Thanks to the Student Occupation

28701133_127755248058387_6722297334269126907_oThe student occupation of the Gordon Aikman lecture theatre in George Square ended last Tuesday on the 6 week anniversary of it beginning.  It has been a real inspiration and, at our branch committee meeting yesterday evening, we agreed that it was fitting to mark the occasion and to thank all those involved for what has been achieved and for the foundations that have been created on which we all can build.

First of all, this was an expression of practical solidarity with our dispute, giving both visible and physical support for staff on strike.  Secondly, it correctly situated the dispute within the context of a wider malaise within HE, raising questions around the marketisation of the sector, the commodification of education and essentially challenging the prevailing orthodoxy about what a university should be.

Linking staff and student issues together was a backdrop to a forum where, through teach-outs, workshops and other events, a whole range of topics were discussed both conceptually and from a practical perspective.  This is both the legacy of the occupation and the mission for what comes next.

The occupation itself maybe over but the conversation continues.  The struggle for a democratic university continues.  Staff and students, shoulder to shoulder, continues.  Foundations have been laid and we will build on them together.  We are the University.


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

Yes vs No


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?


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.
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


Motion Passed: Vote No, Call HE Sector Conference

voteAt EGMs held both in the central campus and at Kings Buildings yesterday (5th April), both resolutions in the motion below were passed.  There was a healthy debate at both which could have gone on well beyond the time available.

  • Firstly, the branch now commits itself to campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the current ballot but fully recognises and remains sensitive to other opinions expressed.
  • Secondly, we call for the convening, at the earliest possible opportunity, of an HE Sector Conference within UCU, to debate strategy around the USS dispute.



Proposer: Grant Buttars

Seconder: Shereen Benjamin

This branch notes:

  1. the decision by the majority of UCU’s Higher Education Committee to ballot UCU members on the proposal from UUK;
  2. that a majority of UCU branches meeting on 25 and 26 March wanted to ‘Revise and Resubmit’ this proposal and many took a clear position of ‘No Detriment;
  3. employers such as Liverpool University and the Open University are already announcing redundancies

We believe that:

  1. accepting the proposal as it stands will demobilise our highly-successful campaign of strike action at a point when we are making serious gains;
  2. seeking further clarification and assurances on the ambiguities presented by the proposal does not necessarily imply taking a ‘No Detriment’ position;
  3. we need to maintain maximum momentum to defend Defined Benefit pensions, pay and jobs.

We therefore resolve:

  1. that the branch will campaign to urge a ‘No’ vote in the ballot;
  2. to call for an emergency Higher Education Sector Conference to debate strategy around the USS dispute.

For reference

Extract from UCU rule book

16.11 Special meetings of National Congress or the Sector Conferences shall be convened, by giving at least three working weeks’ notice, when it is so resolved by the National Executive Committee or in the case of the Sector Conferences, the relevant Sector Committee, or following receipt of a requisition from quorate general meetings in 20 branches/Local Associations from separate institutions across the Union, or for Sector Conferences, in the Sector, or bearing the identifiable signatures of not less than one tenth of the members of the Union. Such resolution or requisition shall specify the intended business, and only that business may be transacted at the special meeting.

16.12 Requisitioned special meetings shall take place within five working weeks of receipt of the requisition by the General Secretary. Where branches/local associations have passed motions requisitioning a meeting, but the total is not yet deemed sufficient to trigger the requisition, up-to-date information regarding progress of the requisition, including the particulars of its business and the number and names of branches/Local Associations deemed to have passed the appropriate requisition motion, will be available to all members on request.