Proposed changes to the USS pension scheme

Proposed changes to the USS pension scheme

A message from the Loughborough UCU Pensions Rep

Dear colleagues,

You may have already received this information from your UCU department rep, due to its importance we are sending again to all members. Please share this email with any non-members that also may not have received the message through department reps.

Proposed Changes to Your USS Pension

As you know, Universities UK (UUK) – the body which speaks on behalf of universities such as Loughborough – is currently consulting universities about changes to the USS pension scheme. Because these proposed changes are complex, it is not straightforward to understand from the headline proposals how they will affect you.

To help, UCU’s actuarial advisors, First Actuarial, have produced an online modeller which allows you to calculate how UUK’s proposals would affect your income in retirement. For example, the modeller reveals that I personally would have a £5068/year reduction to my income in retirement under these proposals.

If you have a USS pension you are welcome to use this tool, regardless of whether you are a member of UCU:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller

(Note: the modeller appears to work best when using Google Chrome.)

Loughborough UCU strongly encourages you to take this opportunity to understand the implications of the current proposals for you personally.

Background

UUK’s proposals are a result of USS’s 2020 valuation, which was published in March this year. Both UUK and UCU agree that this valuation is flawed. For example, UUK has described USS’s approach as “unreasonable”, “unrealistic”, “incredibly conservative” and “unjustifiable”. Unfortunately, UUK has not persuaded USS to change their valuation method, and instead is proposing to pass the cost onto scheme members in the form of reduced benefits. UCU believes that this is approach is not reasonable.

Best wishes

Matthew Inglis, LUCU Pensions Rep

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Prison education members need our support

Prison education members need our support

UCU Novus members working in prison education have been on strike Tuesday 11 May, and Wednesday 12 May in a dispute over health and safety. This covers 49 prisons and young offenders’ institutions and is the first time a prison education branch has taken industrial action.

The row centres on the employer Novus’s failure to meaningfully engage with UCU over Covid health and safety concerns and on-site provision. Also, Novus has refused to drop complaints and investigations against staff who have raised safety concerns – unfounded allegations and without reference to any formal procedures and against natural justice. As these staff are UCU’s health and safety representatives, UCU believes it is impossible for the employer to meaningfully engage in health and safety discussions until this intimidation stops.

Please support your colleagues. If ever there was a time to stand up and support your union colleagues, now is the time. Due to members’ fear of reprisals, there will be limited social media use. However you can fill this gap by taking the following actions:

Your support will give the branch a real boost – please send your messages today. You can find out more about the background to the dispute here.

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UCU, Unite and UNISON: Professional Services Workload Survey Results

UCU, Unite and UNISON: Professional Services Workload Survey Results

Please see below for the results summary for the UCU, Unite and UNISON Professional Services Workload Survey conducted in March.

We thank those of  you who took the time to complete the survey and assure you that the results will be extremely valuable in providing direction for the Professional Services Workload Task and Finish Group. To drill deeper into the workload issues raised in the survey, the Task and Finish Group will set up staff focus groups.  These groups will be open for all Professional Services staff to join (union members and non-members), and a communication will be sent out shortly to invite participation.

Unite, UNISON and UCU Professional Services Workload Survey – Results

Respondents are Professional Services staff who are union members (UNISON, Unite, UCU), 55% of whom worked from home.

In the year January 2020-Jaunary 2021, 81% of participants experienced an increase in their workload. Some participants are able to complete this additional work within their working hours, whereas others are unable to.

Working hours
32% are able to complete their work in their normal working hours.
30% are able to complete their work about 50% of the time in their normal working hours.
38% are rarely or never able to complete their work in their normal working hours.

Impact of additional workload on hours worked
In addition to their normal weekly working hours:
31% are working 9 or more hours.
44% are working between 3 and 9 hours.
18% are working between 1 and 3 hours.
7% are not working any additional hours.

Tasks left uncompleted to avoid excessive working hours
54% are leaving tasks uncompleted because they are unable to find the time to do them.
Potential Causes for increased workload

Impact of Technology & Processes
51% respondents’ workload has been impacted by the University’s technological systems and/or processes.
49% of respondents’ workload has not been impacted by the University’s technological systems and/or processes.

Impact of the Severance Scheme
40% of respondents’ workload has been impacted by the Severance Scheme
60% of respondents’ workload has not been impacted by the Severance Scheme

Impact of restructure in the last 12 months
49% experienced increased workload
51% did not experience a workload impact

Impact of workload on stress over the past 12 months
96% have experienced increased stress due to workload over the past year, with 19% reporting consistently feeling stressed.

