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Members' Bulletin, 16 September 2018

Members’ Bulletin 16 September 2018


Pay ballot

USS pensions ‘consultation’


Pay ballot: two views


At its recent meeting the UCU local committee agreed that it was vital for all members to vote in the current pay dispute. However we are divided on the dispute itself and we are therefore presenting both cases, for voting yes and for no to strike action respectively.


If you have mislaid your ballot paper, click on the following link to obtain a replacement:


The case for voting Yes to strike action in the 'pay and equality' ballot


Our Union has called for a 'Yes' vote in its 'pay and equality' ballot. The recent USS strike placed a welcome spotlight on the HE sector; 'pornstar martinis', Vice-Chancellors' exorbitant salaries, and universities morphing into property investors fuelled the anger felt by those facing a cut to their USS pension. The recent below inflation 2% pay offer which forms part of what we are being balloted on cannot be divorced from that narrative. A strong 'Yes' vote will not only strengthen UCU's hand in dealing with our employers regarding the 'pay and equality' claim, it will also maintain pressure on them not to backtrack on the USS pension issue - up and down the country management will be carefully scrutinising this ballot for any sign of weakness that they can exploit further down the line. But we are also being asked to vote on much more than the derisory 2% pay offer. For the first time ending the gender pay gap, tackling workloads and stress, and ending the HE sector's reliance on casualised staff are part of the UCU claim. Many of us who are Teaching & Scholarship staff joined the USS strike and stood on the picket lines in solidarity despite not being part of the USS pension scheme (the USS scheme is only open to those at Grade 7 and above). By voting 'Yes' to action members now have an opportunity to return that solidarity and, in the process, show also that we are a Union serious about tackling gender inequality, casualisation, and workload issues.


The case for voting No to strike action on pay


It is a huge strategic error to be fighting two major battles – on pensions and pay – simultaneously. The pensions strike earlier in the year achieved a good result, defeating the employers’ plan to destroy our Defined Benefit pension scheme and forcing them to engage in a revaluation of the scheme through the Joint Expert Panel (JEP, whose report was published Thurs 13 Sept). However, many members lost substantial amounts of pay in that dispute and it is possible there could be another pensions dispute if USS ignores the JEP recommendations. In that context, asking people also to strike over pay and lose still more money, perhaps another 4% of earnings for a 14 day strike, is too much to ask. It is also doubtful whether employers will budge from their 2% final offer because that figure is close to the public sector going rate and almost all universities have now paid it into staff salaries, or are about to do so. Even if the employers were to move on pay there is a risk they will then take an even tougher line on pensions. Strategically, the long term income flow from pensions is more important for many of our members than this year’s pay settlement and the pensions dispute should therefore be our principal focus. Consequently, and for strategic reasons, we should vote NO.


USS ‘consultation’


USS members will have received an invitation to participate in a consultation process on a proposed increase in pension contributions up to April 2020. The combined employer and employee contribution will rise from its current 26% to 36.6% with employee contributions planned to rise almost 4 percentage points.


We strongly urge you to participate in the USS consultation and reject their proposals. According to last week’s report of the Joint Expert Panel (established after the strike earlier this year), the USS methodology is flawed and its proposals quite unnecessary. Further discussion between union and employers on pensions should start from the unanimous report of the JEP and not from the flawed approach of USS.


For details of the report, and UCU’s response, click here: