On 5 October, the University and College Union (UCU) announced that Universities UK (UUK) have agreed to reverse the 35% cut made to university academics’ pensions.
The UCU and UUK have agreed to full benefit restoration to pre-April 2022 levels by April 2024, as well as an additional one-off payment of £900m as recompense for money that members have lost since April 2022.
The agreement also states that the scheme’s trustee has estimated that the total contribution rates, which both universities and employees pay, need to be 20.6% in order for pension benefits to be restored. This means that employee contribution rates could be brought down from 9.8% to 6.1% of earnings – a reversal of the increase UUK was requiring staff to make.
The pensions dispute has been an issue confronted by UCU industrial mandates since 2018, when members took 14 days of strike action over “threats to close the defined benefit element of the scheme”. A further 55 days of strike action have been taken since 2019 “over contribution increases and benefit cuts”.
The resolution of this dispute was hinted at earlier this summer, when UCU shared that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was on course to restore pension benefits after a consultation launched by the USS Trustee demonstrated it was able to do so. However, the agreement was only confirmed this week.
Following the announcement, the King’s College London branch of the UCU (KCL UCU) commented that “All USS members owe UCU members a huge debt of gratitude for the sacrifices we’ve made to get to this point” in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).
The decision to accept the pensions agreement will be put to the UCU Higher Education Committee and, if it concurs, a full members vote will take place.
Students who have been at the College since 2021 have seen their education disrupted by 3 continual waves of strike action. However, this agreement does not necessarily mean that the end is in sight.
The UCU is currently balloting its members to renew its industrial action mandate. On reaching the agreement with UUK, UCU general secretary Jo Grady has said:
“This is just the start for our union. We have pension justice. We now move on to delivering justice on pay and job security. We will not stop until we create a higher education sector that properly values its staff.”
Should UCU members vote in favour of renewing the mandate, King’s students could see a further six months of industrial action affecting their studies.
Roar will continue to keep students updated on the UCU industrial action.
To read more about the industrial action, click here.