Impact of workload on morale over the past 12 months
91% have felt demoralised, with 23% reporting feeling consistently demoralised.

Impact of workload on quality of service
78% reported an impact the quality of service delivered.

Workload management
9% reported regular workload reviews with their manager.
19% reported frequent workload reviews with their manager.
50% reported occasional workload reviews with their manager.
22% reported no workload reviews with their manager.

Summary of Discursive Comments

TECHNOLOGY

  • Inadequate IT training for new tasks
  • Lack of MS Teams training
  • Wide range of systems and processes not linked, hence additional work required
  • New technological systems have increased workload
  • Learning to use and then find work arounds for functionality limitations

SEVERANCE

  • Unachievable increased workload requiring work over contract hours
  • Completing tasks above pay scale
  • Driven to seek alternative employment
  • Demotivated
  • Increased workload, but supported by manager
  • Loss of expertise and ability to provide a quality service
  • Programme at crisis point – lack of planning for the future
  • Loss of vital experience and expertise with no plan to replace
  • Work-life balance seriously impacted

OTHER REASONS FOR WORKING OVER CONTRACTED HOURS

  • Working from home
  • Recruitment freeze/non replacement of leavers
  • Additional responsibility, tasks or duties due to loss of expertise
  • COVID-related University initiative
  • Staff absence and/or furlough

NON-COST SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING WORKLOAD

People Management

  • Improve leadership and strategic task prioritisation: sharing tasks equitably; avoiding favouritism; ‘just do what you can manage’ isn’t helpful
  • Greater consultation on new activities
  • Streamline activity to focus on ‘need to do’ tasks all the way down from top to bottom
  • Reduce last minute decision making through improved planning and notice for changes to complex systems
  • Lower expectations from senior management
  • Call on alumni to help out as the NHS have done with retired staff
  • Review and update job descriptions – greater transparency over role expectations
  • Distribute workload from those heavily impacted by Covid to those with no/limited additional workload
  • Increase online meetings
  • Introduce a culture of administration that consistently tests each procedure for the burdens it places on staff and continually aim for redesign to reduce burden
  • Better communication between admin and teaching staff
  • Better communication between management, team leaders and staff
  • Flexible working

Processes

  • Reduce the amount of assessments and move more online
  • Reduce bureaucracy around PDR
  • Reduce bureaucracy around form filling
  • Better Agresso reporting
  • Spread online labs over more days
  • Remove the need for manual workarounds for dysfunctional online systems

Training

  • Better training
  • Increase staff confidence and proactivity to take on responsibilities

Other suggestions

  • Cut the services we offer to students and better manage their expectations
  • Change student menus to make them less labour intensive

Thanks

LUCU Committee

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Challenging Sexual Harassment and Violence

Challenging Sexual Harassment and Violence

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them’.

It can happen to men, women and people of any gender identity or sexual orientation, and it can be carried out by anyone of the same sex, a different sex or anyone of any gender identity. See ACAS definition.

Sexual harassment is usually directed at an individual, but not always. Sometimes there can be a culture of sexual harassment in a workplace which is called ‘joking’ and ‘banter’. Sexual harassment can include:

  • flirting, gesturing, or making sexual remarks about someone’s body, clothing, or appearance
  • asking questions about someone’s sex life
  • telling sexually offensive jokes
  • making sexual comments or jokes about someone’s sexual orientation or gender reassignment
  • displaying or sharing pornographic or sexual images, or other sexual content
  • touching someone against their will, for example hugging them
  • sexual assault or rape

Every day, people across the UK are sexually harassed at work. Our current laws put the onus on individuals to report such incidents but the TUC report that 4 out of 5 don’t feel able to tell their employer.


UCU/Ed Support Sexual Harassment Helpline

Call 0800 138 8724 or email support@edsupport.org.uk further information on the helpline can be found here.

Local Points of Contact for Staff with Sexual Harassment Concerns

Two members of the local branch committee have agreed to be points of contact for staff with sexual harassment concerns. Marie Hanlon (primarily for staff in professional services) and Sue Hignett (primarily for staff in academic departments). Their contact details can be found here. Please do get in touch with either of the contacts if you have any concerns regarding sexual harassment.

Campaign for 16 days in 16 ways

From the 25th Nov until the 10th Dec UCU are contributing to a campaign run by The Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, a feminist human rights organisation. For more information please see the UCU website here. Members who wish to get involved in organising and contributing to this campaign on a local level please get in touch with the branch by clicking here.

