UCU members to vote on new proposals to end strikes in Easter Term

Image credit: Sophie Laura Weymes-McElderry

Thousands of members of the University and College Union (UCU) will vote on whether to accept renegotiation proposals that could see next term’s strike action suspended.

The ballot has been sparked by an offer from Universities UK (UUK) to review the pensions changes that have caused weeks of disruption. So far in the ongoing dispute, 65 universities have been affected by 14 days of strikes that began in February.  

With exam season strikes set to cause chaos, UUK proposed a jointly run panel of experts to agree a new pensions scheme. UCU then narrowly decided to put the offer to its members, with the poll opening today (Wednesday) and closing at 2pm on Friday 13th April.

But the outcome is far from clear: although many expect a vote for acceptance, some on the left of the Union have argued strongly against the proposal. The vice-president of Cambridge’s UCU branch, Sam James, believes the result is uncertain: “the atmosphere is for rejection but it’s very hard to judge”.

Several UCU branches, including those at UCL, Kent and Liverpool, have urged their members to vote against the renegotiation, and hashtags such as #rejectuukdeal and #NoCapitulation have been trending on social media.

UUK’s offer has been criticised for being too ambiguous and failing to guarantee immediate change. However, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has called on members to vote for the deal and emphasised the progress made over the course of the dispute, praising the “solid action of UCU members” which has earned the latest proposals.

If the ballot results in rejection of the offer, there will be 14 more days of strikes in the summer term targeting the exam and assessment period, followed by a new vote on whether to continue action next year.  

UCU affiliation among Cambridge University staff has almost doubled since the dispute began – the rise from 900 to 1,700 members of the branch reflects similar increases at other UK institutions.

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