The USS enewsletter is brought to you by the Leeds UCU Communications team. If you have any concerns about USS issues raised in it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
ACAS talks continuing
The strike action has been extremely effective in bringing Universities UK (UUK, the employers’ body) to the negotiating table. Originally they said they wouldn’t discuss the decision in January to impose drastic cuts to USS pensions (the average lecturer in retirement would lose £10,000 a year). But now, after huge support for the strikes across the country by staff and students, they are talking, and UCU has put forward a compromise proposal. We all want to get back to work, but the strikes will not be called off until a good solution is reached. UCU members please stay solid with the strike, pickets every day from 7:30 am. Non-UCU members can help by donating to our Fighting Fund and writing to the VC.
International Women’s Day 8th March
The rally on 8th March on Parkinson steps will have a special focus for International Women’s Day, including feminist poetry. Come along at 11:00, followed by a protest supporting the women hunger strikers at Yarls Wood Immigration Centre.
And read the excellent article by the Leeds UCU Equality Officer here.
Universities double-docking pay
Some universities – including Leeds – are planning to deduct 25% of pay for UCU members observing Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) which includes not rescheduling teaching which would have happened on strike days. Thus deducting pay for the same thing twice. After widespread outcry, Leeds is now one of the few still planning to do this, after Bristol, Sheffield, Glasgow, Southampton and many more changed their minds. Think this is unfair? Write to email@example.com and copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alumni are coordinating a donations strike in support, see this letter for example. We hope Leeds will come off the naughty list soon. Check the up to date list of universities involved in punitive behaviour and write to any you have links with.
Make Universities UK (the employers’ body) subject to FOI
UUK have immunity from the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, so they can’t be made to release details of their consultation with employers which led to the plan to drastically cut pensions. We know this consultation included unauthorised responses and counted Oxbridge colleges as separate institutions, but we don’t have full info. Sign the petition to Parliament to make them subject to the FoI Act.
ResearchFish and other funding bodies deadlines
Staff who are striking for fair pensions will find it extremely hard to report on their research by upcoming deadlines. Please sign the open letter to research councils calling for an extension to these deadlines.
Leeds Students Support UCU
We’ve had fantastic support from students, who have come on our marches and rallies, supported pickets (including with cakes and chocolate!), questioned the VC, sent a huge open letter to the VC, and leafletted Senate. If you’re a student who’d like to get involved, they have a Leeds Students Support UCU Facebook group. See also more ideas of how students can help. We love our students!
Universities changing their minds (but not Leeds – yet)
The universities of Oxford and Cambridge had a huge influence on the UUK decision to ‘minimise risk’ and thus cut our pensions. Both have now changed their minds, and along with ever increasing numbers of other VCs are willing to turn a critical eye to the dodgy basis of the USS valuation and UUK’s consultation processes.
Sheffield’s VC has said he would be willing to increase employer contributions to USS, and has even joined strikers on the picket lines!
Imperial are calling for an extension to the deadlines whilst “evidence-based analysis” is carried out with “full transparency”, and say they are willing to “carry our share of the risk of staying on the current scheme while this work is completed”.
Striking Insights teach outs
All sorts of interesting sessions are happening over the full strike period to 16th March, every strike day afternoon from 1 pm. Everyone welcome – striking staff are providing an impressive free education to all! Teach out details here.
Benefit Gig Saturday 10th March
This is to raise money for the Leeds UCU Fighting Fund which will help striking staff who are in financial difficulty through striking, particularly those on casual and part-time contracts. It’s at the Chemic Tavern, 9 Johnston Street, Leeds, doors open 7 pm. Acts include Mestisa, Gary McVeigh-Kaye, and Birds and Beasts. Open Mic bit also. All welcome, bring your friends! Donations on the door.
Next week – Leeds March for USS #2 on Wednesday 14th March
This is a sister march to the one happening on the same date in London to mark the fourth week of UCU’s historic 14 days of strike action. All supporters welcome. Meet on Parkinson steps 11:30, setting off at 12 noon, marching to Victoria Gardens on the Headrow, rally from approx 12:30 in front of the Leeds Art Gallery.
What happens after these strikes end on Friday 16th March?
Well, it depends on progress with the UUK/UCU talks! We hope to see a sensible agreement to protect our pensions after meaningful negotiations. But in case not, UCU are discussing how to escalate the action after Easter. Update: UCU have announced further strike action after Easter if negotiations are not fruitful.