Continuing Professional Development

We are offering members a webinar course “Challenging Sexual Harassment and Violence” at a date TBC. Our branch Equality Officer has recently completed the pilot session for this webinar and reported back “It was an excellent session lasting just under 1.5 hours”. The course aims to help you; identify what we mean by sexual harassment and violence, understand how polices can protect staff and explore how we can all challenge sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. At this point we are requesting Expressions of Interest, please click here to send an EoI to the branch.

LUCU Committee

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Global Boycott of University of Leicester

Global Boycott of University of Leicester

UCU announced a global boycott of the University of Leicester, starting yesterday 4th May 2021, as the union hit the institution with the ultimate sanction of being greylisted. The announcement comes as Leicester staff also begin a marking and assessment boycott.

The greylisting sanction is part of a long running dispute over redundancies at the university. The sanction means UCU is asking its members, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community tosupport its members at Leicester in any way possible, including by:

  • not applying for any advertised jobs at Leicester
  • not speaking at or organising academic or other conferences at Leicester
  • not accepting invitations to give lectures at Leicester
  • not accepting positions as visiting professors or researchers at Leicester
  • not writing for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by Leicester
  • not accepting new contracts as external examiners for taught courses at Leicester
  • refusing to collaborate on new research projects with Leicester.

The University of Leicester also faces action short of a strike, which begins today after 84% of UCU Leicester members who voted said they were willing to take industrial action. The action includes a marking and assessment boycott and Leicester staff will stop marking all work from today. The action could impact students’ graduations. UCU said Leicester must lift the threat of compulsory redundancies to end the dispute.

The university had originally threatened 145 staff with compulsory redundancy, although that number is now slightly lower due to some staff taking voluntary redundancy or accepting inferior contracts. Managers deny there are any financial reasons for planned redundancies and refuse to share data on finances with campus trade unions. But the university’s 2019/20 financial statements show the institution is having to borrow money in order to remain financially viable.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We will not stand back and allow the University of Leicester to be destroyed by dismal management. Nor will we allow staff and students to pay the price for catastrophic failures of governance. It is rare for UCU to call for a global academic boycott, and doing so reflects the seriousness of the situation. Leicester staff have the support of the whole union in their ongoing action; we all stand alongside them in this fight against brutal job cuts. The university needs to lift its threat of compulsory redundancies if it wants to end this dispute.’

LUCU Committee

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Women’s History Month: Women across the world

Women’s History Month

Women across the world

Only 20 countries (10%) have women as Heads of State and Government. The United Nations call for “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

In the UK, we need role models in all areas of society.  An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Women in Parliament is running a series of discussions and debates about:

  • modernising Parliament to advance gender equality
  • amplifying the diverse voices of young women from across the country; giving them a seat at the decision-making table.
  • Call for Safe Spaces (part of UN Women): stopping the sexual harassment of women in public spaces, including online platforms

During the COVID-19 pandemic women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, and poverty. Despite women making up a majority of front-line workers, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces. 

The UN has published a report on ‘COVID-19 and women’s leadership: From an effective response to building back better’ to shine a light on the critical role of women’s leadership in responding to COVID-19 and preparing for a more equitable recovery. It recognizes pre-existing and new constraints to women’s participation and leadership and advocates for measures to facilitate women’s influence over decision-making processes.

This includes creating opportunities to ‘build back better’ by including and supporting women, and the organizations and networks that represent them, in the decision-making processes that will shape the post-pandemic future.

LUCU Committee

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Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

We are writing to report on the results of LUCU’s most recent survey on ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’.  The survey was completed by hundreds of members and achieved a significant response rate as a proportion of the branch membership. This is the highest response we have had to a survey! – and represents an excellent increase in responses compared to our October survey. Thanks to everyone who responded, as your feedback will be used to inform our stance on this issue. LUCU would also like to thank those members who gave so generously of their time and expertise to help us frame the survey and to interpret its results. 

The survey was a listening exercise for the committee. Our aim was to test whether the view of the membership had changed since October and to gauge the current temperature of the membership concerning action that would be needed to push management into adopting the Online-Only position for the rest of this academic year.

Overall, the survey indicates broad support for LUCU to continue working with management to ensure a balanced approach where staff have the ability to request an opt-out of in-person teaching, in line with the outcome agreed through our local dispute process, and a preference for what some members termed ‘constructive’ solutions – that is, reserving ballots or threats of action only when other methods fail to achieve a satisfactory solution for the branch.  

To remind members, management has agreed the following with LUCU:

Staff may request home working even if they are not clinically vulnerable, and without necessarily involving input from Occupational Health, if they are concerned about undertaking their duties in-person. Although the survey focused on in-person teaching, this agreement covers all staff.  Requests are considered at school/unit level by the line manager or their nominee. 

