Jonny Morrison, BA Chinese (Modern and Classical)
The national assessment boycott has been suspended after the University and College Union (UCU), representing the staff under the Universities Superannuation [Pension] Scheme (USS), and Universities UK (UUK), representing the employers, yesterday agreed a “series of negotiating meetings”.
On 6th November, UCU asked its members to boycott all assessment work, including setting and marking course work and exams, as part of industrial action against proposed changes to one of the pension schemes for staff, the USS, which could leave pensions reduced by up to 27%.
Negotiating meetings between UCU and UUK will take place between now and January 15th, when a joint negotiating committee meeting has been scheduled. A statement from UCU says that, “It is hoped that this period can be used to close the differences between the negotiating positions, with a view to reaching agreement on reforms to the USS scheme.”
However, the decision to end the industrial action without any agreement has been met with criticism from the group UCU Left. Sean Wallis, head of UCU’s University College London branch, was among those who warned in a statement from the group, co-signed by 12 members of UCU’s Higher Education Committee, that withdrawing from the marking boycott without “something concrete on the table” would allow the employers to control negotiations to a greater extent.
UCU has cautioned 69 universities, who had threatened to dock 100% of the pay of those members of staff participating in the boycott. General secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt said, “Docking 100% of pay from staff who are continuing to perform the vast majority of their duties is completely unethical and risks causing greater damage to students’ education.” If the industrial action continues in January and is met with a 100% pay dock by some universities, UCU has approved request for strike action from its branches.