes almost unanimously to reject strike deal

Image credit: Sophie Laura Weymes-McElderry

Earlier today the Universities and College Union (UCU) Cambridge branch voted almost unanimously against the solution to the conflict between UCU and Universities UK (UUK) proposed on Monday. The vote took place in parallel with the continued occupation of Senate House by students in solidarity with their striking lecturers.

Six days of negotiations resulted in a proposal to reform pensions, a process which will take place over a three year transitional period. It requires employers to contribute 19.3% of salaries, and members 8.7% of salaries, a higher rate than the one currently in place. The proposal also mentions an agreement to start an independent expert valuation group with an independent chair. Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope released an email to all university staff and student calling the proposal "the right short-term solution to the current impasse."

UCU have also encouraged members to "prioritise the rescheduling of teaching in order to minimise the disruption to students". This prompted fierce reaction from some Cambridge University lecturers on social media. Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a fellow in English at Churchill, tweeted: “Let’s be clear: there’s no ‘short term’ acceptable: unless you really feel like striking again in three years time. We’ve bit the bullet, we should stay the course. There’s no evidence this is much more than a strategy to stop "current impasse", i.e. devastating strike action.”

The result of the vote follows an open letter circulated around social media yesterday evening which rejects the UCU/UUK agreement. The petition asks for "UCU national leadership to reconsider its position reached in ACAS negotiations", and criticises the ‘bogus’ employers’ valuation mentioned in the proposal.

UCU have sent out the following press release since the morning's negotiations: "The University and College Union (UCU) has rejected a proposal drawn up at talks between the union and Universities UK (UUK) to end the university pensions strike. UCU representatives from the universities where staff are on strike over plans to cut their pensions met at the union's headquarters today (Tuesday).
The union is calling for urgent negotiations with the universities' representatives Universities UK aimed at resolving the dispute. The union said the strikes and action short of a strike remain on, and it would now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period."

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