The strike ballot opened 30 August and will close Friday 19 October.
The union’s national and local committees are both urging members to vote YES for both strike action and action short of a strike up to and including a marking and assessment boycott.
To strike we will need to get the 50 percent turnout required by the Tories’ anti-strike law, while the law forbids us from using methods which would make that easier such as secure online voting or workplace ballot boxes. So union reps and members will be reminding everyone to vote throughout this period to make sure we’re not prevented by a biased law from taking action if members want to.
Please make sure the details on your My UCU account are up to date.
We’re emailing all @leedsucu members eligible to vote a unique link to tell us when you’ve voted (or that you don’t want any individual reminders). Please click on that link when you’ve voted, but not until your ballot paper is in the post box!
This will help us to focus our reminders on members who have yet to vote, or who don’t wish to disclose whether they’ve voted. We’re not asking how you voted (though the national and local committees are recommending members vote YES and YES).
The new UCU branch committee for the 2018-2019 academic year takes office from 1 August. Thanks to everyone who served on the committee for the last year, especially those of you who haven’t stood for re-election, who have done a great deal to help UCU members over many years. Members who were on the committee last year but aren’t this year are Andy Stafford, Charles Umney, Gavin Reid, Jill Edwards, Kyle Griffith, Simon Hewitt, Stephen Lax and Steven French.
We’re welcoming new members to the committee: Alan Roe, Andi Rylands, Chloe Wallace, Dima Barakat Chami, Lata Naranaswamy, Laura Loyola Hernandez, Peter Tennant and Rachel Walls.
The full list of department representatives, including postgraduate reps, anticasualisation reps and workload reps, is at leedsucu.org.uk/about-us/departmental-representatives. There are still some departments without a UCU rep – email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to nominate a colleague to be a UCU rep or if you’d like to do it yourself.
Update sent by branch vice president Tim Goodall to all members by email on Friday 3 August
Dear UCU members,
You will have seen that the USS pension scheme has announced it will implement a ‘cost-sharing’ package, meaning that both employers and employees will see increased contributions to our USS pension scheme. These increases will be staggered, and begin in April 2019, when our contributions will rise from 8% of salary to 8.8%. That will then increase to 10.4% after six months, and up to 11.7% in April 2020. Employers will see a similar phasing of increases, up to 24.9% by 2020. The employers’ 1% match of voluntary additional contributions will come to an end.
The USS argues that these increases are necessary to make up the ‘deficit’ as calculated on certain disputed bases last year. USS will consult with scheme members on these changes in September.
The Joint Expert Panel was set up after the agreement of UCU members earlier this year, with a remit to look into that deficit. We do know that USS’s ‘accounting deficit’ has recently dropped from £17.5bn to £8.4bn, as a result of them applying different mortality and bond yield forecasts, demonstrating how pliable any pension ‘deficit’ can be, based on a number of variables.
Note that the cost-sharing adjustments that are to be implemented are based upon the November 2017 valuation of our pension ‘deficit’. Some reminders:
The September valuation was rejected by a substantial minority of institutions (42%), leading to that more damaging November valuation and related proposal of shifting from defined benefits (we know what we will receive in retirement) to defined contribution (we only know what we pay in).
It later transpired that this 42% consensus had been generated by double-counting institutional responses to UUK surveys, and some evidence of seeming collusion between some of them.
USS themselves had calculated that institutions could afford increases based on that September valuation, and if we were able to return to it (seeing as the majority of institutions already supported it), we could avoid those heavy cost-sharing increases and maintain the status-quo more or less.
It remains to be seen if the Joint Expert Panel comes up with some agreement that might lead to an altered approach to cost-sharing.