Mental health and wellbeing support services for UCU members

Education Support Partnership

At a recent training course, we learnt about Educational Support Partnership (ESP). They provide a free helpline which is available to UCU members.

In their words,

“We have been in education for over 140 years and our specialist team of counsellors and information experts are fully trained to deal with a wide range of personal and professional issues affecting your staff. It provides:

  • confidential emotional support and counselling available 24 hours a day, 365 days a week
  • up to six sessions of face-to-face or telephone counselling
  • access to online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • management consultation to support those responsible for managing others
  • specialist information on work-life balance
  • financial and legal information
  • information on local services such as elder care and childcare”

For more information about Education Support Partnership, visit their website: https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/

FREE HELPLINE: 08000 562 561

Update on pensions

Dear Members,

I understand that this is a bit of a long one but I wanted for you all to be as informed as possible so please do take the time to read it.

By now most of you will have received an email from HR sent on behalf of USS. The email explained what their plan for cost sharing will look like: 

Under the 2017 valuation that USS approved in November 2017, contributions will eventually rise by 10.6% from 26% of salary (18% employer, 8% member) to 36.6% (24.9% employer, 11.7% member) in order to retain the status quo.

Why is the cost-sharing rule being implemented in USS?
Members will already know that under its current valuation, USS is in deficit. USS has been claiming for months that it is legally obliged to have a plan in place for dealing with that deficit. But the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) will not make any decisions about the current valuation until September 2018, and the previous plan to recover the deficit by removing the Defined Benefit element of the scheme was left in tatters after strike action by our members: you!

As a result, USS has chosen to trigger a process known as ‘cost-sharing’, although it is better described by the phrase ‘shared contribution increases’. Under Rules 76.4–8 of the scheme, the trustee can require employers and members to increase their contributions to the rate which they deem sufficient. This decision has been made without the pension regulator’s enforcement – they are still happy for UUK, USS, and UCU to resolve this without their intervention.

We must stay vigilant because there are few signs that UUK has abandoned its long-standing goal of transferring as much of the cost and the risk of pension provision onto employees as possible. Prior to the USS dispute, UUK used a manufactured deficit in USS to represent Defined Benefit pensions as unaffordable. The JEP arose out of USS members’ growing appreciation that the deficit was, in fact, illusory, and the reforms which it had been used to justify were not needed. More information on the JEP can be found on the UCU website at this address: https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss

Pension Contribution Calculator
Here’s a tool that lets you get an idea of how much more you can expect to pay in contributions under this new plan: https://beta.observablehq.com/@scjoss/uss-cost-sharing.

It’s important to note that UniversitiesUK had the option of taking up the extra member increases themselves should they have wished to do so, but turned it down. That would have been possible by a resolution of the JNC. UCU negotiator Sam Marsh pushed for UniversitiesUK to cover the full burden of interim cost sharing, given strike was entirely UUK’s fault and we’ve already lost a lot of money via strike deductions. This seemed a fair compromise. Again, UUK said no – hence it falls to us all.

Now it looks like USS are prepared to listen to a rethink from UUK on their ‘risk-appetite’ (which if you remember, most said they were willing to stay will current level, with some saying they’d be happy with increase – UUK decided to go with the minority of employers and push through a low-risk appetite strategy). This is an area the JEP are likely to comment on. The hope will be that a change to the Test 1 parameter will lead to a resolution to this dispute but it’s important to keep informed.

Pay Dispute
If you haven’t been following UCU’s national email communications: following the e-ballot on pay and equality members completed in late spring 2018, UCU members will now be asked to vote formally in a statutory ballot opening towards the end of August and closing in mid-October. The current employer offer is 2%. When taking inflation into account as well, it’s clear that our take-home pay will go down by more than 2% in the next year.

 Bill Galvin, Chief Executive of USS, has seen a 31% pay rise over last 2 years. On top of drastic increases to the cost of living and a decade of pay-rises below inflation, we’re getting hit again with increased pension contributions. All this adding up to a hefty pay-cut. The latest imposed pension arrangements amount to a 3.7% pay cut, plus 6.9% loss of potential pay. All of this so university leaders can remove USS (i.e. our future pay) from their financial liabilities. Please bear this in mind when the UCU ballots on their 2% pay offer.

Excellent information can be found on https://ussbriefs.com – A website built and populated with content by UCU members volunteering their time and expertise to keep the rest of us informed.

If you have any questions please email ucu@london.ac.uk.

All my best,

Tim Hall
UCU Senate House Branch Chair

Monday lunchtimes

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Each Monday lunchtime we run a drop-in clinic for UCU members and prospective members wanting to discuss workplace issues or find out what the branch is up to.

Where: SB25 (aka the dungeon), lower ground floor of Senate House, nearby the main lifts

When: Mondays, 12.30 – 1.30pm

Interested in UCU democracy? Opportunities for you to get involved

democracy

The pensions strike in spring 2018 generated urgent questions about how members can influence union strategy during disputes and, more broadly, what democratic structures UCU should have.

If you would like to represent your branch in these debates, take a look at the following opportunity.

UCU Democracy Commission 

Following motions passed at Congress 2018 (motions B19 and L9), the national executive committee (NEC) has agreed arrangements for the election of the membership of the commission.

The details and timetable for the election are available by clicking here.

The deadline for receipt of nominations is 10 August at 5pm.