University lecturers and support staff are rebelling against their union leadership after conciliation talks between the University and Colleges Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) ended with a derisory potential deal.
UPDATE: After a mass meeting outside UCU headquarters, and at least 45 local UCU branches voting to reject the offer, UCU announced this afternoon that the offer had been officially rejected
The deal would see a three-year transitional period of “meaningful discussions” to revalue lecturers’ pensions. In this time, employee contributions would nonetheless increase while afterwards employers would be free to argue once more for the ‘unsustainability’ of lecturers’ pensions. All this after significant evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the employers are using bogus calculations in order to ‘prove’ their unsustainability.
The deal also sees the UCU encouraging its members “to prioritise the rescheduling of teaching in order to minimise the disruption to students” as a way of ‘rebuilding’ the trust ‘lost’ during the dispute. Aside from the issue of UCU implicitly blaming its own members for breaking employers’ trust by striking, the result would be to punish strikers for the disruption of their industrial action by increasing their workload to catch up missed lessons.
Apopleptic reaction from @QMUL_UCU members to @UCU's proposed "cheap capitulation". "Rescheduling teaching? They can just fuck off!" "Accepting this will be the end of UCU" #USSstrike #NoCapitulation— Lee Jones (@DrLeeJones) March 13, 2018
While the union has shown itself willing to accept such a derisory deal, rank-and-file members are rejecting it openly. Almost immediately after the deal being made public, it was loudly rejected by staff on social media, leading to the #NoCapitulation hashtag trending on Twitter, and, within only a few hours, over 5,000 UCU members signed an open letter calling on their union to reject the position reached in ACAS negotiations.
The open letter states:
The current agreement kicks a serious solution to the pension dispute in the long grass, committing to a three year process of re-evaluation. It further does so at the very moment we are strongest and able to force a more decisive victory.
The employers' valuation has been demonstrated to be bogus, yet the UCU leadership is now accepting to increase our contribution while we re-evaluate. Employers' contribution however will rise by only 1.3%.
In three years time we will be demobilised and pressured to accept a worse deal. In our opinion we should keep going and throw UUK's offer out all together.
Meanwhile, numerous local union branches have also already come out in opposition to the proposed deal. Members of Warwick, Liverpool, Kent, UCL, Goldsmiths and SOAS UCU branches have all come out publicly in opposition to the deal and in favour of continuing strike action.
Following our branch meeting this afternoon, the Warwick UCU position is to maintain the pensions status quo. In line with that near unanimous vote, Warwick UCU does not accept the agreement between @ucu and @UniversitiesUK reached at ACAS today. #USSstrike @ExeterUCU #Solidarity— Warwick UCU (@WarwickUCU) March 12, 2018
FAO @UCU HQ: Over 100 members of Kent Branch UCU have expressed very strongly their view that the proposed deal stuck at ACAS should be rejected outright. We consider the deal to be a huge betrayal of our sacrifice. #NoCapitulation— University of Kent UCU (@UoK_UCU) March 12, 2018
This offer is hugely detrimental - seems like a punishment for going on strike. Our meeting was consulted on even better offers than this one today and rejected them outright - this is a disgraceful and derisory offer. If UCU adopt this it will be the death of the union! #NOWAY https://t.co/eEVkLZuOzb— UCL-UCU (@UCL_UCU) March 12, 2018
The various occupations by students at universities around the country are also ongoing and have declared solidarity with rank-and-file UCU members. The statement declares:
We will stand with all staff and branches who choose to express opposition to the deal and urge UCU to reject this offer
The statement is supported by students in occupation at Exeter, Reading, Dundee, QMUL, Cambridge, SLADE School of Arts and Bath.
There is an emergency protest this morning at 10am outside UCU headquarters calling on the union leadership to reject the deal.