Strike Action Dates

Extracted from UCU national press release.  Local information to follow.

UCU Scotland announces 14 strike dates at nine Scottish universities in pensions row

  • 14 days of escalating strikes over four week period begins with five-day walkout around weekend

Fourteen days of strikes at nine Scottish universities* will begin on Thursday 22 February the University and College Union (UCU) Scotland announced today (Monday).

The union has written to the universities to inform them of an escalating wave of strikes over a four week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend. There will then be four days of strikes from Monday 5 – Thursday 8 March and a full five-day walkout the following week (12 – 16 March). The strike dates are:

Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)

Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)

Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)

Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

Due to academic timetabling two universities, Edinburgh and Stirling, will not take action in week one and will instead walkout on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March.  They will participate in all the other strike dates.

Last week talks between UCU and the employers’ representative Universities UK (UUK) ended without agreement and UUK’s plans to transform the scheme were forced through by the chair’s casting vote.

The dispute is part of UK wide action and centres on UUK’s proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 87% of members in Scotland who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout in Scotland was 63% and 58% across the UK.  A full breakdown of the results by institution is available here.

UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said:

Staff who have delivered the international excellence principals use to justify their own lavish pay and perks are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by leaders who seem to care more about defending their own perks than the rights of their staff.

Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on Scottish or UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out.

* Universities affected by strike action

Aberdeen, The University of
Dundee, The University of
Edinburgh, University of
Glasgow, The University of
Heriot-Watt University
St Andrews, University of
Stirling, The University of
Strathclyde, University of
Scottish Association for Marine Science at University of the Highlands and Islands

 

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USS strike organising meeting 27 Jan

Marion Hersh and Carlo Morelli (the two UCU USS Scottish-based negotiators) are holding an open meeting for all branch activists to come together to plan and co-ordinate our forthcoming strike activities in defence of the USS pension scheme. The meeting is open to all who wish to be involved in organising this most significant in Scotland and the rest of the UK. 
The meeting on Saturday is a non-resolutationary, practical, ‘workshop’ meeting. It is open to branch reps and activists. We encourage reps from outside of Scottish Region (this being a national dispute) to join us to discuss their planned action if this is suitable for them.
Note non USS branches are welcomed to attend and be involved as they will have an important role to play in providing support and solidarity.
The USS Strike Organising Meeting will take place this Saturday 27th January 11:30-2:30pm, Edinburgh University Room 2.14 St Leonards Land.

General meeting 24 January, 5-6pm

UCU Edinburgh branch will hold a General Meeting focusing on pensions and anti-casualisation work, on Wednesday 24 January, 5-6pm, in 50 George Square, G.04.

We will discuss the results of the Pensions ballot and further action. We will also discuss the branch’s anti-casualisation work and the new policy on lecture capture. Full agenda below.

UCUE General Meeting 24 January, 5-6pm

Agenda

1. Pensions update and planning

UCUE committee will share information from a recent national Pensions meeting, and discuss strategies forward.

2. Lecture capture policy

UCUE committee will detail the branch’s work on the policy, and discuss the current policy consultation.

3. Anti-casualisation work

UCUE committee will detail recent meetings on anti-casualisation work in the branch, and plan further action.

4. UCU Scotland and UCU UK congresses

USS – USE YOUR VOTE: Management’s Response to Our Queries

We submitted some specific questions to management in December. We have now published their response (below).

This non-committal reply demonstrates how important it is to Vote YES, YES in the current ballot: please post your ballot paper now!

(If required, replacement ballot papers can be requested here)

SENT ON BEHALF OF SARAH SMITH, UNIVERSITY SECRETARY

Dear colleagues

Thank you for your email of 5th December in which you asked a number of questions about the current discussions on USS.

You asked questions about the Court Sub Group. The Court Sub Group is made up of Court lay members: Alan Johnston (chair), Robert Black and Doreen Davidson. The Court Sub Group acts under delegated powers from full Court. The Court Sub Group reported back the key items at the December Court meeting. Court noted the response and discussed the importance of ensuring good communications with staff. CMG were kept informed on this issue through the Finance Director’s report. It would not have been appropriate to seek CMG’s agreement as that decision rests with the Court Sub Group.

You asked a number of further questions about the points made in the Senior Vice-Principal’s communication to all staff on 13 November, in particular about the University’s view about the subsequent proposal that was tabled on behalf of the employers by UUK. We understand that no agreement was reached at today’s meeting between UCU and UUK at the Joint Negotiating Committee and that the JNC is now expected to come to a decision on 23rd January, with further discussion between UCU and UUK in the interim. When we have a final decision on a firm proposal, our Court Sub Group will reconvene to consider this and we would be very happy to meet to discuss the detail further with you.

You ask a number of specific questions about the assessment of the sustainability of the scheme, referring to your understanding that a best estimate valuation gives the fund an £8billion surplus and that it takes in more than it gives out. Our understanding from the most recent USS actuarial valuation is that the scheme is in deficit in the order of £7.5billion as the fund needs to be valued on forward funding requirements and costs of the scheme, not solely on today’s activity level. As a ‘last man standing scheme’ USS requires collective responsibility – however the range of employers across the 300+ member institutions is huge with large differences in affordability, assets which could be offered as security and variations in approach. In the UoE response we were mindful of the potential impact on other employers and their ability to continue to participate (and the knock-on effect that would have if they couldn’t). The Pensions Regulator has re-assessed its view of the Employer covenant and is less convinced of the covenant strength that at the 2014 valuation. The opinion of The Pensions Regulator is not one we can or would ignore. It is inappropriate to view the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) as a backup in this context as it only applies when there is a qualifying insolvency event in relation to the Employer, and where there are insufficient assets in the pension scheme to cover the Pension Protection Fund level of compensation. We remain committed to our covenant commitments.

You ask a number of supplementary questions. We would be happy to come back to you on these but think that that would be most productive when we have seen the full detail of whatever final proposal emerges. In the interim we would like to reiterate the view of the Court Sub Group: that the outcome of the current discussion should be one which is seen by staff to be fair and in the best interests, and should also provide stability for the future.