Joint Statement from Loughborough UCU & Loughborough University – 9 May 2022

Joint Statement from Loughborough UCU & Loughborough University – 9 May 2022

Loughborough UCU and Loughborough University have continued to work together during the industrial action, to make positive progress on issues locally wherever possible. Today we have agreed the following statement on USS Pensions:

There should be an evidence-based, moderately prudent valuation as soon as possible. Any positive changes resulting from the next valuation of the scheme’s assets and liabilities should be used to improve member benefits and not to reduce employer or employee contribution rates from current levels.

Employers should continue to provide enhanced covenant support through the future valuation process and recognise that this should apply to any benefit proposals agreed through the JNC by either UUK or UCU.

The retention of a defined benefit element of the pension scheme that is affordable for employers and members, sustainable and at a contribution rate that will not discourage employees from participating in the USS pension scheme, is a necessary requirement to settle this series of disputes.

There is an urgent need for the national parties involved in the USS pension negotiations to work toward building and restoring trust. This should be a significant priority.

LUCU Committee

LUCU News – May 2022

LUCU News – May 2022

EGM Report

Members’ views were canvassed regarding a further 10 days of strike action and a marking boycott as voted for at the recent HE sector conferences on USS & 4 Fights. An emergency motion was tabled that instructs branch officers to communicate to UCU HEC the following:

  • LUCU does not agree with the timing of a marking boycott in May/June;  
  • LUCU will hold our strike days in reserve at this time;
  • LUCU believes that national actions require a majority to be participating, and we are in favour of aggregated ballots.

The motion was passed with a majority of 84%. We have shared the motion with Paul Bridge, Head of UCU HE. The EGM revealed strong support for the strategy proposed by Jo Grady to delay action in order to build broader support throughout the sector (you can find her position paper here), but which was not supported at the sector conferences. At the meeting on May 10th for branches that have a mandate for action, our delegates will report members’ views as expressed in the motion and recommend that HEC give further consideration to Grady’s recommendations.

Throughout the dispute, the LUCU committee has kept the channels of communication open with management.  We reported to members on a joint LUCU-Lboro statement that syncs with the recent statement between Glasgow UCU & management (click here for the Lboro  statement). It is hoped that the statement will encourage other institutions to come forward and publicly support a fair resolution to the USS dispute. LUCU will now work to secure a joint statement on 4 Fights. 

General Assembly

The Chief Operating Officer, Richard Taylor, has responded to the 2 motions that were tabled for the General Assembly meeting that was postponed.

  1. Concerning the request that GA does not take place during strike action: the date of GA was fixed before Lboro UCU fixed their strike dates. We do not routinely re-organise University events affected by strike dates.
  2. On the second motion (the deficit), it is not clear if this is a motion to ask Council not to pay the deficit reduction now; if this is the case, we believe it would be beyond Council’s legal power to act in this way. If the intent is to push for a dispensing of the need for the deficit reduction payments in the future, this would be within Council’s powers, and therefore it could consider this. I believe it would be best to raise this following the next valuation.

I would like to note this point of governance: Council cannot be compelled to act by GA. The GA called and postponed, can still be reinstated at UCU’s request, but I would hope we could determine a better route. Management has no objection to the view of Loughborough UCU being shared with Council. If there are views/statements that Loughborough UCU wish us to bring to the attention of Council (which it could then choose or not choose to consider), we would be happy to do this. 

Given this statement, should another GA be called on a strike day, LUCU will act to gather the 25 signatures needed to call another meeting, and the branch committee welcomes the opportunity to present members’ views to Council.

Pay Gaps

The Government Pay Gap Review 2017-2022 reveals little progress over the last 5 years on gender; for example, Lboro is in the worst position for 3 metrics compared to other East Midlands universities. Click here for Lboro data on gender pay gaps; click here for government data.

We will be raising the issue of pay gaps for all staff with protected characteristics at the JNCC on September 14th. Management agrees that more progress is needed, and they have agreed to invite Charlotte Croffie (PVC for EDI) to present her initial thoughts on closing pay gaps.  LUCU will work to ensure that solving the pay gap problem at Lboro is high on her agenda.

Lboro University Council Elections

LUCU endorses the candidacy of Priti Meredith, who is standing for the role of non-academic member of University Council.

I have worked for five different Universities in the Midlands and in London since 2005. I joined the University in 2015 and currently work for the School of Science as a Development Manager in the Centre for Mathematical Cognition. I will take on a role in operations management this summer for a new, large-scale research centre in early mathematics learning.

