Solidarity Magazine » UCU Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pension champions threatened with High Court as university pension row escalates Thu, 07 Apr 2011 17:27:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 7 April 2011

Union says it’s outrageous that country’s second biggest private pension scheme is turning its fire on five individuals

Five members of UCU have been threatened with High Court action in a row over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension.

The individual UCU members sit on the USS joint negotiating committee as representatives for the 120,000 strong union. They have received a letter from DLA Piper, lawyers acting on behalf of the USS board, which says the board intends to hold them personally liable for costs.

UCU says its representatives took the decision not to attend a meeting where the employers had made it clear that they were not prepared to negotiate. The UCU representatives’ belief was that the independent chair would again vote with the employers and their attendance would ensure the meeting was quorate and in effect rubber-stamp the changes.

The union said it is not prepared to allow proposals for drastic changes to the scheme, that have been rejected by 96% of the scheme’s members in a wide-reaching consultation, to be forced through. UCU said that it would happily attend any meeting to discuss the current impasse and has invited the employers to talks through the arbitration service ACAS to try and break the stalemate.

UCU conducted an online consultation of USS members (not just UCU members in the scheme) at the end of last year. In a ballot of over 31,000 scheme members, 96% said they did not support the employers’ proposals.

Last month UCU members of the pension scheme took two days’ strike action at universities across the UK over plans to bring in changes that raise the retirement age, increase contributions from members and bring an end to the final salary element of the scheme.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘It is absolutely outrageous that the second largest private pension scheme in the country is turning its full force on five individuals who are simply standing up for the pension rights of thousands of people in higher education. The lawyers should immediately withdraw the threat to go after the five individuals financially.

‘From the outset of this dispute we have made it clear that we want to negotiate a decent solution. We should be sat round the table, not watching the undignified spectacle of lawyers trying to intimidate five individuals.

‘We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we are not prepared to just accept these unnecessary and unfair changes. If the employer and union representatives cannot reach an agreement, then we must find a way out of the stalemate, not individual legal threats.’

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63 universities to be hit with strike action this month as UCU announces strike dates Wed, 09 Mar 2011 17:01:38 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 8 March 2011

Well over a million students (1,241,655*) at 63 UK universities will be hit with strike action this month unless a dispute over changes to staff pensions can be resolved.

UCU today announced plans for strike action in Scotland on Thursday 17 March, in Wales on Friday 18 March, in Northern Ireland on Monday 21 March and in England on Tuesday 22 March. There will then be a second day of strike action across the UK on Thursday 24 March.

Last week UCU members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme at 63 universities voted for strike action and action short of a strike. Taken overall, two-thirds (64.55%) of UCU members who voted, voted for strike action and over four-fifths (82.19%) voted for action short of a strike.

Following the result of the ballot, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, wrote to the Employers Pension Forum (EPF) to request urgent talks through the arbitration service, ACAS, to resolve the dispute and avoid the first national strike action in universities for five years. The union has still not had a response from the employers, but said today it remained hopeful of talks and a resolution without the need for action.

Members at institutions that voted for action will be asked to strike against the detrimental proposals from university employers to reduce pension benefits and increase costs even though USS is in robust health. More information on the dispute can be found at: USS changes – key questions

The union said it had to act quickly as the employers plan to bring in the changes to the pension scheme on Friday 1 April.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘University staff really value their pension rights and have made their views of the detrimental changes crystal clear and if a settlement is not reached, they are prepared to strike to defend their pensions.

‘Strike action is always a last resort and I am ready and willing to clear my diary to meet the employers through ACAS immediately. We can avoid widespread disruptions on campus, but both sides must be prepared to go that extra mile and move quickly. The ball is in the employers’ court and we are still waiting for their response.’


* Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2011

The 63 institutions that voted in favour of strike action and will be hit by strike action on the issue of pensions are. Some institutions (listed at the bottom) are still finalising details because of their holiday dates:

The University of Aberdeen
Aberystwyth University
University of Bangor
University of Bath
Queen’s University of Belfast
University of London, Birkbeck College
The University of Birmingham
University of Bradford
University of Bristol
Brunel University
University of Cambridge
Cardiff University
City University
Courtauld Institute of Art
Cranfield University
The University of Dundee
Durham University
University of East Anglia
University of Edinburgh
University of Essex
University of Exeter
The University of Glasgow
University of London, Goldsmiths
Heriot-Watt University
The University of Hull
Imperial College London
University of London, Institute of Education
The University of Kent
King’s College London
University of Wales Lampeter
University of Lancaster
The University of Leeds
University of Leicester
University of Liverpool
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
London School of Economics
Loughborough University
The University of Manchester
Newcastle University
The University of Nottingham
Open University
University of Oxford
University of London, Queen Mary
University of Reading
Royal College of Art
University of London, Royal Holloway
The University of Salford
University of London, School of Pharmacy
University of London, Senate House
The University of Sheffield
University of London, SOAS
University of Southampton
University of St Andrews
The University of Stirling
University of Strathclyde
University of Surrey
University of Sussex
Swansea University
University of Ulster
University College London
University of Warwick
University of York

Universities still finalising details of their action because of holiday dates:
Durham University
Newcastle University
Institute of Education
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
University of Sussex
University of Warwick

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Staff to strike at University of West England Sun, 06 Feb 2011 18:28:19 +0000 Continue reading ]]> University to face local strike action for the first time in its history over restructure plans

Members of UCU at the University of West England (UWE) today announced that they will be taking strike action on Thursday 10 February in a row over controversial restructure plans.