If members would like the advice of a LUCU caseworker before submitting a request or during discussions with a manager, please contact our Casework Coordinator, Andrew Dix – a.dix@lboro.ac.uk.

Thus far, requests have been treated sympathetically, and the agreement is enabling members to work from home or have their in-person hours reduced to a number with which they are comfortable. LUCU is monitoring the process through regular updates from Reps, and regular contact with Deans and HR as required.

Members: please find a fuller report on the survey attached to your email.   

LUCU Committee

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Women in Trade Unions and Discussion Group for “Complaint as Diversity Work”

Women in Trade Unions and Discussion Group for “Complaint as Diversity Work”

Women in Trade Unions

Women are seriously under-represented in trade union leadership roles, despite the fact that they form over half of UK membership. 

Women still earn an average of 18% less than men in our economy – the Gender Pay Gap at Loughborough University is larger, with a mean difference of 22.7%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, and poverty. Despite women making up a majority of front-line workers, there is disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces

Only 20 countries have women as Heads of State and Government. The United Nations call for “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

Complaint as Diversity Work: Thursday 25th March 1-2pm

Our discussion group this week explores issues in Sara Ahmed’s lecture ‘Complaint as Diversity Work‘, which takes a critical (though not hostile) approach to management-led diversity agendas in Higher Education, with a particular focus on the gendered and racialized forms of labour they require. With Equality at the heart of UCU’s national #FourFights campaign and local work, our discussion will be led by members’ responses to the lecture. You can watch the lecture, which is an hour long, ahead of the session here and/or read a shorter blog post which introduces its main themes can be read here

Link to join the discussion session is here: Click here to join the meeting

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IWD 2021 – Lean In Circles Workshop

IWD 2021 – Lean In Circles Workshop

Are you sitting comfortably?

Over the last 100 years a repeated theme has been the lack of sanitary facilities for women being used as a reason to reject them when applying for jobs.

  • ‘Respectable’ women couldn’t relieve themselves in streets or alleys as men did – London’s first public toilets were built for the 1851 Great Exhibition
  • Lack of access to toilets effectively tied women to their homes, putting them on a ‘leash as long as their bladder capacity’

This silent discrimination continues in many countries around the world. In 2012, female demonstrators in India marked International Women’s Day by storming men’s public toilets in the city of Nagpur, protesting inadequate numbers of bathrooms for women

In 2021, the UK Government has been running a Toilet Consultation to consider ‘the ratio of female toilets needed versus the number for men, given the need for women to always use cubicles’ … and to ‘take into account the needs of all members of the community, to ensure there is a fair provision of accessible and gender-neutral toilets’.

They acknowledge that even in 2021, women often face excessive queues for toilets or do not have access to appropriate facilities. In some cases, this can mean women are reluctant to go out or take trips – so no progress from the 19th century.

Lean In Circles Workshop

Thursday 18th March 1pm-2pm

In this workshop you will have the opportunity to:

  • Connect with other women through small group discussions to share your struggles, give and get advice and celebrate each other’s wins.
  • Discuss and select a #ChooseToChallenge action card making a pledge for action to support and empower other female employees all year round.

Link to join the workshop via Microsoft Teams: Click here to join the meeting

We very much look forward to seeing you there.

LUCU Committee

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LUCU News – March/April

LUCU News – March/April

Restructures/Redundancy/PDR/Casework/LUCUDiscuss

Restructures and the Threat of Redundancy

Currently three areas are undergoing a restructure: Careers, Organisational Development, and the School of Science, where the restructure impacts on technicians.  Management is only obliged to consult where 25 jobs or more will be affected.  However, we are fortunate that in keeping with best practice the three campus trade unions, along with affected staff, are always consulted on proposed changes.  The purpose of consultation is to allow staff and/or their representatives input into the restructure. Note that ‘consultation with’ the campus trade unions does not necessarily equate to ‘agreed by’ the campus trade unions.

An unpleasant fact of restructures is that they may result in staff being required to apply for a new post when the role they currently hold is made ‘redundant’, and they have not been ‘slotted in’ to the new role (‘slotting in’ is where the new role contains at least 60% of the duties of the previous role, as determined by the list of duties in the new and the old job descriptions).  If there is a reduction in the number of posts available, then some staff may face redundancy. Whilst the direct impact of the current restructures is on Professional Services staff, the consequences may also impact on the workloads of academic colleagues.

The campus trade unions are united in opposing job losses because of these restructures. We will also fight against staff being asked to perform the same duties as previously at a lower pay grade or staff facing intensified workloads by being given additional duties for the same pay.