Having worked for different Universities has enabled me to experience a range of organisational strategies, policies, and procedures. In addition, I am female and of Asian British Indian origin and a working mother. As a result, I feel that I would be able to make a unique and pragmatic contribution to Council. Furthermore, I am presently on maternity leave following the birth of my second daughter and becoming a member of Council would further contribute to my career development.

My experience overlaps with the remit of Council including advising in the development of strategy and vision and contributing to decision-making. In addition, I have worked collaboratively with colleagues to create risk strategies and helped identify and monitor Key Performance Indicators.

I have strong communication and presentation skills and regularly present to audiences, shaping my delivery to suit. Much of my career has involved encouraging academic colleagues to apply for external funding and I have a track record of achieving this successfully through my experience and ability to be honest and empathetic, which I feel are also important attributes for Council. I understand that good governance is critical to ensuring the organisation’s success and endeavours to make the most of available opportunities to move the organisation forward. I feel greatly enthused at the prospect of playing an active role in contributing to Council’s work and adding representation in terms of a professional staff member and one who is able to represent academic colleague’s views and experiences, thus bringing an exclusive and valuable insight –Priti Meredith

LUCU Committee

Extraordinary General Meeting – USS/FourFights

Extraordinary General Meeting – USS/FourFights

LUCU members are invited to attend an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the USS & Four Fights disputes on Friday 6th May at 1pm. The meeting will be held on Microsoft Teams. 

The Four Fights sector conference has voted to: 

•            call a marking and assessment boycott 

•            call 10 days of strike action 

•            keep the Four Fights and USS disputes, and action called in them, coupled

We have been asked by the UCU Higher Education committee to consult our members ahead of a branch delegates meeting on the 10th May and the HEC meeting later that week. A key question for consideration is:  

When does your branch believe would be the most effective start date for 10 days of strike action in your institution? 

A. Monday 6 June (this is the earliest possible date) 

B. Monday 13 June  

C. Other (please give more information – operational issues may make it impossible to accede to specific requests)  

The EGM offers members the opportunity to discuss how our branch can best manage the results of the HEC decisions and best manage the dispute at a local level.

The results of the Four Fights sector conference are available, and we should receive the results of the USS sector conference before our EGM so both can be discussed at the meeting. 

An agenda and minutes of our previous GM, a calendar invite and link to join have been emailed to all members.

LUCU Committee

General Assembly: Notice of Postponement

General Assembly: Notice of Postponement

We have received many messages from members about the timing of the meeting on Friday and about the lack of an option to attend online. We raised your concerns with management. Due to staff availability, we were informed that it was not possible to set up a hybrid meeting this week; hence, we have requested a postponement. We are in discussions with management about rescheduling the meeting at a more convenient time and in a hybrid format so that as many members as possible can attend.

However, developments in the USS dispute continue at a fast pace. LUCU will be using the time originally scheduled for the GA on Friday to meet with the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer to discuss building consensus following the next valuation, which is likely to be more favourable than the valuation conducted at the height of the pandemic. LUCU will be pushing for the restoration of benefits. We will also ask management to respond to the issues raised in the two motions tabled for the GA. Depending on what arises from the discussion, and the response to the motions, there may not be a need to reschedule the GA.

We will feedback to members about the outcome of the meeting as soon as possible

LUCU Committee

Extraordinary General Assembly

Extraordinary General Assembly

The General Assembly is the University’s representative forum whose purpose is to allow all staff to “discuss and declare an opinion on any matter relating to the University” and “if it so decides, submit resolutions to the Council or Senate” (Statute 15). 

In light of recent USS developments, Loughborough UCU has called an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly to discuss two matters: 

  • Whether, given the role that the General Assembly has in the University’s democratic structures, it is appropriate to hold General Assemblies when UCU members are unable to attend due to participating in official strike action.  
  • Whether the Council has adequately fulfilled its obligations in light of recent changes to the USS pension scheme. 

The full text of the two motions we have asked to be discussed is given below. 

University management has scheduled the Extraordinary General Assembly for 4pm on Friday 29th April.  

If you would like your views on USS to be heard, please attend the meeting. We will send a calendar invite in addition to this message.  

We are yet to receive details of the location of the meeting or the Teams link enabling online attendance, but will circulate them when they are known. 

Motion 1: Organisation of General Assemblies

This Assembly notes:

– That the purpose of the General Assembly is to be a body that “consists of all staff” (Statute 15);

– UCU’s current industrial action over pay, casualisation, workload, equality pay gaps and proposed reductions to benefits in the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

This Assembly believes:

– That the General Assembly cannot fulfil its purpose if its meetings are scheduled during periods of lawful industrial action by recognised trade unions.

