Our branch chair Tim Hall wrote to Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Vice Chancellor of the University of London, on 20 March to establish the University’s position in the ongoing USS pension dispute.
This morning, Tim received the following response.
First let me say that I am pleased our gesture of goodwill on spreading strike deductions has been received in the good faith in which it was offered.
I welcomed the announcement that an expert panel will be convened to consider the valuation of the USS pension scheme. I have read and entirely support the open letter published this week by Professor Ed Byrne the President and Principal of Kings and our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and I shall be writing to UUK to add my voice to his. In particular I agree that all involved should endeavour to ensure that the composition of the Independent Review panel and its terms of reference are acceptable to both parties.
Despite the rejection of the proposal brokered by ACAS , I was encouraged by the evident commitment of both sets of negotiators to seek to retain an element of DB. I acknowledge that the proposal did not go far enough to address the concerns of some of your members. I do very much hope however that further talks will build on this commitment and lead to a mutually agreeable proposal.
As I am sure you will appreciate, I keep myself informed about the details of the dispute and I note the other points you raise.
We welcome the recognition by Sir Adrian that the proposal brokered by ACAS on 12 March was inadequate, and that UCU and UUK should jointly agree the remit and membership of a review panel to re-consider September 2017’s valuation.
While planning for a wave of industrial action for later this spring is underway at this branch, we maintain that strike action is a last resort.
Dear Vice Chancellor and esteemed colleagues,
I am writing this second open letter on behalf of the UCU branch committee at Senate House, University of London following conclusion of 14 days of industrial action.
Firstly, let me thank you for agreeing to spread strike pay deductions over four months. This represents an important show of goodwill to staff here and is much appreciated.
Prior to the Thursday 22 March open meeting for University of London staff, hosted by UCU Senate House, we ask you to address the following points. In briefing on where we are in the current pension dispute, we would like to give colleagues the opportunity to know where you stand on the issue.
1. Expert panel to look at the valuation of USS
There has been significant levels of debate around the valuation of USS. We noted with interest UUK’s announcement on Sunday that an expert panel will be convened to consider the valuation of the pension scheme. We feel strongly that the membership of this panel and the terms of reference of their work needs to be jointly agreed between UCU and UUK. A failure to work collaboratively on establishing this panel would further damage trust in UUK as a negotiating partner.
2. Commitment to defined benefit (DB) as the predominant USS pension model
UCU members overwhelmingly rejected the proposal brokered by ACAS on Monday 12 March. Many of the UCU members that took industrial action did so in order to fight for the continuation of a guaranteed income during retirement, and the offer did not adequately address this concern.
The current pensions dispute undoubtedly remains on.
- The mandate for UCU members to take action short of strike remains and will continue until 19 June. 2018.
- UCU’s Higher Education Committee met on 8 March 2018, and agreed two sets of action:
- A week of strike action after the Easter break in institutions where teaching is still taking place.
- 14 days of strikes targeted at the assessment period.
- External examiners have been asked to show support for this dispute by resigning from external examining posts at affected universities.
I request an urgent response to this matter.
Branch Chair, UCU Senate House
Thursday 22 March, 12pm in the Senate Room, Senate House
The meeting is open to all staff between 12pm and 12.30pm, and UCU members only between 12.30pm and 1.00pm.
At this meeting, the Senate House branch committee will update you on the current state of play in relation to the pensions dispute.
Regardless of what action (if any) you took in the first 14 days of industrial action, we want to know what you currently think about the issues.
We also want to hear what you think about a possible second wave of industrial action in April and May.
Any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
While strike action is always a last resort, we have noticed some silver linings during this dispute. One of these has been strong support from students and unstinting solidarity across the trade union movement, both locally and nationally.
We would like to thank the following groups or individuals. These expressions of thanks appear in alphabetical order.
- Members of UCU Senate House branch
To all of you who participated in meetings leading up to the strike, made a banner or placard, took part in strike action, joined a picket line, helped organise picketing, attended a march, participated in a rally, or simply shared words of solidarity – thank you.
- President of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Louise Regan.
- Senate House and Edexcel branch, UNISON
A donation of £500 was made by UNISON’s local branch and colleagues have joined picket lines since Tuesday of this week.
Most of the students passing through Senate House seem to understand the cause and nature of this dispute. This boosted our morale on some of those icy days in the snow and was a constant reminder as to why we enjoy going to work. This open letter by 24 students at the School of Advanced Study was an important moment of the campaign.
- University of London branch, Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)
Last but not least, members of IWGB have been on strike and picketed Senate House every day during this dispute. They’ve shown warmth and humour, and also offered our branch really helpful practical support.
Strike pay deductions
For those of you who did take strike action, we are pleased to report that UCU Senate House have successfully negotiated with the HR that members of staff who took strike action during this dispute will have pay deductions split over four months.
Yesterday, we joined lecturers and support staff from universities across the UK on March for Education #2.
Here’s a video of us arriving into Parliament Square.
At the strike meeting that followed, UCU members were thanked for their sterling contributions coordinating industrial action at a local level, standing and engaging with people on picket lines, and setting up teach-outs. A panel made up of Catherine West MP, Joanna de Groot (UCU President), Sean Wallis (UCU NEC and HE Convenor) and Rachel Cohen (UCU NEC) encouraged members to share ideas for the next phase of industrial action.
Some members also expressed frustration with the proposed agreement brokered by ACAS and at the short amount of time members were given to input their views on it. In case you were wondering, the Senate House branch committee heard about the agreement at the same time and through the same channels as everyone else.
Next phase of industrial action
Planning is underway at national, regional and branch level for a second wave of industrial action over the pension cuts. This is likely to last 14 days in April and May.
It’s really important that we hear from Senate House branch members, regardless of what type of action (if any) you have taken to date. Please do this by emailing us (email@example.com) and/or by attending a UCU members meeting, which we are hoping will take place at lunchtime on Tuesday 20 March (confirmation of date to follow, when we are back at work)