The Final Word is No

First of all ………….

Remember to Vote

The ballot closes Friday 13th April at 2 p.m

 

The final message we offer before the close of the ballot comes from one of our negotiators and two local members.

Video: #RejectUUKDeal

This video has been produced by Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee, making the case for why you should vote ‘No’.

USS Brief Preview

Just received, an upcoming USS Brief, written by our very own Charlotte Kemp and Joan Cutting.  Linguistic and tactical analysis of the UUK ‘proposal’ of 23 March 2018: Vague language (PDF) unpicks the language used by UUK in their ‘offer’.  As the authors say:

The UUK ‘proposal’ is a carefully constructed rhetorical text whose purpose is to sound as if there is an offer, when on analysis, there is no offer. Others have explored the non-offer. Here, we analyse how the language of the text is carefully constructed to say… very little.

Useful Links

  • USS Briefs – a set of papers by academics on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, written in response to the UUK proposal of 23rd March 2018
  • USS Materials – a comprehensive list of links to articles about the dispute, arranged chronologically and categorised by type.
  • Follow the latest discussion on Twitter via hashtags #USSStrike and #RejectUUKDeal
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Yes vs No

YesNo-500x241

As you know, the USS trustees met yesterday. We haven’t heard anything yet about any relevant outcomes or decisions from that meeting, but we’ll update you if and when we hear, especially if it’s in time to potentially inform your voting intentions. 

With just one more day to go until the ballot closes, we thought a ‘virtual head-to-head’ based again on the excellent USS Briefs, might be helpful for those of you who have still to decide.

no1The USS dispute and the dynamics of industrial action

Jo Grady, a pensions expert from the University of Sheffield, argues that:

Voting to accept comes with very few guarantees, but more worryingly, essentially hands UUK everything they want. We have leverage now, we have momentum now, and that should not be forfeited for this deal. Don’t accept a deal just because it’s what’s been put on the table and it looks ok-ish. You didn’t strike for this. Demand better. Demand fairness… Rejecting now, with a threat of more industrial action in order to get a commitment to DB, is the only real option if we want to keep our DB pension. The objective of the next phase of action would be to get the commitment from UUK. This might take the form of written commitments in less woolly language than that currently used, accompanied by an agreement to work with UCU in USS discussions.

yes1Why I have voted Yes to accept the UUK proposal

HEC member Amanda Williams from the University of East Anglia argues that:

I’ve voted yes to accepting the UUK proposal because I think that is the route that is most likely to protect our pension. That doesn’t mean that I trust UUK. It means that I believe that the valuation panel provides the best mechanism for resolving both the current dispute and avoiding future attacks on our pension. If UUK lets us down I trust my friends and colleagues in UCU to be ready to take effective industrial action in future.

 

If you’re looking for more technical information before deciding which way to vote, you may be interested in: Protecting Defined Benefit; managers, trustees, regulators, and the possibility of a pension scheme that works for usby John Murray, formerly of Zurich Insurance.

Remember to Vote

The ballot closes Friday 13th April at 2 p.m.

Useful Links

  • Ballot email not received or lost – request a replacement (closes at 2.00 p.m. today, Thurs 12th)
  • USS Briefs – a set of papers by academics on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, written in response to the UUK proposal of 23rd March 2018
  • USS Materials – a comprehensive list of links to articles about the dispute, arranged chronologically and categorised by type.
  • Follow the latest discussion on Twitter via hashtags #USSStrike and #RejectUUKDeal

UCU Members on Visas

Communication from UCU HQ

Dear all

As you know, the union took legal advice prior to the USS strike based on the fourteen days period of action. Our advice to members is at question 32, in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) here.

We also wrote to the home secretary on 15 March to express our disquiet at the effect that the management of unauthorised absence had on the fundamental right to strike.

Our parliamentary team have been strongly pressing the minister for a response but despite assurances none has yet been forthcoming.

Once we have that response we will be able to consider whether a legal challenge to this would be effective.

