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The University and College Union (UCU) have suspended the staff marking and assessment boycott which began on Thursday Week 5. The Union began the boycott in protest to radical pension changes proposed by the employers, Universities UK (UUK), but successful talks between the two parties have led to its suspension.
It was announced on Thursday Week 7 that following successful talks the previous day between the UCU and UUK that the boycott would be suspended until a joint negotiating committee on January 15. This will ease widespread fear from students that their Michaelmas exams would be affected by the boycott, although the boycott is set to resume at the start of Lent term if further negotiations are not fruitful. The boycott stopped students from being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.
The boycott was taking place across 69 pre-1992 universities, including Lancaster, in response to the proposed removal of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS); the pension scheme staff at these universities rely on. UUK had planned to remove the final salary element of the current scheme for all USS members and instead impose a career average (career revalued benefits, CRB) scheme. This proposal would limit the CRB benefits received by staff members up to a salary threshold of £50,000. After they hit this threshold, employers would be set to pay only twelve percent of income into a defined contribution scheme, which shifts the risk to scheme members, and would rely on successful investments.
Regarding the suspension, the UCU said in a statement: “Both parties are committed to seeking a joint proposal for reform that offers an affordable, sustainable and attractive pension scheme, for both current and future members. Both parties are pleased that the agreement to suspend industrial action at this early stage will mean that students will not have been adversely affected and members of staff will not have had pay deducted.”
Speaking to SCAN prior to the marking boycott, LUSU VP (Education) Joe O’Neill stated that the Union were in full support of the University staff’s attempts to ensure a fair pensions deal. “I stand shoulder to shoulder with UCU members in their fight for a fairer settlement, and call for the UCU to ensure our education is not disrupted because of their mismanagement of the Higher Education sector.”