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Hardship Fund applications and surgeries – how to claim and how to get advice on claiming
Hardship Fund applications and surgeries – how to claim and how to get advice on claiming
Members of UCU University of Leeds Branch met today (22 January 2020) to discuss and make decisions about the current disputes. Members agreed on the following motions:
This branch acknowledges the need to fight back against increasing casualisation, damaging workloads, antiquated gender and race pay gaps and a decade long erosion of our pay.
This branch notes the decision of the HEC to coordinate ballot distribution and strike days for the Four Fights and USS disputes. This strategy allowed for UCU’s most successful ballot turnout results on pay ever and led to eight days of impactful strike action which is empowering our national negotiators.
This branch recognises the need to increase pressure at this point and that in order to win we have to move towards escalating our industrial strategy.
This branch supports this existing strategy towards our two ongoing disputes in HE, and believes that strike action in pursuit of the Four Fights should continue to escalate simultaneously with action over USS, beginning with the 14 days endorsed by HESC in December 2019.
This branch notes:
This branch believes:
This branch resolves to:
That the University of Leeds has a gender pay gap of 20.1% (2019) and a reported national ethnic pay gap of 39%. While some of the gender gap will be due to the over-representation of women in lower valued work (vertical factors), it is likely that some of the gap is due to unlawful, unequal pay practices that fail to reward women and men equally doing ‘like work, work of equal value, or work rated as equivalent’ (horizontal factors). The ethnic pay gap has not been given the same analysis and it needs to do so.
That on May 29, 2020, it will be 50 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act 1970.
That Equal Pay is one of the four pillars of UCU’s national pay dispute. And that the University of Leeds UCU branch has been attempting to negotiate on these issues for some time without much progress from the employer. Almost 2 years ago the branch submitted a gender pay claim which, among others, included the need for more research and data and asked management explicitly to provide it. Nothing substantial was offered since.
That the Equality Trust, a national charity, is co-ordinating a series of events and actions designed to increase pressure on employers to meet statutory obligations under the equal pay provisions now included in the Equality Act 2010.
That the Equality Trust is looking for trade union partners to help them target specific employers to establish the extent to which their gender pay gap is due to horizontal or vertical factors (see above). If University of Leeds UCU were to be such a partner, then this would involve undertaking a detailed survey of our members asking them to share their job title, department, role, gender, and salary, thus allowing comparison of ‘like with like’ both within and between departments. We should also include the ethnic pay gap within this research.
That such surveys would be undertaken with appropriate safeguard for confidentiality and in accordance with standard research ethics and the provisions of the GDPR regulations.
That once this survey data is available it could provide an evidence base available to the UCU Branch to press the University to make progress on addressing gender pay inequality as part of the UCU campaign on equal pay and create opportunities for ‘leverage’ should the employer not respond positively.
This Committee therefore resolves
To affiliate to the Equality Trust (at a cost of £50)
To work in partnership with The Equality Trust to develop a survey specific to Leeds University academic (and academic related) staff.
To promote the survey as part of UCU branded action in furtherance of the pillar of our national UCU dispute and to send an email to all University of Leeds UCU members asking them to participate in the survey.
To create a UCU working group (to report to this committee). The working group to lead on engagement with the Equality Trust and the actioning of this resolution on behalf of this committee.
To receive a report from the working group in advance of May 29 and to consider what publicity and other steps the Branch can take (in the light of any survey data) to increase the pressure for our employer to meet its legal obligations under the equal pay provisions of the Equality Act, but also to include the ethnic pay gap in our negotiations.
To send a copy of this resolution to the UCU Higher Education Committee and around UCU activists networks, and urge them to consider similar collaborations with the Equality Trust at a local and national level.
The Equality Trust is a registered charity and was launched in 2009 by Bill Kerry, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The idea for the Trust was developed from 2007, after the authors secured a publishing deal for The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. The Equality Trust’s focus is on promoting policies that would take us towards a more equal society, as well as responding to political developments relating to top pay and income inequality.
This meeting notes:
This meeting resolves:
We are saddened to learn of the death of Nita Sanghera, president-elect of UCU.
Nita was a fierce and passionate campaigner for workers everywhere, always supporting union branches across the country, and a tireless campaigner against racism. Her support and encouragement for many black women activists will not be forgotten.
