The 'Rebel Architects' chained their giant red picket fence to Senate House this morning

Strike action entered its fourth day in Cambridge today as national bodies reconvened with hopes to renegotiate pensions for university academics and staff.

Strike action to continue amidst developing negotiations

Strike action will continue tomorrow, with picket lines drawn around university sites and a rally set for tomorrow eveningLouis Ashworth

At today’s meeting, which was requested by Universities UK (UUK) on the second day of industrial action last week, both sides agreed to further talks. In light of this, the UUK called upon the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to halt strikes “in the interest of students”.

In response, the UCU has said that the strike action will continue as the national bodies carry on with negotiations, which will be mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (Acas). 

As previously planned, academics and staff will assemble at picket lines tomorrow, then will break for four days before resuming again on Monday, 5th March.

The UCU tabled a set of proposals in negotiations today which they believe could resolve the dispute:

  • Keep the salary cap for defined benefit schemes at £55,550
  • Return to the risk level for universities proposed by USS in September 2017, a “small increase” from that currently on the table
  • Reduce the annual accrual rate – the proportion of one’s salary which goes towards the scheme – from 1/75th to 1/80th, representing a smaller pension benefit for an equivalent amount of pensionable service
  • Call for contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to increase 4.1%, with 65% to be paid by employers, and the remaining 35% by employees

Previously, the UCU voiced opposition to the UUK pension scheme proposals to implement entirely defined contribution schemes while keeping employer and employee contributions at 18% and 8%, respectively. The UUK, on the other hand, believes that further increases to employer contributions would divert funds from teaching and research, and have therefore proposed the defined contribution scheme to reduce the scheme’s deficit.

The UCU has disputed their deficit figure as overly pessimistic, and argues that defined contribution pensions are less generous as their value upon retirement depends on returns from underlying investments in the stock market.

No students will turn up for lectures, picketers tell economics lecturer

Students rallied in solidarity with striking staff last ThursdayLouis Ashworth

Picketers in Cambridge sparked controversy at Sidgwick Site today as they turned away Lord Wilson, a lecturer in the economics faculty, convincing him that students had boycotted the lecture when, in actuality, the majority were in attendance. A first-year economics student called the picketers’ actions “underhanded”, adding that “any feeling of sympathy and respect for striking lectures and supporting students had been swept away”.

Lord Wilson spoke to Varsity about his experience this morning, commenting that although “[it] was not a major event”, he added, “If I had known that there was a full lecture theatre waiting for me I would have pressed through”.

‘Rebel Architects’ chain bright red picket fence to Senate House

This morning saw the latest of the Rebel Architects Faction's developing action in solidarity with the strikes Rebel Architects Faction

Earlier this morning, the Rebel Architects Faction (RAF) of Cambridge Defend Education (CDE) chained a red picket fence to the gates of Senate House in support of the striking staff. RAF said that the protest was to demonstrate “the collective resolve of students in opposing the marketisation of education”.

In a statement to Varsity, the RAF called for “immediate negotiations – without preconditions”, warning that it would otherwise “escalate this dispute in every direction”.

Strikes are set to continue tomorrow, then for the remainder of Lent term amid national-level talks, affecting every teaching day except for Thursday 1st March, Friday 2nd March, and Friday 9th March.

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