The union has accused UWE of trying to rush through proposals which it believes could lead to inferior jobs descriptions and a dubious selection process. Under the plans all university readers, professors and principal lecturers are being made to reapply for their jobs as the university looks to cut back on senior posts by 25%. The measures will also affect lecturers and hourly-paid staff who will be subject to a review over the next few weeks.

UCU said that although it wasn’t against a restructure in principle, management had refused to allow enough time for the union to see if the process was fair and had prevented a deal from being reached.

The news follows the result of a month long ballot. Two-thirds of staff (66%) who voted supported strike action and over four-fifths (89%) agreed to action short of a strike. The union said that although its members at UWE had given a clear mandate for local strike action for the first time in the institution’s history, it still hoped the dispute could be resolved without any disruption.

UCU regional official, Nova Gresham, said:

Management is looking to rush proposals that will affect the jobs of hundreds of staff here at UWE. Had they been prepared to pause their plans and allow time for both sides to sit down together and make sure the process was fair and transparent a deal may well have been reached by now.

There is still time for a negotiated settlement to be reached, but management should be warned that staff trust is at an all-time low and they are very angry at the way things have been handled. Unless the university gets its act together the branch will take local strike action for the first time in its history.”

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UCU calls on University of Leeds to halt 'devastating' cuts as strike ballot launches Sun, 17 Jan 2010 15:54:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 13 January 2010

The fight to save jobs at the University of Leeds will intensify this week as members of UCU are balloted for industrial action in defence against job cuts.

UCU members will today hold a special meeting at the university that will mark the launch of the ballot.

The union is campaigning against compulsory redundancies and will today call on the vice-chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, to rebuild trust with staff by putting his plans for mass job losses on hold and by working together with the union to oppose funding cuts in higher education.

Universities are facing cuts of more than £900 million over the next three years and in an interview with yesterday’s Guardian newspaper Michael Arthur acknowledged that making savings would have a ‘devastating effect’ on staff and students.

Over 50 staff have already lost their jobs at the university with up to another 700 at risk. UCU said the cuts have already inflicted serious damage on the university and warned that further redundancies would lead to higher student:staff ratios and further increase staff workloads.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Leeds UCU president, Malcolm Povey, said: ‘The vice chancellor has himself acknowledged the “devastating effect” cuts will have on staff and students. The university simply cannot afford to go down this road if it wants to maintain its reputation as one of the UK’s leading institutions. Management can rebuild trust with staff if it joins with UCU in opposing the government’s savage cuts to higher education and puts these plans on hold.’

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Staff have no desire to take action which could impact upon students and their education but the vice-chancellor must recognise his duty to defend the academic work of staff at the university. We will certainly defend every job and oppose the threat of compulsory redundancies. Staff are the most important resource at any university and getting rid of huge numbers is not in the interests of the university, its students or the local community.’

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College lecturers vote to strike on pay Tue, 15 Apr 2008 20:05:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> College lecturers in England have voted to strike on Thursday 24 April in support of a demand to bring their pay up to that of schoolteachers.

Lecturers in over 250 colleges were balloted by UCU. The result shows solid support for industrial action: 65.5% of those voting* supported strike action and 86.2% also supported other forms of industrial action short of a strike.

UCU, with other FE unions, submitted a joint pay claim for a 6% increase or £1500, whichever is the greater, for 2008-9. FE unions will meet employers on 1 May.

Thousands of FE lecturers, including large numbers who are part-time and hourly paid, can’t reach the higher pay levels enjoyed by schoolteachers. And no FE lecturers get the allowances enjoyed by 50% of schoolteachers worth between £2,364 to £11,557 p.a. on top of the pay scales

Growing workload are also a major concern. As well as teaching, lecturers carry out course development, lesson preparation, marking, professional development and administration. A quarter of lecturers already teach more than 850 hours a year, jeopardising quality in UCU’s view. The lecturers want negotiations on common conditions of service across all colleges.

A major independent study, soon to be published by UCU, reveals high levels of staff dissatisfaction and low morale throughout colleges in England, a serious challenge to both employers and the government.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who teach in schools, are also striking on Thursday 24 April over a separate pay claim.

