The full approved minutes were emailed to members and a copy is available from the honorary secretary or branch administrator.
Agreed to suspend standing order to reduce speaking time to 3 minutes for movers of motions and 2 minutes for other contributions
Minutes of the general meeting 10 March 2021
Agreed as correct record.
Motion: USS Pensions
This branch notes that:
- Pensions are a form of deferred salary.
- The value of the assets of the USS scheme have been recently posted at £80bn, which is more than forty times the cost of annual pensions paid out by the scheme, at most recent figures.
- The amount paid into the scheme annually as contributions consistently exceeds the amount paid out in pensions.
- The 2020 USS valuation is flawed by excessive prudence, defining a ‘deficit’ out of overly-cautious assumptions.
- The (largely equivalent) Superannuation Arrangements of the University of London pension scheme has posted a surplus, making clear that the causes of the USS ‘deficit’ are not market conditions and demographic features, but caused by the management of assets and liabilities by USS and their valuation methodology.
- To cover the ‘deficit’ USS Ltd claim that huge contribution increases would be necessary, and UUK propose avoiding these increases by cuts in benefits plus a lower value scheme for lower paid/casualised staff.
- Any diversion of employer contribution from future pension promises to Deficit Recovery at the expense of benefits accruing amounts to a cut in wages.
- The recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), set up after the 2018 strikes to produce proposals about the valuation process and USS governance, have not been fully implemented.
- A cycle of disputes has been created and sustained by USS intransigence and UUK’s failure to recognise the problems with the scheme’s management.
This branch believes:
- Neither the contribution increases proposed by USS nor the pension cuts proposed by UUK are acceptable.
- Members’ trust has been eroded by USS largely ignoring the JEP recommendations.
- Inter-generational fairness is important but cannot be achieved by making future pension benefits worse. It is important to maintain the current level of benefits, resist a two-tier system, and ensure that the USS pension is affordable for all, so that future generations get the same as past generations.
- Gender, race and disability pay gaps are replicated in pension gaps, and amplified yet further by DC schemes, by cuts to benefits, or by unaffordable increases in contributions.
- We need to challenge the narrative that the scheme is in deficit and that changes are inevitable.
This branch resolves to:
- Call on our employer to
- commit to retaining a Defined Benefit pensions scheme.
- support the keeping of employee contribution rates at or below their current rate without diluting future benefit accrual.
- push UUK to seek full implementation of the proposals from the Joint Expert Panel.
- insist on governance reform at USS, including greater transparency and accountability, through rule change proposals via JNC.
- work to close gender and race pay gaps that are duplicated in pension schemes, and amplified by Defined Contribution elements of schemes.
- Mandate our delegates to the forthcoming Higher Education Sector Conference to support industrial action to prevent pensions detriment, should that be necessary.
- Campaign to #DefendUSS including working with groups such as USS Briefs, HE Convention and the UCU Solidarity Movement.
- If a ballot for industrial action is called, to mobilise the branch to win that ballot.
Late motion to UCU HE sector conference: Stop the government cuts to UKRI ODA projects
- 49% government cuts to the £245million UKRI ODA budget for 2021-22.
- these cuts, in an unprecedented breach of faith, affect projects mid-contract in around 30 Universities employing researchers working with developing nations.
- managements are considering closing projects and making researchers redundant.
- many pre-92 Universities affected have £multimillion operating surplus/reserves; they need to take exceptional measures.
- public opposition from professional bodies.
- UCU must urgently act on these short-notice cuts.
- this scandal exposes the fragility of the neoliberal research funding model with its permanently vulnerable casualised workforce.
Conference resolves to:
- launch an immediate campaign demanding the Government reverses the cut.
- demand that universities guarantee the jobs of their research staff for at least the duration of the awarded project.
- initiate a national petition.
- plan for industrial action.
- establish a network open to all research staff.
This qualifies as an acceptable late motion for discussion because:
A) The government UKRI ODA cuts decision was not communicated to staff or UCU members prior to the deadline for motions so the motion could not be submitted within that timescale.
B) This serious urgent and timely issue requires a national UCU response. The timeframe for implementing these government cuts is unprecedentedly short.
- Petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/580046
- UCU: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11477/Stop-savage-university-research-funding-cuts-union-tells-Chancellor
- universities affected: https://wonkhe.com/wonk-corner/what-projects-does-the-ukri-oda-budget-cut-put-at-risk/
- United Nations criticisim: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/united-nations-hits-out-uk-government-global-research-cut/
Motion: 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and the Campaign against Climate Change
This union branch notes that:
- Human-caused climate breakdown is leading to and exacerbating extreme weather events across the globe: heat waves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes, and loss of biodiversity.
- The IPCC 2018 Special Report has warned of the dire consequences of exceeding 1.5ºC global average warming and that a societal transformation would be needed to avoid this, including halving global carbon emissions by 2030; nevertheless, global emissions have continued to rise.