If you are/were involved in a restructure and believe trade union representatives have not been involved, we want to know: ucu@lboro.ac.uk. Please do this so that we can monitor whether a pattern is developing whereby work is being pushed down onto lower grades, with higher grades being made redundant.

PDR

It has been brought to our attention that recent updates re: the PDR have not reached all members. In response to the pandemic, the University has announced that the deadline for PDR discussions has been extended to the end of April 2021.

These are 3 points we feel that we should bring to your attention.

  1. No colleague will be assessed against objectives that have been so significantly affected by the pandemic that such an approach would be unreasonable. Last year’s objectives should be considered in-the-round and in the light of the challenges that we have all faced. This includes both different ways of working and domestic pressures such as home-schooling children or looking after dependents.
  1. If objectives remain relevant, calculate a new time frame for their completion to be discussed with your reviewer. If no longer relevant say so and write them off – long justifications are not necessary for undeliverable objectives. A clear explanation of the legacy impact of Covid on your research will help ensure that you are not held to a set of unfair objectives in future.
  1. The PDR discussion should focus on the coming year from the perspective of objectives, support and professional development.

Personal casework

Much of the work undertaken by the branch happens in plain sight: think, for example, of our brokering the Partnership Agreement with the University or our organisation of strike activity in support of national campaigns for better pay and pensions. By its very nature, however, personal casework, as undertaken on campus by a small team comprising a number of Committee colleagues and several department or section reps, is liable to go unnoticed. The work involves meeting members who contact us for support on a wide range of issues, reading material relevant to their cases, offering advice, and accompanying them to meetings with managers. The volume of work involved is significant. The rewards, however, are greater still, for in casework we encounter members who are facing difficult, worrying, even distressing situations, and we hope that they find our involvement supportive and constructive.

Sometimes a case with which a member approaches us can be resolved quite quickly and informally. On other occasions, however, the member may need advice in preparing a complex grievance claim or may be facing disciplinary action that has dismissal as one of its possible outcomes. High demands are made on the caseworker in these circumstances to be not only a source of support and counsel, but to be fully prepared.

In this academic year to date, we have offered formal casework support to 18 of our members. Many of these cases are ongoing. In the current, complex circumstances, we do not anticipate that the demands on the caseworking team will lighten.

We are grateful to those members who, either for the first time or as a refresher, attended the recent caseworker training session led by Joe Rooney from the union’s Regional Office. If you feel you might like to get involved in casework and want to find out more, please get in touch with our Personal Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk). Likewise, do contact Andrew if you would like union support and advice with any issue that you have in the workplace.

Launch of “LUCU Discuss”

Following the motion ‘Building LUCU’, the branch has set up a discussion list where members may raise issues of interest or concern, ask questions of each other, share ideas, and develop solidarity. We know work is especially isolating for many at the moment, and we hope that this might help bring our members together.

To join, please send an email to ucu@lboro.ac.uk with the subject “Subscribe to LUCU Discuss”. In the body, please write your name and the preferred email address you have listed for your UCU membership (this can be checked via MyUCU). You must join the list with the email address your UCU account is registered to (this is the email address through which you receive current UCU information).

Attached to this email are a set of rules and guidelines for LUCU Discuss that we would ask members to read before registering. We hope that members will find the discussion list useful and enjoyable. If you have any questions, please email ucu@lboro.ac.uk.

Meet Our Reps

Jen De Lillo, Library Services: I am Academic Librarian for English and Communication and Media Studies and work within the Library’s Academic Services Team. I’ve been in this role since 2016 having previously worked on research projects on digital scholarly editions of medieval texts after finishing my PhD in 2001. Given my experience, I understand first-hand the precarious nature of research positions.  I became the union rep for the Library as I believe it is important for professional service staff to be represented and, as a part-time worker myself, I feel that it is essential for us to have a voice. I have found union colleagues invaluable when it comes to discussing matters informally and hope to be able to support others whilst keeping the local branch informed of any issues we may be facing within the Library.  

Eef Hogervorst, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences: I am a Professor of Psychology and UCU rep for SSEHS. I very much support the solidarity principle and have personally had much benefit from being a LUCU member over the past years. I research mental health, with a focus on cognitive impairment. My particular interest is in menopause and dementia. During peri-menopause, many women find it hard to focus on work and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that play a significant role in midlife. With HR and colleagues, I am developing a course for WHEN to help women navigate this.  I have also given several lectures on career progression in academia. I am passionate about reducing gender differences in pay and career opportunities. I am training to become a LUCU caseworker.

LUCU Committee

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