By Cameron McIntosh
Strikes will continue as planned this week and the examination period is under increasing threat of further disruption, after the University and College Union (UCU) rejected proposals to suspend strikes this evening.
Durham University academics will enter the twelfth day of strikes tomorrow and will continue to picket for the rest of the week over controversial changes to their pension schemes.
Hopes were raised after an interim deal was struck between Universities UK (UUK) and the the UCU on Monday, following six days of conciliatory talks in London.
However, a meeting of union officials from branches nationwide resigned itself to reject the deal on the table, amid strong opposition from its members.
An open letter addressed to the national leadership of the union, signed by over 7,000 people, urged its leaders to reject the “unacceptable” proposals that sought to create a three-year interim solution to the pensions dispute.
It stated: “In three years time we will be demobilised and pressured to accept a worse deal. In our opinion we should keep going and throw UUK’s offer out all together.
“Furthermore, the UCU is effectively calling on us to both reschedule as well as calling off the action before having put it to the membership, two positions that are absolutely unacceptable.”
Thousands of striking lecturers took to Twitter, using the #NoCapitulation hashtag, to voice vehement opposition to the new proposals and protests were staged in some universities nationwide.
The Union has since confirmed that the strength of feeling among its members has resulted in the deal being rejected, and therefore the continuation of the the strikes. Threats to disrupt the summer examination season also remain on the table, with a further 14 days targeted for the summer term.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal. UCU’s greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.
“The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period. We want urgent talks with the universities’ representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.”
Industrial action affecting 64 academic institutions nationally will continue indefinitely, until a viable solution can be found to the pensions dispute.
Photograph: Durham Student-Staff Solidarity