1 March: open letter to the Vice Chancellor, University of London

Today, UCU Senate House branch committee sent the following email to the Vice Chancellor of the University of London

Email copied to: Pro-Vice Chancellor (Operations), Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), Director of Operations (International) and the University Secretary

“Dear Vice Chancellor and esteemed colleagues,

I am writing this open letter on behalf of the UCU branch committee at Senate House, University of London to seek a public expression of the University’s position on the current USS dispute prior to the start of UCU’s talks with Universities UK (UUK) next Monday. We stand together with 64 universities across the UK to demand a fairer deal.

20 Vice Chancellors across affected institutions have declared support for more talks between UUK and UCU about the future of the pension scheme. As of yesterday, this also included Professor Michael Arthur, President and Provost of University College London (UCL), who released a statement that acknowledges the significance of the pensions dispute, expresses empathy with members of staff who chose to take industrial action, and declares a commitment to finding a solution that works for all. Goldsmiths, Birkbeck and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are among the other Member Institutions of the University of London to have called for further negotiations.

At the All Staff Meeting of 17 January 2018, the University Secretary indicated that the University of London had responded to the September 2017 consultation on the USS technical provisions by indicating it would be willing to take more risk. This put the University in a 4% minority of employers who responded to this consultation in this way and suggests that the University of London is broadly satisfied with the risk profile of the USS pension scheme.

We request that the University circulates a message to all staff declaring support for the following points:

  1. That future talks take place in a constructive environment.
  2. That September 2017’s valuation is revisited and that independent and external opinion is sought, including from the academic community. This is to ensure that UCU and UUK can negotiate on the basis of an agreed foundation of evidence, including financial assumptions.
  3. That the planned USS member consultation (due to commence 19 March 2018) is suspended while a valuation on which both parties agree is established.
  4. That the outcome to this dispute retains defined benefit as the predominant model for USS pensions.

As we enter a further nine days of strike action commencing on Monday 5 March 2018, we are conscious of forthcoming activity to support the University of London Worldwide graduation ceremony on Tuesday 6 March, and as you can imagine many of our members would still love to take part if this dispute can be resolved.

I request an urgent response to a matter which deeply concerns UCU members committed to delivering outstanding levels of service to students and other University stakeholders.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Hall
Branch Chair, UCU Senate House