In order to protect members in the meantime we are asking branches to adopt the following position until further notice in any further strike action:

‘The support for strike action from staff on visas has been substantial despite the threatening and intimidatory atmosphere created by the government’s immigration and visa policy. We recognise that further strike action beyond the first fourteen days of action may heighten the risk of staff being reported for periods of unauthorised absence. Staff in this position should therefore be granted a local exemption to future USS strike action and – where it attracts a punitive penalty – the action short of a strike (ASOS). Our expectation is that staff exempted in this way will make an appropriate donation to the strike fund in lieu of any future action. We welcome national UCU’s campaign to exempt the taking of industrial action from the definition of unauthorised absences in order to protect the fundamental right to withdraw one’s labour.’

Please note that our understanding is that there is currently a statutory obligation on employers to report strike action as an unauthorised absence. Our advice is that employers – even those who are sympathetic on the issue – have little room for manoeuvre, hence the importance of the political campaign. If reassurances are received from the home office we will amend our advice accordingly.

Please email me with any queries. Also please note that we will be closing the online form for replacement e-ballot requests at 2pm today in order to give the team sufficient time to check and process requests.

Best wishes

Matt Waddup
UCU national head of policy and campaigns

Vote No in Brief(s)

ussbriefsIn today’s piece on why we recommend a ‘No’ vote in the ballot, we highlight three essential pieces of reading from the USS Briefs site.

The UUK offer: context and analysis

uukoIn this article, Deepa Govindarajan Driver, University of Reading and Kurt Mills, University of Dundee deconstruct the offer, summarise the case against it under four main headings. This article is also well-linked to a number of other USS Briefs for those who want to explore the arguments in more details.

Debunking Sally Hunt’s email

dsheThis article sees Jo Grady, University of Sheffield, Claire Marris, City, University of London, and Jess Meacham, University of Sheffield examine the context of the text of the email that accompanied the ballot link. They present the case for it containing both misrepresentations and factual inaccuracies.

Why which way to vote on the latest UUK proposal should be an easy decision

wwtvSam Marsh, University of Sheffield, argues that the current wording offers no guarantees, and explains the thought processes that has led him to come to an easy decision.

 

Useful Links

  • Ballot email not received or lost – request a replacement
  • USS Briefs – a set of papers by academics on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, written in response to the UUK proposal of 23rd March 2018
  • USS Materials – a comprehensive list of links to articles about the dispute, arranged chronologically and categorised by type.
  • Follow the latest discussion on Twitter via hashtags #USSStrike and #RejectUUKDeal

Why Vote No?

ruukd

Five Points in Support of a ‘No’ Vote

  1.  The UUK proposal is a big step forward from the 23rd January decision. Our industrial action stopped the employers imposing a Defined Contributions scheme and they have begun talking about a potential solution. But this deeply ambiguous proposal commits them to nothing – it is effectively an agenda for a series of meetings, not an offer.
  2.  UUK pledge “a pension broadly comparable with current arrangements”. The letter of clarification from UUK’s chief executive says it “does not intend to return to the January JNC proposal to consult on moving to a DC scheme”. But these vague statements, which UCU negotiators had no opportunity to question, carry no guarantees. Indeed, they are the same phrases that we’ve heard before, in relation to the January proposal and the March proposal.
  3. UUK are on the defensive and can be forced to concede more. To accept the current proposal as it stands would concede our advantage, allowing them to regroup and return to attack us again at a later date.
  4.  We have seen two substantial degradations of our pension scheme in the last decade. There are many in the union who want to demand a commitment of no further detrimental change (a ’no detriment clause’) for the current valuation round (i.e. until 2022). This would enable a period of stability that would benefit employers, staff and students. Other commitments short of such a clause are also potentially achievable. So if you favour a ‘revise and resubmit’ position, you should also vote no.
  5.  We need clear timescales for the expert panel. The panel should report by a specified date, early enough to influence the outcome of the current valuation. It should then discuss the underlying methodology and form recommendations on how it sees the future of valuing USS, in time to influence the 2020 valuation at the latest.