This Assembly resolves:

– To re-schedule future meetings that would otherwise occur during periods of industrial action.

Motion 2: Universities Superannuation Scheme

This Assembly notes:

– The changes to the benefits in the USS pension fund from 1st April 2022 which have reduced future benefit accrual by between 15% and 35%;

– That Loughborough University will be spending approximately £5.8m per year on USS “deficit recovery contributions” from 1st April 2022;

– That USS believes that the purported deficit of £14.1bn as of 31st March 2020 has reduced to £2.0bn as of 28th February 2022, a level which would require no deficit recovery contributions;

– That USS’s calculation of this £2.0bn deficit assumes that its assets will grow by only 0% in real terms, an assumption that the University’s management has previously described as “excessively prudent”;

– That USS’s assets have grown by 33% since March 2020.

– That Council has responsibility for the management and administration of the revenue and property of the University.

This Assembly believes:

– That it is not appropriate for the University to spend £5.8m per year on servicing a deficit that, on any reasonable set of financial assumptions, is non-existent;

– That by allowing the University to spend this money in this manner the Council has not adequately fulfilled its duty to properly manage and administer the revenue and property of the University.

This Assembly resolves:

– To instruct Council to properly discharge its duty to manage and administer the revenue and property of the University.

Training Opportunities: UCU Taster Course & Challenging Casualisation Course

Training Opportunities: UCU Taster Course & Challenging Casualisation Course

Ever had questions about what the union does or wondered what it would be like to be more active in the union? If you have, please consider signing up for the UCU taster course detailed below. 

Have you ever wished you could do more to challenge the increasing casualisation in your sector? If so, please consider signing up for the challenging casualisation course detailed below. 

Both courses are run over two half-days and held online. Completing either course will give you some of the tools needed to be more active in your branch. This could lead to a role on the committee or as a rep or just doing occasional work with union colleagues. There is no obligation to become more involved in the branch on completion of either course, though it would great if you did.

UCU: Your union, your voice: a taster course: 27 April & 4 May 2022, online (two half-days) 

This short course taught over two half days is for both members and activists who want to learn more about, and perhaps get more involved in UCU.   

For more information and to apply, please use this link: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11950/UCU-Your-union-your-voice-a-taster-course-for-activists-27-April–4-May-2022-online-national-course-two-half-days 

Challenging casualisation: stamp out casual contract:, 10 & 17 May 2022, online (two half-days) 

This course is for anyone who wants to look at challenging the increasing precarity of contracts across our sector. It is open to all members who are in the local branch. 

For more information and to apply, please use this link: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11946/Challenging-casualisation-stamp-out-casual-contracts-10–17-May-2022-online-national-course-two-half-days 

LUCU Committee 

LUCU News: Pensions Update

LUCU News: Pensions Update

Today is April Fools’ Day. It’s also the day when Universities UK’s cuts to USS come into effect. What’s happening to our pension scheme is as ludicrous as the great April Fools’ pranks of the past (spaghetti trees, the island of San Serif), but, unfortunately, not as funny.

As a result of these cuts, the pension you will earn today is between 15% and 35% lower than the pension you earned yesterday. Coupled with the 21/22 pay award of just 1.5% and an inflation rate currently running at 6.2%, the assault on our pensions means that this year will see the biggest cut in our real-terms renumeration since at least the 1970s – potentially the biggest cut ever.

The changes taking effect in USS from today have other implications, too. From now on, the University will be spending around £5.8m per year on servicing the ‘deficit’ that USS calculated existed on 31 March 2020, at the height of the pandemic. In the Trustees’ interim monitoring report of 28 February 2022, USS accepted that this ‘deficit’ had shrunk from £14.1bn to £2.0bn. Remarkably, to create even this trivially small £2.0bn ‘deficit’, USS had to lower its growth assumptions below even the ‘excessively prudent’ assumptions used in the 2020 valuation: USS is now assuming 0% growth in real terms (since 2020 it has achieved 33% growth).

You may need to take a moment for this outrage to sink in. This £5.8m per year is real money, taken from the University’s bank account. So, the next time you are told there is no money to fund your PhD student to attend a conference, no money to replace your faulty computer, or no money to buy a new heater for your cold office, please remember that there is enough money in the University to spend £5.8m servicing a deficit that doesn’t exist.

What now?

There are two immediate ways in which the dispute could be resolved.

