The UCU HE sector conference on USS pensions had been achieved by 20-30 branches passing motions requisitioning a special meeting. This was to ensure continued member debate and input following the ending of the momentous strike action over USS.
It was a useful conference enabling members to continue engagement with the processes at play in the USS dispute. The motions focussed on transparency and member involvement in the joint expert panel (JEP) and defending defined benefits.
There was some discontent that only 2.5 hours had been allocated for the event, to which 27 motions had been submitted. Inevitably, five motions, including one from Leeds, fell off the agenda due to time constraints. The Leeds motion instructing our negotiators to oppose replacing our DB scheme with a collective defined contribution (CDC) scheme was passed. A motion calling on the CEO of USS, Bill Galvin, to resign was passed.
The meeting was the start of the union’s membership introducing accountability into the latest developments in the USS campaign.
Motions 1-12, 14 and 15 were passed and 16, 17, 18, 20, 21 were remitted to the Higher Education Committee. Motions a, c, d, e were voted back onto the agenda and passed with some amendment. Motions are here: ucu.org.uk/circ/html/UCU882
Today, all three campus unions (UCU, Unison, Unite) have jointly written to the Director of HR, to complain about attempts contained in HR communications to misdirect staff in about the current pay and equality negotiations. This is a repeated complaint about behaviour we have also raised in previous rounds of national pay negotiations. Please see below this email for the full text.
remember we have until 12 noon on Wednesday 27 June to vote in our internal, “indicative ballot” over whether to accept UCEA’s pay and equality offer in response to the joint union claim. UCU advises that you vote to REJECT the pay offer and to vote YES to a willingness to take industrial action. See [here] for a reminder of why UCU advises this in light of a derisory pay offer (especially when placed in context of pay erosion) and very little of note offered on the equality and casualisation aspects of the joint claim. It also reminds you how to find the link to make your vote, and what to do if you can’t find the email. Turnout really matters, and will strengthen the hand of our negotiators – please vote asap!
See also [here]for analysis of how the latest pay offer compares with pay settlements elsewhere.
You may well remember that in August 2017 the unions had cause to complain about the attempts to misdirect staff in communications about that year’s pay negotiations. Unfortunately it seems to all three campus unions that the University is indulging itself in the same behaviour again this year.
Once again you are seeking to conflate different reward systems in the minds of the readers of this communication, trying to convince staff that the pay settlement put forward by the employers is a good deal for staff by deliberately including figures for incremental rises that staff will accrue, as long as they are not at the top of their pay scale point, as part of this negotiation in an attempt to make it sound better than it is. Even so, your own figures demonstrate that staff eligible for the negotiated pay rise plus an incremental rise amount to a minority of the staff working at Leeds.
We reassert, incremental rises do not form a part of this negotiation. The attempt to conflate them with those negotiations is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and cause confusion. The pay offer is 2% (except for those at the bottom of the pay scale). This would be the ninth successive year of below inflation pay rises in Higher Education. The HE sector has, according to the latest available figures, a surplus of more than £1 billion. The sector is getting ever richer as staff pay falls ever more behind what we used to earn.
The time has come for Universities to pay a fair reward for the hard work, knowledge and expertise that employees at all levels bring to their respective roles, rather than trying to reduce what they see as the ‘financial burden’ of staff, whether through low rises in pay, reduction in the security of employment or indeed the security of our pensions.
Nick Allen, UNISON Jo Westerman, Unite Vicky Blake, UCU
The TUC (Trade Union Congress) in Yorkshire and Humber has contacted trade union branches in the region looking for young (35 or under) members interested in a visit to Brussels to learn about the international role of trade unions. See message below, and please email email@example.com if you’d like an expression of interest form:
The TUC is pleased to be offering a ‘European trade unionism – Brussels study visit’ for young members from our affiliated unions, taking place between 4-6th September 2018. The application form is attached.
The focus on the visit will be: discovering trade unions’ international role, monitoring the status of working rights, learning about cross border collective bargaining, solidarity & making connections.
The draft programme includes:
Meetings with ETUC, ITUC, UNI Europa, IndustriALL and other European trade union partners
A tour around the European Parliament and the opportunity to meet Labour as well as Socialist & Democrat MEPs to discuss Brexit & working rights in Europe
Meeting the GMB and/or NUJ Brussels branches, as well as the Labour assistants working in the European Parliament
Meeting the TUC international officer
An opportunity for a structured study session on European Trade Union issues delivered by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies
This is a partially sponsored visit courtesy of Richard Corbett MEP & Linda McAvan MEP, however, any applicants will need to secure a guarantee of sponsorship from their region or branch of approximately £200-£300 (possibly less) to cover additional costs. We would appreciate your support in this.
If you could send this (with attached application form) to any members you think appropriate, or circulate it around your networks, that would be greatly appreciated. Deadline for applications is Wednesday 4 July.
If you or any applicant have questions, please feel free to contact me.
Gareth Gareth Lewis Policy & Campaigns Officer Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Yorkshire & the Humber
Our pay has been devalued by around 21% in the last 9 years (we’ve lost £1 for every every £5 we had in 2009), by deliberately holding increases below inflation. This has saved universities a fortune to spend on other things: over the last five years capital expenditure has increased by 34.9%, operating surpluses have increased by 176.83% and reserves are up by 259.04%.
But as many other employers are also taking advantage of the government policy of wage deflation to push down wages, is the latest offer from universities comparable with pay deals elsewhere?
The Labour Research Department collates information on pay deals. Their latest figures from April show the universities’ offer – 2% for most, with 2.8% for the lowest paid – is significantly below what people are getting from other employers, currently averaging 3% with 3.2% for the lowest paid.
Members of UCU University of Leeds branch proposed six motions to go to the UCU special conference about the USS pensions dispute, on 21 June. Members of the branch submitted and approved six motions and these have been amalgamated by the committee into two motions (because there is a limit of two per branch):
Campaigning for DB pensions as the best social pension provision
our successful industrial action defended the principle of Defined Benefit (DB) pensions, challenging political orthodoxy to accept DB pensions were “unaffordable”.
the current government is weak
widespread criticism of university leaders for their enrichment.
pensions are deferred wages, thus increased employee pension contributions are a de facto pay cut.
Labour Party policy has shifted from solely promoting Defined Contribution (DC) Pensions towards support for Defined Benefit pensions.
the best social pension provision is DB
to campaign for DB pensions within and without the labour movement, launching via a national trade union conference on the future of pension provision in Britain, together with advocates of DB pension schemes.
to work with all relevant political parties, calling them to advocate for collective provision of DB pensions, the public university and academic freedom.
any increase in employee pension payments should be compensated for in future pay settlements.
Conference notes the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) could recommend a Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) scheme to replace the current USS Defined Benefit (DB) scheme.
Conference believes CDC schemes are considerably inferior to established DB schemes, even superior to individual DC plans.
Conference agrees UCU contact with the JEP and its chair should involve all our elected lay negotiators.
Conference instructs our negotiators to:
Publicise any refusal, delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP.
Encourage members to make submissions to JEP.
Arrange a dedicated UCU website section for JEP information and reports.
oppose replacing the USS DB scheme with a CDC scheme, although a CDC scheme might form part of a top-up scheme for those earning over the cap in the current capped DB scheme
pursue measures for improving pension arrangements for members on lower incomes, in the early career stage, on casualised contracts, and in equality strands.