A special conference of all the institutions involved in the USS dispute met on Jan 31 and agreed by 66-41 votes to suspend the current industrial action in order to pursue negotiations with the employers. The employers had offered to extend the right to an unreduced pension on redundancy from October 2013 to October 2014 and to review the specific terms of the new CARE (career average) scheme that was imposed in October – but only on condition that UCU suspends the work to contract.
UCU negotiators recommended taking up this offer – the plan being to use the better aspects of TPS (Teachers’ Pension Scheme) as a bargaining tool – and insisted that this does not mean that the dispute has now ended but simply that the current action will be suspended while talks on these two areas are carried out. If talks do not lead anywhere, we have been assured that the dispute will be ‘reignited’ and further industrial action organised.
There was a vigorous debate about whether to suspend action, continue with the work to contract or to escalate (a position adopted by our branch). We pointed out that it may not be easy to relaunch the action, especially if we are out of sync with other public sector workers (many of whom have rejected the government’s latest offer). In the end, however, it was felt
that the aim of our summer ballot (to bring the employers back to the negotiating table) had been achieved and that therefore it was legitimate to freeze the dispute.
We will of course discuss the implications of this decision at forthcoming general meetings and to consider our response. In the meantime, we would like to thank all members for their support in this dispute and to assure you that we will monitor the progress of the negotiations very carefully.