First, USS is being taken to court by a group of UCU activists. The hearing is scheduled for 5 April, and you can find out details of the case at the CrowdJustice page.

Second, Universities UK could insist that USS issues a new deficit recovery plan in light of post-valuation experience. Because the current ‘deficit’ is so low, this would be likely to reduce deficit recovery payments to zero, thereby providing scope for devising a new schedule of contributions and higher benefits. Critically, to improve benefits does not require the same lengthy consultation and legal process as is needed when benefits are cut.

To date, Universities UK has refused to call for a new valuation, or for post-valuation experience to be taken into account in drawing up the deficit recovery plan; instead, it has preferred simply to cut staff benefits. Without concerted pressure from UCU members, in the form of a high turnout and a strong ‘yes’ vote in the current ballot for continuing industrial action, UUK will continue to erode our living standards.

Sign the petition

Please urgently join UCU’s call for Universities UK (UUK) to revoke the cuts by signing the petition here: https://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/uss-cuts-are-not-necessary/

Please vote

The ballot closes a week today: 8 April. We urge you to return your ballot papers, if you have not already done so. The last safe day to post is Wednesday 6 April. Thank you.

LUCU Committee

Check with HMRC if your UCU membership is listed in your tax code

Check with HMRC if your UCU membership is listed in your tax code

On UCU strike? Facing another week of lost pay? Do one quick thing today to help – check with HMRC to get your UCU membership listed in your tax code under ‘professional subscriptions’.

You can claim back to 2017/18 at the moment, but be quick as that will roll over to 2018/19 onwards soon as tax year ends this month. You’ll need the annual amounts you’ve paid to UCU to hand (a quick check of online banking/UCU direct debit) for each year, including this one. The same applies for most professional memberships related to your job.

You can also check that it’s on your tax code for the new tax year about to start 22/23 (letters sent recently).

Online can take up to 15 days, so given we are close to end of tax year, we suggest you call 0300 200 3300 with just your NI number and your UCU annual debited amount for the past few years. If you do wish to complete online please click here.

You can also find guidance on this from national UCU here.

LUCU Committee

A Letter To Our Members

A Letter To Our Members

Dear colleague

In support of our Union’s efforts to reverse brutal pension cuts and to improve pay and working conditions in the sector, we have been called out on strike for a further week (beginning next Monday, 21 March). No-one, to put it mildly, is rejoicing at the prospect. On the contrary, we know that many of you feel bruised by the action already taken and that you are dismayed at the request to strike again.

You may be in two minds about whether you participate in this latest action. We understand this deep unease: indeed, we share it. Notwithstanding this, it is vital that every member of Loughborough UCU answers this call to strike.

‘Going on strike again is unaffordable’

The idea of losing another week’s money is dispiriting. Few of us, despite our opponents’ spin, are wealthy enough to keep foregoing significant chunks of income. But while we appreciate that the thought of further salary loss will be giving you pause, we hope that it will not, in the end, prevent your involvement in the strike. And this for several reasons:

  1.  Presently, we are facing the loss of, at most, several thousand pounds for participating in strike action. This is hardly a trivial matter. However, if the horrifying pension cuts are not reversed, we face the loss of many tens, if not hundreds of thousands. The withdrawal of our labour will cost us plenty – but the failure of our campaign will cost us so much more.
  2. You may not be aware of the scale of financial support made available by UCU’s Fighting Fund – or you may be reluctant, given the level of your salary, to make a claim on it. However, the fund is there for all members who are experiencing significant financial pressures, and we encourage you to make use of it.
  3. Details of the strike pay scheme and how to apply can be found here. Basically, you can claim £50 a day if you earn more than £30k p.a., and £75 a day if your salary is lower. This is not fully compensatory, of course, but it represents not insignificant mitigation for financial loss.

‘Going on strike again is too disruptive to students’

All of us in student-facing roles – whether as lecturers or administrators, librarians or IT specialists – relish this work. All of us are dismayed at the thought of causing further disruption to students.

It is an unavoidable fact, however, that only by causing this disruption will the strike be successful (by prompting students in large enough numbers to contact the University’s managers and urge them to do so much more to help secure a fair hearing for the Union’s case, especially on pensions). A mass refusal to complete our PDRs will not jog the Vice-Chancellor’s elbow; failure to update Co-Tutor on time, or to submit that new bid for research funding, will not exert any pressure either.

We completely understand why, reluctant to cause further gaps in the education of students you like and value, some of you may be feeling that you cannot strike on the 21st. However, we ask you to pause and consider how a decision to work seriously diminishes the effectiveness of UCU’s action and brings our defeat that little bit closer. An alternative course of action, we propose, is to let your students know what you are planning to do (and why) and how they can help – and then to strike.

