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Ulster University lecturers say industrial action has won ‘change’ for staff

There’s been a greater advance on this in a week of marking boycott than in years of negotiating.’

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Ulster University's Magee campus in Derry.

Ulster University's Magee campus in Derry.

Ulster University's Magee campus in Derry.

A dispute between Ulster University (UU) and lecturers has been resolved following “constructive engagement” between the organisation and University and College Union (UCU) Ulster.

A deal has been reached over the marking and assessment boycott and that will be stood down.

UU says it will ensure that final year students can graduate and all other year groups will progress as planned.

Speaking anonymously to the Belfast Telegraph, a UU lecturer said: “It’s a win for staff that shows industrial action is the only thing to bring about change.

"Some people have been on one contract after another for years without ever being made permanent - there’s been a greater advance on this in a week of marking boycott than in years of negotiating.

“The cost of living payment is very welcome, especially for the lower paid staff and it shows the solidarity between unions that UCU which only represents higher grades won this.

"The payment is £1,000 for lowest paid staff, tapering to £600 for higher paid (and nothing for Professors and other senior staff).

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“Lecturers are all delighted that graduations won’t be impacted and are all now busy marking to make sure exam boards can go ahead.”

At the beginning of this week it emerged that UU had backtracked on plans to deduct 100% of wages from lecturers taking part in a “marking boycott”.

A letter had been sent to UCU members warning of the consequences of proceeding with a strike and other industrial action from May 23.

It centres around a dispute between UU and lecturers and support workers over pension cuts.

The UCU demanded vice-chancellors order their employer body Universities UK to revoke cuts to pensions after a drastic improvement to the universities superannuation scheme (USS) finances was revealed by the trustee.

Now, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal there will be USS reform and improved terms and conditions for staff.

A review of workload models and and principles in use within the organisation will commence.

Negotiations covered four key areas that allowed the dispute to be settled at a local rather than a national level.

Correspondence seen by the paper states: “Matters agreed between the University and UCU Ulster include the basis for the movement of some fixed term contract staff to permanent contracts of employment, the provision of a one-off payment for most staff to ease the cost of living pressures and a reaffirmed commitment by both parties to work regarding pay equality, employee workloads and the contractual status of staff working in the area of research.

The letter adds that negotiations were undertaken with “collegiality” and said the matters would be progressed to in a “fully informed, considered and inclusive manner” to deliver local outcomes for local staff and in the best interests of students.

It’s understood that all staff who are on internally funded academic and professional services contracts with more than four years continuous service and at least one contract renewal onto permanent contracts.

A review will be carried out to address funding gaps for externally funded posts.

There will also be a an analysis of hourly paid contracts to explore greater use of fractional contracts and a commitment to “not use zero hour contracts”.

The university has also agreed to exceed the real living wage by 50p and will seek Real Living Wage Foundation accreditation.


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