The following offers were negotiated between UCU and University of Leeds senior management. UCU members voted to end the marking and assessment boycott and accept these offers. This local action is in support of the ongoing national dispute.
Joint Statement of the University of Leeds and University of Leeds UCU regarding the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)
The University of Leeds and the Leeds Branch of UCU are issuing this joint statement to mark their commitment to work collaboratively to advocate for a fair, affordable and sustainable pension scheme for members. It is clear from consultation responses that employee members greatly value the benefits provided by the USS pension as part of their employment reward package. Whilst they would prefer lower contributions and preserved benefits, consultation demonstrates that members are prepared to pay more in the short term to preserve pension benefits.
The University and the Leeds UCU believe that;
- employer and employee members share a common interest in ensuring the USS is a fair, affordable and sustainable pension scheme.
- the USS scheme should be responsive to the needs of both employers and employees and that this is a central aspect of making the scheme attractive and preventing members from opting out.
- the USS Trustee should now be asked to consider a revised schedule of contributions and that should any upside arise from either a new schedule of contributions and recovery plan for 2020 and/ or a future valuation of the scheme’s assets and liabilities, improving the benefits for employee members of the USS should be a priority.
- the optimal timing for the next valuation should be considered and then concluded in an expeditious timescale. We call on the USS Trustee to commit to prepare valuations which are evidence based and when conditions allow moderately prudent, and that they should lobby for a regulatory environment that recognises the unique nature of the Higher Education sector, with a view to schemes such as USS being able to take a different attitude to asset investment and de-risking.
- USS should continue to be run on the basis that it remains an open scheme with a commitment from employers to a strong covenant which enables investment into growth assets and returns on investments that improve the value of the scheme for employee and employer members; Employers should continue to provide covenant support through the future valuation process and agree that this should be available to benefit proposals presented to the JNC by either UUK or UCU to ensure open and timely discussions.
- USS should be asked to develop a credible/feasible plan for divesting from fossil fuels.
- UUK, UCU and USS should support the rebuilding of trust through a transparent and evidence based approach to communications, that includes rapidly and publicly correcting any emerging errors of fact. This should include a commitment to treating consultations on UCU and UUK proposals respectively, in a transparent manner.
- proposals for governance reform of the scheme should be urgently developed and progressed and UUK and UCU should be jointly and actively engaged in the related joint workstream. Transparency of governance of USS to be increased.
- as soon as possible, over-arching high level sector-wide equalities impact assessments (EIAs) should be carried out and published to understand any direct or indirect discrimination arising from any scheme changes or options proposals. UCU and UUK should actively engage in the workstreams to explore an attractive and affordable range of options to enable all staff to participate in the scheme.
- the maintaining a meaningful Defined Benefit element within the scheme is a principle which we support, whist also recognising that a well performing defined contributions scheme may provide enhanced benefits for some.
University Response to the UCU Four Heads of Claim
The University is committed to a Review of Employment Terms, which includes responding to the Leeds UCU anti-casualisation claims. Work on this began in 2020 and has included engagement with the TUs from its commencement. It is acknowledged that the review, which is a major exercise, has not progressed as quickly as planned. We will refocus our prioritisation of this work and will develop a timetable to monitor and report on delivery progress. This would also include reports on progress on actions falling on the unions (TUs).
The Fixed Term Contracts review is a key and first stage of the Review of Employment Terms and collective consultation with unions for the proposed changes commenced on Monday 30 May 2022. Other contracts review, including a review of the position of hourly paid staff and discussions regarding terms of engagement for PGRs who teach, will follow during the Autumn term, with priority sequencing and realistic timescales set, informed by discussion with unions.
The outcome of consultations will be taken to the joint committees for negotiation and/or ratification if necessary. Key to this would be the avoidance of elongation of processes wherever possible.
The University wishes to review the effectiveness and efficiency of the current framework in place for engagement with the unions, including on consultation or negotiation, with a view to enhancing this. The Procedural Agreement between the University and the UCU sets out in detail the respective areas for consultation or negotiation and we reaffirm our commitment to following these and to enhancing dialogue.
The University also continues to actively input into national discussions regarding the core models of employment in HE (through UCEA and more recently with UKRI) and proactive engagement with relevant commitments such as the Concordat for researchers. We believe our Review of Employment Terms to be innovative and potentially helpful to the sector and will share the outcome of our review with UCEA.
The University remains committed to in-sourced services across its core activities.
Gender, race and disability pay gaps
The University commits to report on race & disability pay gaps in 2023. We would ask that the unions support the encouragement of staff to declare the related personal information to progress this work to help ensure that the reporting is as meaningful and accurate as is possible.
The University is committed to reducing pay gaps and continuing to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. It is also committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce through positive action, reflected in the new EDI Strategy for which an action plan is being developed and which will include KPIs and milestones to measure success. It has also made key investments in senior EDI leadership posts. Our aim is that Leeds is a Pathfinder in relation to EDI strategy and its delivery. We will consult with the unions in our development of the action plan and welcome their support in its implementation.
To reiterate, the University is committed to reducing pay gaps and to ensuring equal pay for work of equal value. Specific examples of areas of challenge within universities are the STEM disciplinary and BAME staff pipelines. We are active participants in sector initiatives to help address these and are developing our own as well.
The University is committed to the development of a health and wellbeing strategic plan (as part of our enabling strategy) which will include consideration of work-related stress and ill health. This will be informed by a staff survey shortly to be launched.
Workload issues across the sector and in the University are acknowledged and we have worked jointly with UCU since May 2021 to review ‘Workload Principles’. The latest revised version (including UCU input) is currently progressing through University committees for approval. Once approved, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor will lead the process of their implementation and review of impacts with trade union involvement and share relevant data as to impact with trade unions.
The University will discuss with the unions how we and they can work collaboratively to review workloads. We will also review the role the SRDS might usefully play in workloads differentiating based on career stage and contract type. The University’s commitments and work associated with the Concordat for research staff is also relevant.
Review of the pay and grading structure
The University commits to fully review the pay & grade spine and to complete this in 2022/23 and will involve the unions in this process. This strategic review will include a benchmarking exercise with peer institutions and best practice. It will also include consideration of grade structures, incremental progression and market pay issues with a view to the University of Leeds staff having competitive (equal or better) reward packages to staff at peer universities and the University being an attractive employer of choice. Our commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion will be embedded in this work.
The University reward strategy is moving towards a more peer and benchmark comparison approach. We will strengthen the role evaluation process for determining role grades. A G10 review is underway with a view to ensuring it is fair and competitive.
The University also plans to fully review its Promotions and Role Evaluation processes. A staged implementation of improvements is already in train and will progress. Trade unions will be involved in the role evaluation process, for which training will be provided in HERA-based role analysis.
The above commitments and their progression in a timely way will require resource and shared commitments by the unions. The University commits to ensuring that people with the required skills, expertise and workload capacity are involved in the work to deliver these commitments.
The University reiterates its intention to review the current framework in place for engagement with the unions with a view to its enhancement and effectiveness in supporting positive and effective relationships.
This page was last updated on 10 June 2022