LUCU News: January 2022

LUCU News: January 2022

Happy New Year!

Our first newsletter of 2022 covers the latest news on the USS Pension dispute, new guidelines for ASOS, and an update on COVID.

USS

USS are required by law to consult with members about any proposals to change benefits or contribution rates. The behaviour of USS during previous consultations does not give us confidence that they will take members’ views seriously, but nevertheless, we would encourage members to respond. If nothing else, it will create extra work for USS (who are required to summarise consultation responses) and allow UCU to correctly argue that we are accurately representing the views of USS members.

In previous years, suggested words have been offered by UCU negotiators. This led USS to weight many hundreds of responses as if they came from only one person, so we are not providing explicit suggested words this time. Instead, Sam Marsh, a UCU national negotiator, has produced a helpful twitter thread with ideas about what you could say in your consultation response.

Sam’s thread is available here, and we reproduce the key points here:

Firstly, here’s the consultation link. You will need your USS member number, which you can find on the top of emails from them, plus identifying information.

https://ussconsultation2021.co.uk/members

Once you’re logged in, you can play with the modeller and confirm that @UniversitiesUK are shameless about misrepresenting the scale of the cuts. (I am projected to lose ~36% of my future guaranteed pension, which falls to ~28% including DC converted to an annuity.)

Once you’ve figured out the impacts, then you can go to the questions. Here are some things you might like to consider saying at various points.

  • If you consider the cuts to be based on a distorted valuation, conducted at the worst point in the pandemic, say so!
  • If you believe the valuation suffers from extreme levels of prudence, then say so! (@MartinWolf_ of the @FT would probably agree.) https://t.co/BRNLi9GfFk
  • If you consider @USSPensions to have breached the scheme rules in how they conducted the valuation processes, biasing the negotiations away from @UCU and towards @UniversitiesUK, then say so!
  • If you consider the directors of the scheme to have acted contrary to your best interests, whether of the valuation date, the lack of control of scheme costs, the lack of divestment, or the equalities considerations of the proposed cuts, then say so! https://twitter.com/ewanmcg/status/1455889324390686726?s=20
  • If you are furious at the misrepresentation by @UniversitiesUK over the scale of the cuts, then say so!
  • If you are prepared to strike to ensure that the cuts are revoked, and a new valuation is demanded by employers, then say so!
  • Of course, if you believe that these cuts are a rational and necessary response to the situation the scheme’s in, then say that instead!

ONE IMPORTANT POINT TO ADD:

If you think that maintaining current benefits is the top priority (even if that means paying 11% from April-October while a new valuation is undertaken), say so! Employers are trying to pretend this option doesn’t exist.

This last point is particularly important. We would strongly encourage you to state, using your own words, that maintaining current benefits is your top priority.

ASOS

On December 21, 2021, UCU escalated Action Short of Strike. Members are asked not to reschedule any lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action. Lectures/classes are defined as any activity between a UCU member and a student or group of students which involves any instruction, tuition, communicating or sharing of knowledge, or guidance. In addition to timetabled lectures and seminars, this includes, for example, placement visits, Personal Best meetings, and dissertation supervisions. UCU will be issuing further guidance on ASOS shortly, and we will keep members updated as information becomes available.

COVID Update

LUCU continues to meet weekly with management to inform and monitor the University’s response to Covid. Our discussions, which involve also UNITE and Unison representatives, have been mainly productive, resulting in improvement to ventilation systems in work spaces across campus where required, while some teaching has been moved to more suitable rooms.  We are pleased to inform members that the University will continue to run a testing programme using its store of Lateral Flow-test Devices (LFD’s), even if the government ceases testing. Regarding home working, we have been assured that where staff are not required to be on campus, they may continue to work from home. For staff who have concerns about in- person delivery or duties that require them to be on either campus, the University will continue its previous posture of providing a non-occupational health focussed solution via line management.

In reflection of the fluid broader national trend, cases at Loughborough University have been rising (see here for latest LU figures); hence, we are requesting additional mitigation measures: to make mask wearing mandatory and the provision of HEPA air filtration units where appropriate (noting this would incur a maintenance overhead). 

LUCU Committee

Industrial Action Bulletin (ASOS) Action Short of a Strike

Industrial Action Bulletin (ASOS) Action Short of a Strike

We are writing to clarify further how ASOS is intended to work during this initial phase of industrial action following new information from UCU as well as further negotiations with local management.

The HEC has opted for escalating ASOS.  In the first instance, we are being asked to work to contract: this means that staff carry out the key functions of their roles but do not undertake voluntary duties, and staff should limit their working hours to a reasonable number which, according to the Framework Agreement, for staff in pre-92 universities, the union considers to be a nominal 37 hours per week.

Escalating ASOS is part of UCU’s ‘Reclaim Your Time’ strategy, that is especially relevant in the post-92 sector where contracts mandate more clearly set working hours. Even so, across the sector, it will prepare the ground for an escalation of ASOS when the HEC meets on December 8, 2021.  Members are being asked to push back against unreasonable workload demands by management.  Reports of excessive workload will be collated by UCU to demonstrate how much free work staff are expected to perform and for falling wages. UCU is cognizant of the fact that this may create workload for members as well as managers, but demonstrating the amount of overwork in the system that staff must perform in what should be their personal time is a vital part of the Four Fights campaign and the campaign to protect staff wellbeing.

Responding to a request to reschedule work

We have been reassured by management that they respect our right to take industrial action, and they agree that asking staff to do work for which they were not paid would not be consistent with the VC’s commitment to “maintaining collegiality and respect for each other” in the context of industrial action – a commitment shared by LUCU.  Therefore, members should not routinely expect to receive requests to replace work lost to strike days.  

However, the University may request that assessments submitted on a strike day be marked. The current terms of ASOS allow them to make this request. Management have agreed with LUCU that this should happen only if the staff member believes this will not materially add to their workload. If the colleague believes the work related to assessment cannot be accommodated in their current workload, they should report this to their Dean, who will be prepared to adjust their workload to facilitate this. The adjustment to the colleague’s workload should be meaningful. This is consistent with UCU’s current guidance for ASOS whereby members can ask what work they “should not do to so as to compensate you for time spent on replacement activities”.

If you receive a request related to work impacted by the strike action, you may use this template (see here for the template and here for the national guidance) to demonstrate to your manager: how much time the task you are being asked to do will take you to complete and report how many hours above 37 (the notional working week according to the Framework Agreement) you would need to work if you were to undertake the task without compensation.  Please copy LUCU into the correspondence with your manager when negotiating on workload.  If you would like additional support in addressing how workload will be managed in relation to such requests, please contact UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

LUCU Committee