Higher education disputes: updating contact details on MyUCU

Higher education disputes: updating contact details on MyUCU

Plans are underway to hold the biggest ever aggregated ballots of the entire higher education sector regarding the pay and working conditions dispute (Four Fights) and USS pensions. The industrial action ballot will run during the autumn and UCU will be communicating with HE branches and members regularly over the next weeks. UCU will be in a position to share campaign details and timelines in the very near future.

Keeping clean data is vital to our success. Therefore, we are asking all our members to please check your details by logging onto MyUCU. Please make sure that the following details are correct/up to date:

  • Preferred postal address (where you will receive the industrial action ballot)
  • Preferred email address (where you will receive UCU’s emails including local branch emails and the Friday Email)
  • Mobile phone number (where we have current mobile phone numbers for members, this will greatly assist in ‘get the vote out’ (GTVO) efforts involving ThruText, the peer-to-peer SMS texting platform.)
  • Employer and workplace
  • Membership category (N.B. certain membership types such as retired members and student members are not included in industrial action ballots; members can also upgrade their membership on MyUCU if necessary)
  • Employment income band

Are you retiring this summer, leaving LU or taking parental leave?

If you will be retiring over the summer, these are the options with regard to your UCU membership.

If you are leaving LU and will be unemployed for any time, see here for more details on the ‘attached unemployed’ membership.

Members who are currently on parental leave can use MyUCU to inform the union. Members who are on parental leave/extended absence will be excluded from industrial action ballots for the duration of the leave. For more details please see here.

Issues logging on to MyUCU

If you encounter difficulties logging into MyUCU, this is very often because you have not registered to use MyUCU yet. You can register for MyUCU here. If you have already registered and still can’t log in please get in touch with the branch and we will assist you in resolving the issue.

Tax Relief on UCU Membership Subscriptions

We also want to take this opportunity to remind you that you can claim income tax relief on your UCU subscription. For more information on claiming tax relief please see here.

LUCU Committee

Share this...

LUCU News – July 2022

LUCU News – July 2022

This newsletter reports on the AGM, USS & 4 Fights and Management Negotiations.

AGM Report

In brief, the AGM addressed the activities of the branch committee over the last year including – e.g. – the removal of ratings and the decoupling of rewards from PDR, our monitoring of Covid safety measures, GTVO campaigns for USS and 4 Fights, organising strike actions, the joint statement with Loughborough management on USS, and our input to Project Enable and the review of promotions criteria.  Looking ahead, we discussed a major recruitment campaign for next year, which will include opportunities for members to receive training and support their Reps in this vital activity. 

Officers for the 2022-23 committee were also confirmed:

  • Mary Brewer: Chair
  • Marc Gibson: Secretary
  • Marie Hanlon: Membership Secretary
  • Alec Edworthy: Health, Safety and Environment Officer
  • Andrew Dix: Casework Coordinator
  • David Wilson: Treasurer
  • Sue Hignett: Equalities Officer
  • Joanna Boehnert: Ordinary member

Minutes of the AGM have been emailed to all members.

USS & 4 Fights

A branch delegates’ meeting was held on 27 June.  Delegates were asked to vote on the timing of an aggregated ballot for industrial action on USS & 4 Fights. 79% of delegates voted to ballot in October, with action to take place in Spring/Summer 2023; 51% of delegates voted against a summer ballot.  Full details of questions and ballot results have been emailed to members.

HEC met on 1 July and agreed the following demands for 2022/23:

  • To call on UUK to withdraw their imposed benefit cuts to USS
  • To call on USS to carry out a new evidence-based valuation
  • To reject the pay offer from the employers
  • To seek a substantial (at least £2,500) pay increase
  • To seek meaningful agreements on workload, casualisation, and equality pay gaps

However, regard timing, HEC decided to open the ballot in August to run until October, with industrial action to begin in November, should the employers not agree to the above demands. This appears out of line with the expressed view of a large majority of branches, whose delegates proffered a variety of reasons why they did not support this strategy and/or feel able to deliver a positive ballot result within this time frame. Consequently, branch officers have requested a meeting with Justine Mercer, HEC Chair, to discuss further the rationale for November strike action.

Management Negotiations: PDR and Covid 19

JNCC, in which the 3 campus unions negotiate with management, met on 6 July.

PDR:

Management confirmed that the 2023 round of PDR will follow the same process as this year, that is, there will be no ratings or reward tied to PDR.  However, in 2024, management is considering returning to ratings and re-linking PDR to rewards.  The three campus unions made clear our strong opposition to the reintroduction of a judgemental rather than developmental review of staff performance.

C-19:

The unions requested that senior management

  1. reiterate to all line managers that staff are not expected to work when ill, whether from Covid or another illness,
  2. recirculate the policy that asks staff who have Covid or any other communicable disease to stay at home to protect others, and
  3. continue providing cleaning materials for commonly used equipment, whether desks, copiers, vans, etc. We are pleased to report that management agreed to these requests.