In both schools and colleges, many teaching professionals believe their employers are ignoring their professional status and serving business interests at the expense of community needs. NUT and UCU and the National Union of Students, NUS recently launched a joint campaign ‘Our schools, our colleges, our communities’ to draw attention to threats to the quality of local, public education from college marketisation, ‘city academies’ and cuts in public services.

On Thursday 24 April, the two unions are likely to hold joint events in many locations.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, said: ‘College lecturers feel undervalued, despite their successes, which the government has recognised.

‘The considerable difference in the average pay of lecturers and teachers doing the same work is grossly unfair.

‘It is more than four years since FE employers agreed to move lecturers to the same length pay scales as school teachers but 47% of colleges still haven’t done that. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Pay has been further eroded by below-inflation pay awards.

‘Further education is central to the government’s plans for reskilling the nation but colleges must also serve their communities, not simply be factories for qualifications. Lecturers are delivering. Now college employers must tackle the deep dissatisfaction amongst their staff.’

* About 27,500 UCU members were balloted across 257 colleges. The turnout was 38.6%

This is a UCU press release

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Logical new plan or a 'betrayal? Tue, 29 Jan 2008 17:54:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Tensions are surfacing over proposals to restructure the union that represents FE and university lecturers. Francis Beckett reports

Francis Beckett
Tuesday January 29, 2008


The University and College Union (UCU) is six months old, and the two unions that merged to form it still seem far from becoming one. New proposals for restructuring the union from the general secretary, Sally Hunt, have been met with fierce criticism, and a special meeting of the executive has been called next week to discuss them.

New readers start here: In June 2006, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe), whose members teach mostly in further education (FE) colleges and new universities, merged with the Association of University Teachers (AUT), with members mainly in old universities. The Natfhe leader, Paul Mackney, was to stand against the AUT’s boss, Hunt, to become general secretary of the new union, but a serious heart attack forced him to withdraw. Natfhe’s top universities negotiator, Roger Kline, stood instead. Only about one in seven of the members voted. Hunt won by 8,463 votes to 7,117.

Her restructuring proposals, which have been seen by Education Guardian, would reduce the departments in the UCU from eight to three. The two national negotiators for higher education (HE) and FE, currently the most senior posts in the organisation below general secretary, would become relatively junior jobs within the Campaigning and Bargaining Department. This would be the biggest and most powerful of the three new departments, and would include all regional officials.

The other two departments would be Public Policy – dealing with political work, education policy, and external organisations – and Internal Resources, which means administration and finance.

More logical

Hunt’s objective, she says in a commentary accompanying the proposals, is to “group staff teams in a more logical and coherent manner, aligned to the union’s main objectives”. But a respected figure in the union calls the plan “a fundamental betrayal of the terms of the merger”.

Critics say that it sends out a dangerous message to FE lecturers, who are in a minority in the union and feel that university people do not regard them as equals. They fear that any move that could be interpreted as a snub to FE could push these members towards a rival union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Hunt is also proposing a national advice centre that members in trouble can telephone or email, or access via its website. Her critics call it a call centre. They would rather put the resources into building up representatives in each institution, and then providing professional backup for those representatives.

“If you open a call centre to members, you devalue your branch representatives,” says one official. “If someone’s got a problem and phones for advice, they’re still on their own.” Hunt’s proposal, however, states that the advice centre would “provide direct support or referral”.

Caroline Gray, an executive member for the Midlands, says: “Lots of people are working very hard to get this right. I hope we can redefine the campaigning and organising function, and have a clear voice for FE and HE at the top. The advice-centre concept is very controversial, and I don’t want us to slide into a call-centre approach.”

Hunt’s spokesman told Education Guardian the general secretary did not want to comment. “We never comment on internal documents,” he said.

Gray says “it will be up to the NEC to decide” on any restructuring. A fear that Hunt might try to push her proposals through without full consultation caused a row at the key Strategy and Finance Committee 11 days ago. Some senior staff members say that the proposal has not been discussed by the management team.

Talks with trade unions representing the UCU staff broke down a fortnight ago, because several members were worried they could find themselves on much lower grades, even though their pay would be protected for four years. “We wouldn’t accept people being downgraded in a college we deal with – why should we accept it for our own people?” one staffer says.

Declaration of victory

Instead of three super-departments, critics want to see six. They would add separate departments dealing with national negotiations for FE and for HE, and an equality department. They believe such a structure could overcome perceptions that the Natfhe culture is being swamped by the AUT, and that Natfhe’s people are being marginalised. (One of Natfhe’s staff called the proposals “a declaration of victory over Natfhe by the AUT”.) As the proposals stand, critics see no obvious place at the top for any of Natfhe’s leading people.

The challenge facing Hunt is to satisfy the FE people on the executive that their members will not lose out in any restructuring. Next week’s meeting is likely to be a lively one.

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