‘Revise and Resubmit’ and ‘No Detriment’

With so much information flying about, we’ve been asked to further clarify the difference between the ‘no detriment’ position and the ‘revise and resubmit’ position.
  • Both positions hold that the UUK proposal is a good start, but not enough.
  • Both positions hold that the UCU negotiators should be involved in producing a revised, clarified offer.
  • Those who support the ‘no detriment’ position want to see the inclusion of a clause that says there would be no detrimental changes to our pensions (either increases to member contributions or reductions to benefits) before 2022 when the next valuation would take effect.  It’s important to realise that it is not a ‘no detriment forever’ position.
  • Some of those who favour a ‘revise and resubmit’ position want clarification of terms such as “broadly comparable” and “meaningful element of DB” effective until 2022, and would not rule out small but limited increases in member contributions or reductions in benefits.
  • Both positions require a no vote.

Further information on the “no detriment” position

Flowchart of Potential Outcomes

This is a graphic map posted by Adam Errington on Twtter, illustrating some of the possible outcomes of both a yes and no vote.
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Click on image for larger one

View original Twitter post

Useful Links

  • Ballot email not received or lost – request a replacement
  • USS Briefs – a set of papers by academics on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, written in response to the UUK proposal of 23rd March 2018
  • Follow the latest discussion on Twitter via hashtags #USSStrike and #RejectUUKDeal

 

Emergency General Meeting, 21 March

You will have received an email (in your work account) about tomorrow’s Emergency General Meeting.  Further details below.

Thank you all again for you wonderful support of the USS action: we hope to see as many of you as possible tomorrow to discuss the below:

  1. Update (and action-short-of-a-strike)
  2. UCU Scotland Congress – Motion (text below)
  3. UCU UK Congress – Manchester, 30th May-1st June
  4. Elections for Officers/Committee
  5. AOB
Motion
Proposer: Shereen Benjamin
Seconder: Sophia Woodman
 
This branch notes:
 
1) That the evidence base for the proposed cuts to USS has been widely discredited and has been rejected by a majority of University leaders;
2) The strength of the opposition to the proposed settlement (12/3/2018) across the UK.
 
This branch believes that it is illogical as well as detrimental to members to pursue changes to USS in the absence of a credible evidence base. 
 
This branch calls on UCU Scotland to:
 
1) Support branches in mobilising for escalation of the dispute, including further strike action and an assessment boycott; 
2) Work with national leadership to demand retention of the USS status quo pending a further valuation in which members can have confidence; 
3) Work with MSPs to use their influence with university leaders to bring UUK back to the negotiating table; and,
4) Seek out and pursue fund-raising opportunities to support the Fighting Fund/local hardship funds. 

Petitions, Open Letters, Useful Stuff

A preliminary list of things to be looking at elsewhere. Please contact the website email address with suggestions to add below.

Petitions etc.

Stop punishing striking staff twice over

Vice Chancellors: stop threatening staff with punitive pay deductions if they refuse to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action. These threats make a mockery of the right to strike without penalty other than loss of pay for strike days. They are damaging your university’s international reputation and relationships with staff.

No Deficit = No Change

Petition launched by UCL UCU – No to CPI erosion. Defend the ‘status quo’ in USS.

UK Government: Accept a role as guarantor to the USS pension scheme

The USS pension deficit is due to a “self sufficiency in gilts” valuation method that models what would happen if the pre-92 universities went bankrupt. If Government believes this is possible, this would be a national tragedy! They should therefore indemnify USS, until the next valuation at least.

Make Universities UK subject to the Freedom of Information Act

We ask that the appropriate Government Minister make an order under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 Section 5(1) designating Universities UK as a public authority, so making Universities UK subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The USS trustee board – USS must show its workings

USS should make its draft valuation report and all associated papers on methodology and inputs public as a matter of urgency.

Fighting for Pensions Justice in UK Higher Education

Crowdfunder for specialist legal advice about potential mismanagement by the Board of Trustees of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Open Letters

Open Letter to IS colleagues

Pension Information

Pension Modeller

This is a simple web app that estimates the impact of the USS’s proposed changes to the pension scheme. It forecasts the benefits that you will accrue under three different schemes:

  • What you would get if the scheme remained unchanged (Defined benefits, DB)
  • What USS is proposing (Defined contribution, DC)
  • What the Teachers Pension Scheme provides (TPS) for comparison