‘Going on strike again serves no strategic purpose’

There is certainly no expectation that your support for the Union should be uncritical. Questions can fairly be asked about the conduct of the ongoing industrial action, including about the latest plan to stagger strikes by institution across two weeks. However, without a rapid follow-up to the recent series of strike days, impetus for the struggle would be lost. University managers nationwide would relax. Effective strike action, by contrast, will ensure their continued attention. The Joint Negotiating Committee of USS meets on 29 March – and it is vital that its management representatives have very clear evidence, from a well-supported strike, of our determination and stamina in this fight.  

The Union is acting on the basis of a clear mandate supplied by members across the country (including – and by a significant majority – members at Loughborough). The campaign it is presently waging in our interests is crucial, perhaps even epochal. It requires – and deserves – our full participation.

To repeat: we understand and empathise with you if you feel disinclined to strike again. We acknowledge that what’s said above may not have changed your mind. For us on the Branch Committee, however, the situation is clear: to go on strike on the 21st will be difficult, but it is necessary. The campaign in defence of our pensions, in particular, cannot be allowed to fail – but it only has a chance of success if it is fully supported by all UCU members, including on this campus.

Thank you very much for your time.

LUCU Committee   

USS & Four Fights Strike Update – 15th March

USS & Four Fights Strike Update

Additional Strike Days Announced 

We will be taking an additional 5 days of strike action over USS & Four Fights from Monday 21st to Friday 25th March to put additional pressure on employers. Thank you to all our members who’ve been part of the action.

Picket Details

We will be picketing the gates of Loughborough University again from the 21st to 25th March. Picketing will start at 8am and conclude around 11am. Please let Marc Gibson know if you will be able to join the pickets.  

Re-balloting of Members 

Our current strike mandate runs out on the 3rd of May and the UCU HEC have decided to re-ballot all members at Loughborough (and the 148 other HEIs) on both Four Fights and USS to extend the strike mandate. The ballot will open on Wednesday 16th March. Please check your postal details are correct on MyUCU now, and please look out for your ballot pack arriving in the post. It should contain 2 ballots, one for USS and one for Four Fights. Please complete both and return as soon as possible. The ballot period will close on Friday 8th April.  

USS Legal Action – Crowdfunding Appeal 

This is a joint effort from many university branches who believe in fair pensions and a living planet. Its organising group includes Dr Neil Davies, Bristol UCU, and Dr Ewan McGaughey, KCL UCU and the below is taken from their latest update.

We wanted to update you about the legal action against the USS directors over cuts to our pensions and management of the USS. As you may have heard, we won our first oral hearing, and now we need to raise more to cover costs for the next on 28 March. 

If you can donate it will make a huge difference. The current pensions cuts leave many of us £100,000’s worse off in retirement (see modeller). If we win, we could get an injunction against the cuts that will happen on 1 April. We have 3 weeks to save the pension, so please donate now, and share with everyone you know!  

Legal case progress to now – In August last year, we raised £50,000 to start legal action against the USS directors. Many thanks to the over 1700 people who contributed. These donations paid for our legal team to develop our claim, which we submitted last Autumn. On the 28th of February, our barrister presented the case at an initial hearing at the High Court judge and requested permission to proceed to the next stage – a full contested hearing. We were successful, and the judge recognised the urgency of our claim and granted us a contested hearing on the 28th of March. He ruled that we have a prima facie case and that we were acting in good faith. If we are successful at the next hearing, we will be able to proceed with the legal action against the directors, which may be paid for by USS Limited (the company that runs our pensions). We have four claims: 

  • That the 2020 valuation was flawed and unnecessary 
  • USS costs are excessive 
  • The changes discriminate against women, younger and minority colleagues  
  • The USS has failed to have a credible plan to divest from fossil fuels, and this causes significant financial detriment 

Crowdfunding – However, to proceed with the next hearing, we urgently need to raise more money to cover the legal costs of the full hearing. So we would be very grateful if you could contribute to our crowdfund. Time is short, so if you could donate here asap – we would greatly appreciate it! If there is any money remaining in the crowdfund after the legal action is complete, we will use it for further legal action over the USS, for example, seeking judicial review of The Pensions Regulator. If there are no further legal options, or we get everything we want (a reasonable valuation, a cost-effective pension scheme, a pensions proposal that is not discriminatory, and divestment from fossil fuels), then we will donate any remaining funds to a charity.  

LUCU Committee