Breaking: Durham UCU accepts University proposal

By and Laetitia Eichinger

Palatinate understands that members of Durham’s branch of the University and College Union (DUCU) have voted in favour of a package of proposals put forward by the University. 

The result indicates that the planned marking boycott will not go ahead at Durham, although it remains unclear whether the national UCU will intervene in the local dispute.

Over 500 DUCU members voted, with 84.2% endorsing the USS statement and 80% supporting the second package of proposals.

Marking boycotts are still set to go ahead at 43 other UK universities as part of the Union’s campaign against cuts to the USS pension scheme and longstanding issues relating to pay, equality, and working conditions. 

The proposed deal includes a one-off payout of between £250 and £1,000 for every staff member, the launch of two working groups related to workload issues, and a review of fixed-term contract use. The University also proposed a joint statement advocating for “a fair and affordable USS pension scheme”. 

We have been working constructively together

sol gamsu

Durham University put the proposal to DUCU on 13th May, and the branch then held a general meeting on 16th May in which it was determined that members would vote electronically this week on whether to accept it. 

Members voted in favour of both the proposed changes and the joint statement in two separate ballots. Votes in favour of both parts were necessary for the Union to call off its marking boycott. 

Voting closed at 12pm today and DUCU held a general meeting. DUCU is expected to inform the University of the vote’s outcome and make an announcement later today. 

The UCU has previously demanded a £2.5k pay rise for all university employees nationally, after estimating that real pay is down by more than 25% since 2009 due to inflation, as well as a reversal to a 35% cut in guaranteed pensions.

The also comes after concern from students about the impact of a marking boycott, particularly on those who may have faced difficulties graduating. A Durham Polling survey found that only 28% of students supported the proposed boycott, despite 66% responding that they had supported previous strike action.

The vote marks a significant breakthrough in the protracted local industrial dispute that has seen staff go on strike numerous times this year. Both the University and DUCU have commented positively on the progress in recent days. 

The University issued a statement to students saying that both parties have been “working together to try to reach a resolution” and expressing “hope” that DUCU members will “recognise the significant steps all parties have taken to move forward and accept this offer to avoid industrial action”.

Sol Gamsu, President of DUCU, told Palatinate, “There has been a welcome change in tone and attitude by management locally over the last few weeks. We have been working constructively together to try and seek a local, negotiated set of joint statements and commitments for the ‘Four Fights’ (workload, casualisation, pay and equalities) and on pensions.”

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