Nita was about to become the first black woman President of UCU.
The photos show Nita visiting the picket lines at University of Leeds to give us her support.
Branch president Ben Plumpton says: “Nita was solidarity personified.”
Rest in power.
The branch committee has called an extraordinary general meeting to discuss a number of urgent issues which won’t wait until the next scheduled general meeting. The meeting will be:
12pm – 1pm on Wednesday 22 January
Roger Stevens lecture theatre 16 (which is on level 12).
Members are invited to submit motions on the subjects on the agenda. These should be received by 2pm on Tuesday 14 January, after which the motions received will be circulated to members.
The agenda will be:
Please send any relevant motions to the branch administrator Alan Smith using firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The next scheduled general meeting, open to motions on any subject, is Monday 2 March.)
The second report of the JEP arrived last Friday, and it’s a crucial document within the context of the current dispute over the USS pension scheme. Again, it vindicates the positions that UCU has adopted in relation to both the governance of the scheme and the valuation methodology. You can read the document here, and it contains a useful executive summary (pp. 7-12) and a summary of their conclusions (pp. 120-1).
The JEP was established last year as part of an agreement between Universities UK (UUK) and UCU to pause the dispute after a historic fourteen days of strikes across the country. Its first report of September last year addressed the 2017 valuation that was central to the onset of the industrial action. It offered a series of recommendations for adjustments to that valuation. The panel now state that ‘the failure to collectively go forward with these recommendations was […] a missed opportunity to resolve the dispute’.
This second report focusses on the scheme governance and key principles that should inform future valuations. The panel urge both UCU, UUK and USS to work together swiftly to embed these recommendations into the 2020 valuation process, which begins in a matter of weeks.
On the matter of scheme governance, the JEP criticise the manner in which the valuation, and the application of ‘Test 1’, has been the tail to wag the dog of the pension scheme, rather than the valuation being used as a tool to measure the health of the scheme and inform future directions. The report highlights that the trustee is distant from stakeholders and should be more visible through routine engagement. It recommends a list of adjustments to governance processes and structures with the ambition of greater stakeholder (UUK and UCU) input and greater dialogue between USS and those stakeholders.
On the matter of the valuation, the JEP continue to discredit ‘Test 1’ which has dictated a ‘de-risking’* of the scheme’s portfolio, and instead propose a ‘dual-discount’ approach that involves separating the discounting** process for past and future service. This provides for a fair and sustainable approach to valuing the scheme. Importantly, their recommendation would make for a valuation process that is transparent and easier to comprehend.
We hope that UUK will recognise the value of these recommendations to the scheme, and will work with UCU to see that USS accepts and implements these proposals as a means of ensuring the long-term sustainability USS, and of bringing this dispute to a close
*’de-risking’ involves removing a proportion of the higher-risk, and higher-yielding investment vehicles (stocks etc.) from a portfolio and increasing instead the number of low-risk but low-yielding vehicles, such as bonds and gilts. This contributes to the need for higher contributions as the projected value of the scheme decreases.
**the discount rate is one of the important assumptions that contribute to any valuation. It is a means of calculating the current value of the scheme’s assets against its present and future liabilities; what it will have to pay out over time. The ‘discounting’ is the reduction of what is needed now to pay a future cost. This discounting can be done against, for example, of the ‘covenant’, the ability of employers to pay, and against assumptions of the growth of the scheme’s assets (assuming 5% growth of your assets earmarked to pay a debt of £100 you have to pay next year, you need only have just over £95 today – a ‘discount rate’ of 5%)
Leeds UCU has written an online Open Letter to research funders, explaining the two current HE disputes (on USS pensions and on the Four Fights) and asking them to:
We will collect signatures on this letter and will forward copies to each of the research funding bodies in the new year, with the signatures of the researchers funded by them.
Please also encourage colleagues to sign it, whether or not they have been taking part in the industrial action. Colleagues at other universities are welcome to sign it too. Thank you!
(Advice from Leeds UCU on Action Short of a Strike as a researcher is included in our ASOS guidance document: www.leedsucu.org.uk/asos-guidance-from-leeds-ucu/)