The Guardian reports that the pensions dispute between universities and their staff moved closer to resolution on Tuesday after four days of strike action. Following a two-hour meeting in London, the two sides announced a joint attempt at arbitration through the industrial conciliation service Acas.
Both union and employers remained guarded over the details. But a move to arbitration represented a promising shift on the part of the employers, represented by the Universities UK (UUK) group, which had said its pension proposals would not be subject to negotiation.
The University and College Union (UCU) said its planned strikes would continue across the UK, with a fifth consecutive day of industrial action taking place on about 60 campuses on Wednesday. A further four days of strikes are scheduled to begin on 5 March.
Representatives from UCU said it had tabled proposals that would provide a guaranteed pension for members of the universities superannuation scheme (USS) at approximately half the extra cost of its previous proposals. The USS is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK.
The UCU proposals would require universities to accept a higher rate of risk, in the unlikely event of universities going bankrupt or closing, while overall contributions would increase by 4.1%, with nearly two-thirds of the additional cost to be borne by universities.
As the strike action has intensified, a number of vice-chancellors have appeared publicly at odds with the UUK position. Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow and a USS board member, published a joint statement with the university’s UCU branch backing the current pension arrangements. “I very much hope that an early settlement can be found to the dispute. In the meantime we will continue to do all we can to minimise the impact on students,” he said.
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