By Liam Cassidy
The University and Colleges Union (UCU) has this week announced an assessment boycott beginning from Thursday 6 November. This latest round of industrial action is in response to the breakdown of pension talks between UCU and employers. The assessment boycott will affect 69 universities across the UK, including Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.
According to UCU’s website, the current row “centres around the employers’ proposals that would see scheme members lose thousands of pounds in retirement” and claims that these proposals are based on misleading and inaccurate research statistics.
Last year both academic terms were affected by UCU industrial action as negotiations on fair with the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) broke down on several occasions. These protests highlighted how many staff members at UK universities were not receiving a living wage as pay had not increased in proportion to inflation.
A marking boycott was scheduled for May 2014 but was prevented by a last minute offer of a 2.2% pay rise to UCU members.
However, the breakdown of these most recent talks on pensions has resulted in UCU using what they have previously called their “ultimate sanction”. UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, outlined how “members have made it clear they are unconvinced by the employers’ arguments” and hopes “employers will come back to the table for genuine negotiations” to resolve the issue.
Talks between UCU and employers’ representatives are scheduled to resume Friday 7 November, but UCU have made it clear they are willing to meet sooner to avoid industrial action.