The unions also asked that clean air is ensured, free from airborne spread diseases. This could be provided by adequately filtered air handlers, where fitted, and HEPA air purifiers where there is no mechanical ventilation.  We are disappointed that management would not agree to the installation of air purifiers, because, they argued, there is insufficient evidence to support their effectiveness. LUCU disagrees with this analysis, and our Health and Safety officers will discuss the question of evidence further with Neil Budworth, the Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing.

Addendum

We have received a response to our newsletter, above, from Anne Lamb, Director of Human Resources, regarding the item on PDR.

It remains the case that there is not likely to be any significant change on ratings or rewards for PDR 2023; however, we have been asked to circulate further details about the timing and decision-making process regarding PDR.

  • Following a meeting of the Academic Leadership team and consultation with Deans, final details about PDR 2023 will be shared with staff in the autumn.
  • Looking ahead to 2024: PDR and reward are to be included in one of the University’s enabling projects, Project Expectation, which will explore the longer-term arrangements.

LUCU Committee

Share this...

LUCU June News: Workload / USS & 4 Fights / LSU

LUCU June News: Workload / USS & 4 Fights / LSU

Workload: Project Enable

Colleagues involved in Phase 1 of Project Enable, the University’s review of workload, have thus far identified 77 areas where work could either be removed from the system or processes could be revised to create more headroom in staff workloads.  For example, a new triage system has been set up in the Research Office so faster decisions can be made on contract approvals, and bureaucracy is being reduced in the staffing approval process.

Changes are being made to the Ethics Approval process for both staff and student projects, which will reduce the amount of checking and save time for both PS and RTE colleagues, particularly in SSEHS and SDCA where staff have highlighted this as a workload stressor. Also, changes to a range of practices around learning and teaching, such as module and programme approval processes, are either underway or are being planned. LUCU welcomes these initiatives as they afford potential to free up time for professional services & RTE colleagues. 

The work carried out by the branch committee on the Task and Finish workload groups for RTE and Professional Services staff informed Phase 1 of Project Enable. In June, the Programme Board, chaired by Richard Taylor, will meet to carry out a prioritisation exercise to determine the workstreams for Phase 2 of Project Enable.  This exercise will consider the impact, effort required, beneficiaries and appetite for change in each of the items identified in Phase 1.

LUCU will be represented by Mary Brewer in Phase 2, who will join the Project Group. She will work closely with Sue Hignett as Equalities Officer to assess the EDI implications of proposed changes. Management recognizes that Phase 1 is unlikely to have captured all the activities where we might change working practices; therefore, members are encouraged to pass on ideas/suggestions for smarter working in their areas by speaking to their Department Rep or emailing UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

USS and 4 Fights: LUCU solidarity with assessment boycott at University of the Arts, London

UCU members in a relatively small number of branches began a marking boycott on the 23rd of May, in support of the USS and Four Fights campaigns.  As we are not taking part, our branch has “twinned” with the University of the Arts, London, who are undertaking this action despite threats of 100% pay deductions for partial performance.  The branch committee will offer practical campaign assistance where possible, and to further support our colleagues at UoA, £500 has been donated from our hardship fund to theirs.

We also urge you to consider donating to their Just Giving page if you can afford it.  This small number of colleagues are taking on a huge burden on behalf of us all, and any financial solidarity we can offer them will make a real difference to those who face having their pay withheld.

LUCU and LSU

At recent EGMs, members have asked us to prioritise establishing supportive exchanges with Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU), and we can report good progress on this front. Though mindful of the need to reflect a range of student opinion on campus, LSU has been helpful in soliciting material from us about our reasons for taking industrial action and in posting this on their social media platforms.

With a possible marking boycott in the air, Freya Mason, the LSU President, recently contacted us again. Mary Brewer and Andrew Dix then met with Freya and four of her team. We’re glad to inform members that this was a warm and productive conversation. While it would be unreasonable to expect LSU to be on the barricades with us, they are keen to play whatever role they can in finding solutions to current disputes (most pressingly, the pensions issue). With this in mind, we will be exploring the possibility of tripartite meetings, involving management, LSU and ourselves. At present, exchanges are only bilateral – and we would welcome the chance to make our case with student leaders, as well as managers, in the room.

We will say more in future newsletters as these initiatives develop (there will be opportunities for collaboration with LSU on other fronts as well, including mental health and equity and inclusion). For the moment, we’d just like to thank Freya and her colleagues for their support this year and to say that we look forward to working equally productively with the incoming LSU team. 

We hope you have a good break over the extended bank holiday!

LUCU Committee

Share this...

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

Share this...

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

Share this...

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

Share this...

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

Share this...

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.

Share this...

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 

Share this...

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

Share this...