Climate Emergency Response

UCU Edinburgh members have wholeheartedly endorsed the following five points in relation to the climate emergency:

1.      We recognise that there is no longer any reasonable doubt that human driven climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all life on Earth and that this deserves to be treated as an emergency. This recognition represents an imperative for us all to consider what an appropriate response might be at all levels of global, national and local community and society.

2.      We warmly welcome the University’s and the Principal’s acceptance of this Climate Emergency. In a recent statement, prior to Sarah Smith’s message to Heads of College, Schools and Professional Services, he said “[a]s a global University, we are deeply concerned by the climate emergency and want to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible impact”.  We wholeheartedly share this concern and wish to join the Principal and work creatively with him in developing the necessary responses to meet this emergency.

3.      We agree with the Principal that we can do this “by making sustainable choices and, through research and teaching, encouraging others to do likewise.” We also agree that research and teaching, while extremely valuable ways of promoting long term change, are not enough on their own, and it is incumbent on democratic organisations, including trade unions, to throw support behind popular demonstrations for political change.

4.      We further recognise that Edinburgh University (and Scottish Universities more generally) are uniquely placed to draw on our new National Performance Framework to create the futures we desire and aspire to; futures that are informed by the values statement that lies at the heart of the National Performance Framework and that seeks to deliver on the national outcome which challenges the Scottish people to “value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment”.

5.      We have been called upon to support and show solidarity with the “Global Climate Strike” on the 20th of September. UCU has been campaigning for a 30-minute work stoppage to support this.

We encourage our members, where necessary, to discuss with managers how to arrange their duties in a way that allows them to take part in this action and to engage in demonstrations. We are delighted that, following Sarah Smith’s message, it has been now confirmed that the University fully supports the 30-minutes work stoppages and encourages staff to use this time productively in order to inform themselves about the climate crisis, as well as share their ideas about how to address it.


In line with these, we have asked the Principal for two things, one in relation to Friday September 20, the other for the longer term:


1.      We feel that, in order for staff and students to be able to fully take advantage of the opportunities to access crucial information and contribute with new ideas on 20 September, the University should suspend attendance monitoring of students and ensure no assignments are due that day. We therefore urged the Principal to consider this and to encourage the wider University Community to mark this day in a manner consistent with the declaration of an emergency.

2.      Moving forwards, we believe that a clear strategy (and lead from the Principal) is needed that ensures that all members of the University community can both access and afford the necessary environmentally sustainable choices, regardless of the economic and time pressures they may be subject to. Such a strategy will make it clear how we as a community are going to respond to the climate emergency and deliver on our commitments.

General Secretary Hustings (video)

21 May 2019, with Jo McNeill and Jo Grady (Matt Waddup was unavailable to to family commitments). With apologies for sound and video quality – this had to be recorded via a laptop webcam after the technology in the room failed.

(Please note that this is temporarily hosted on a personal YouTube account so we could make it available quickly.  We’ll move it when time allows.)

And We’re Off

alloutforuss_bannerMonday 26 Feb will be our first date of 14 days strike action.  Members should all be receiving updates by email.  If you are not, please contact us

Members who have volunteered for picket line duty should have all received instructions.  Again, if you haven’t, please contact us

The national UCU website has live coverage on the Strike Live! page.

Further information on the strike can be found on the main Strike for USS pages

Check the website calendar for details of events planned for strike days.  Some events are in place and others will follow, so please check back.

Please send photos from picket lines and other strike events to or tweet to @ucuedinburgh with hashtag #strikeforuss


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


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

General Meeting, 6th Dec 2017

As you might be aware, the UCU Edinburgh branch has been working hard for job security and for the rights of casualised staff for many years. In addition to local reps campaining for pay for hours worked in different areas of the university, in March 2017 the branch put in a local claim on casualisation, which has resulted in a number of meetings with HR and upcoming work scheduled in the schools LLC and ECA.

We have had a few wins which include pay for marking, moves to fractional contracts for a number of members, and a raised awareness of the problems that casualisation causes. Parallel to the anti-casualisation work, the branch has been campaigning on workload, raising this issue repeatedly with management as well as collecting material through surveys of members.

This meeting will update members on recent developments, and discuss with members ways to move forward in linking issues of workload with causalisation. We hope you can make it:

Wednesday 6 December, 5-6 pm

Room LG34, Paterson’s Land, Holyrood campus

Your USS Pension – What’s Going On?


Tuesday 26th September, 4.30-6.00
Appleton Tower Lecture Theatre 3


UCU National Pensions Officer Christine Haswell will be visiting the University on Tuesday to discuss with us the current USS Pensions Consulations.

One of these (1) is between USS and the Universities (UUK) regarding the assumptions which will be used to calculate the current position. The USS Trustee is asking the universities to comment on its proposed assumptions for this calculation. The consultation closes on September 29th. You may have seen reports of huge deficits in the press and it does indeed look like there will be a stated deficit of somewhere around 5 billion Pounds should the current method of calculation be accepted.
However this has been controversial. The basis of the calculation is something called “Test1”. The maths is complicated but the essence of it is the requirement by the Pensions Regulator for these to be done with some regard for prudence. UCU doesn’t disagree with the need for such prudence but argue that USS are being so prudent that they will undermine the pension scheme.

USS are basically arguing for the derisking of the investments of the fund from equities and property into a portfolio consisting of the much safer bonds consisting of Treasuries and company bonds. UCU counter that this would mean a reduction in earnings by the fund of 2% per annum, which compounded out to the 30 year horizon which the fund looks at, is what produces the deficit. There’s a good explanation of this at (2).

USS’s position is that either contributions need to increase by 6.6% of our salaries to fund the consequences of this derisking, or further (as in on top of those in 2011 and 2016) cuts in benefits will be necessary. The employers have been very clear in saying that they will not increase contributions from their current 18% and I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be increasing our contributions from 8% of salary to 14.6% of salary.
UCU hired its own actuaries, First Actuarial, to analyse the position of the fund if this level of pessimism was avoided and look at where we’d be if we simply stayed in a mix of bonds, equities and bonds. They found that given a reasonable assumption (with margin for prudence included) of the extra growth this entails, this would be sufficient to pay the fund’s liabilities (our pensions) in the future. Arguably they are essentially predicting a current surplus. The to and fro of this debate is explained at (2).

It looked for a while as if the employers would be given only USS’s pessimistic assumptions to consider, but one of our colleagues, Sam Marsh, started an online petition at (3) to demand that USS show its workings and that the figures by our actuaries be considered. That’s been successful, but I’d strongly advise that you still sign the petition because it will demonstrate that USS members are not simply shrugging their shoulders, but are engaged in this crucial debate about their future incomes.

Finally, you’ll have recently received a message from Sally Hunt regarding our own consultation on industrial action to defend our pensions. Those of you who know me will understand that I’d absolutely say that we should take such action only as a very last resort. However, after years of our pensions funds being cut and chipped at, I think we’ve got there.

The more alarmist of our colleagues are saying that there may even be a plan to move us from a defined benefit scheme (shared pension fund and shared risk) to the defined contribution schemes now all too common elsewhere. Up to now I’d have been skeptical enough to ridicule this idea. Now I’d have to take an agnostic position because it no longer looks impossible. Certainly running down such a large fund in bonds would be easier than with one invested in equities.

For that reason I’d recommend a “Yes” in the industrial action ballot, to give our negotiators a stronger position; that you sign the petition for the same reason; and that you come along to the meeting on Tuesday.

Michael Holmes
Honorary Treasurer and Pensions Officer