Report from our delegate to UCU’s sector conference on pay and pensions on 7 Nov

mosi manchesterI went to the Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) on pay and pensions yesterday, held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Here are some personal reflections. I wrote these notes on the train home, and other reports will undoubtedly be available through the usual channels. Apologies for brevity and typos in places.

There was a very lively debate about whether or not UCU should reballot us on industrial action over this year’s 2% pay offer. And, if so, how, when and what support and further research would be required to facilitate a successful campaign. There was also discussion about what the pros and cons of current UK-wide pay bargaining with one motion suggesting multiyear pay deals should be considered for the future.

On the specific issue of reballoting UCU members on this year’s 2% pay offer (with reference to the individual motions)
Motion 1 resolves (ii) reballot all branches in turnout range 35-50%: not carried
Motion 2 resolves (i) reballot all post 92 branches with over 35% turnout: not carried
Motion 3 “consider reballoting all branches where there is a realistic chance of getting a 50% turnout”: not carried

Motion 5 resolves (b) “as a consequence of the 2018/19 dispute remaining unresolved, the union should complete a statutory ballot by the end of March 2019 at the latest so as to enter 2019/20 negotiations with a legal mandate for industrial action”: carried.

This could give the joint negotiation process a different look for next year as we can ballot for striking earlier but it wasn’t entirely clear to me what we’d be voting for. The HEC will consider this in more detail.

For me, highlights among the other motions that were passed included:
– more research will be done into timing and duration of ballots, including whether e-ballots distract rather than support member mobilisation
– intensify political campaigning against the 50% ballot threshold
– in the next pay ballot, work towards a UK-wide aggregated 50% turnout rather than 50% at individual branch level
– redefine the next pay dispute to place greater emphasis on casualisation, equality and workload
– UCU called on to speak at branch meetings and produce local material to support Getting the Vote Out


The afternoon session on pensions was not quorate due to registered delegates sending apologies or not turning up. Therefore any motions passed have advisory status only.

Confirmation received by UCU Head of HE that UCU’s negotiating position going forward will be one of no detriment. The Head of HE that UCU and UUK will meet today (Thursday) – UCU will get an initial sense of what the outcomes of the UUK consultation were.

UCU National Dispute Committee (NDC) co-chair gave a passionate representation that NDC, set up to give UCU representative steer on the pension dispute, should take a strong negotiating position and be fully integrated into UCU structures. They support the JEP but think it should have gone further.

Emergency motions (not currently online) submitted by the NDC, through the HEC, passed:
– affirmation that there is no justification for benefit reduction or contribution increases
– ballot members for industrial action if UUK attempts the above 
– demand an apology to staff and students by UUK and employers for their role in triggering the dispute
– call on employers to reimburse staff lost earnings 
– call on employers to compensate students for lost teaching during strike 

Motions we considered: click here

Some highlights:

  • Motion 1 was passed, except for further (i), which set an agreement deadline of 4 Jan 2019
  • All motions in section 3 (JEP phase 2),  section 5 were passed.
  • In section 4 (valuation), motions 11, 13, 15 and 16 passed. But motions 12 and 14 fell.
  • Conference voted to demand resignation of UUK Chief Executive but not the USS Executive. And demand a formal apology from UUK President.

Again, note inquoracy issue. Advisory status only.

General observations

  1. It was a really interesting day . Intense, stimulating and recommended. I hope other branch members will put themselves forward to experience similar events in 2019.
  2. At a few points during day, especially motion 5 on pay, votes (expressed by sticking up your voting card), were counted, recounted and recounted again. There were debates about quoracy and the standard items that govern the meeting. To me, this was a waste of time and could be easily solved by introducing electronic voting to congress and conference. UCU spent £250 on my travel and accommodation to attend this conference, most of which probably comes from member subscriptions. Electronic voting would give more time for debate and avoid us wasting time like we did today. I may well submit a motion to this effect to a future branch meeting.