- The climate crisis is a social justice issue, with those who have done least to cause the crisis and who are least able to address it facing the worst impacts. We need to mobilise for a just transition which protects and improves workers’ livelihoods, creates a more inclusive society and stops greenhouse gas emissions.
- Wealthy, industrialised countries have a responsibility to take on their fair share of emissions reductions; that the UK’s target of net zero by 2050 is insufficient to avoid global temperatures rising above 1.5ºC, and that the UK is failing to implement policies to meet even this target.
- We also face a global and UK crisis of unemployment; that tackling the Covid-19 pandemic represents an ideal opportunity to invest in climate jobs, in a just transition and a fairer society; and that the global response to this opportunity has been wholly inadequate.
- The UN COP26 negotiations in Glasgow in November 2021 are crucial for the success of global plans to limit response to climate change; yet the UK government continues to back false solutions like carbon markets and block the transformational changes which are necessary.
- UK civil society needs to exert maximum pressure on the British government in the coming year for a green recovery and just transition, and to show leadership as COP26 host; that trade unions can play a key role in the COP26 coalition in which UK civil society has been organising as part of the wider global climate justice movement.
- UCU is affiliated to the Campaign against Climate Change at a national level
This union branch resolves:
- To mandate our delegates to UCU Congress 2021 to prioritise and support motions on climate change, including ROC13 and ROC14 (see http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu1074.html)
- To affiliate the branch to the Campaign against Climate Change at a cost of £25 and take part in the trade union group.
- To campaign, alongside allies in civil society for massive public investment in a green recovery that tackles the climate and ecological emergencies, creates climate jobs and is underpinned by a fair deal for workers both here and in supply chains in the Global South.
- To join and support the national mobilisations for protests in whatever form they take leading up to and during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021.
- To take part in local mobilisations.
- To send this motion the Yorkshire and Humberside regional committee of UCU.
Motion: against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021
This branch notes:
On the 16 March 2021, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 passed its second reading in parliament. The bill contains new limits on the right to protest (and cite among the reasons for its introduction a way to “deal better” with tactics such as those by Extinction Rebellion). The Bill if implemented will sweep new powers for the police and the criminalisation of Gypsy Roma Traveller communities and increased stop and search powers. Damage to memorials, such as the statue of slave trader Edward Colston that was toppled during last year’s Black Lives Matter protest, could carry a 10 year prison sentence.
This branch believes:
Trade unions will be adversely affected by the criminalisation of basic forms of protest. These limitations only add to the existing punitive restrictions placed on trade unions by decades of anti-union legislation. These measures may diminish our ability to legally assemble, to protest against our employers and to picket and engage in loud and creative demonstrations at our place of work. This would destroy the most basic forms of resistance available to trade unions.
Moreover, we have a responsibility to stand with oppressed groups for social and environmental justice who will face renewed gendered and racialised attacks on the basis of the new legislation.
This branch resolve to:
- Support Sisters Uncut, BLMUK, People’s Assembly, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations and other forces mobilising and demonstrating against the bill by publishing a statement of support and encouraging members to attend protests where possible.
- Mandate our delegates to UCU Congress 2021 to prioritise and support Congress motion SFC10 “Defend the right to protest” (see http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu1074.html)
Motion to amend Congress motion E12
Amendment to Congress Motion EQ12 IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, proposed by London regional committee which currently reads:
- Williamson’s letter threatening universities unless they (a) adopt the “IHRA working definition of antisemitism”, and (b) implement it in staff and student codes of conduct.
- UCU’s policy opposition to the definition.
- only a quarter of HEIs have adopted; of these many have ‘adopted’ but refused to implement.
- the Report of the UCL Working Group on Racism and Prejudice.
- the risk that FE will be next.
Congress resolves to:
- condemn Williamson’s intervention as an attack on institutional autonomy, on academic freedom and freedom of expression.
- call on the General Secretary to speak out.
- call on branches to organise against the adoption, and to develop a briefing document for branches, drawing on the UCL Report and BRICUP briefings.
- organise a grassroots campaign on academic freedom and free speech on Israel, with a dedicated web page and resources on the UCU website.
Amendment to EQ12:
In notes 3, replace ‘only a quarter of’ with ‘only some UK’
Add two ‘notes’:
- ‘The alternative definition developed by Jewish and Israeli scholars of antisemitism in the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA).’
- ‘Evidence of a chilling effect of the IHRA definition on teaching/supervision, and unfounded IHRA-based accusations and disciplinary action against staff.’
Add new resolves:
e. ‘resist the creation of a hierarchy of racisms by avoiding definitions of specific forms and, where necessary, instead to press for adoption of the JDA as an alternative or a supplement to the IHRA.’
[73 additional words]
Health and safety update
Verbal report and discussion.