Please Vote in the UCU Pay and Conditions Re-Ballot
This is a reminder to please exercise your democratic right to shape the union’s strategy with regard to achieving better pay and working conditions for members by voting in the current re-ballot. Please watch this recent video update from Dr Jo Grady, UCU General Secretary.
To help us spread the word and get the vote out we can send you posters to put up around your area of campus; please let us know if you would like some posters sending in the internal mail by sending an email to the branch including your name and campus location.
You should have received your paper ballot in the post already, but if you have not received one, you may request a replacement ballot, here. You can also use the same link to report that you have returned your ballot paper.
Friday 27 October (12:00 noon): deadline for new members to join UCU and be automatically included in the ballot
Sunday 29 October (23:59): replacement ballot request form closes
Tuesday 31 October: last ‘safe’ date to return the ballot by post
Friday 3 November (17:00): industrial action ballot closes.
This is a gentle reminder to please exercise your democratic right to shape the union’s strategy with regard to achieving better pay and working conditions for members by voting in the current re-ballot.
You should have received your paper ballot in the post already, but if you have not received one, you may request a replacement ballot, here.
For your vote to count, your voting paper must be received by Civica Election Services no later than 5pm on Friday 3 November 2023.
We would like to thank Reps and members for their tremendous support for the action so far: our success is driven by your creativity, time, and energy!
An additional day of action has been called by the HEC for 15th March in order to increase pressure on the employers during the ongoing talks. Upcoming strike dates, pickets and teach-outs as below:
Strike action date
Wednesday 15 March
11am-12pm: Organising and Power – Rose Pesotta
Thursday 16 March
Lboro Picket: 8:30 – 10:30 Main Gate
11am -12pm: Memories of anti-racism
Friday 17 March
2pm-3:30pm: Organising for Power Workshop
Monday 20 March
Lboro Picket: 8:30 – 10:30 Main Gate
11am-12pm: Starting conversations about race and racism
Tuesday 21 March
Wednesday 22 March
Teach-Out Details: Please advertise the three of these events that are open to all students and colleagues.
The “Organising and Power” teach-out will be held online. Ruth Kinna will give a talk about Rose Pesotta (1896–1965), anarchist, feminist and labour organizer in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union: Teams link
The “Memories of anti-racism” teach-out is hybrid. Emily Keightley will introduce the Migrant Memory and Postcolonial Imagination exhibition at: Charnwood Arts (27 Rectory Pl, Loughborough LE11 1UW) and will talk about histories and memories of anti-racist protest and experiences of racism in Loughborough and East London. All are welcome to attend in person or via Teams link.
The “Organising for Power Workshop” will be held online. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos will lead the workshop introducing methods from the Organizing for Power training that some members attended last year, with time for discussion about how they could work within Loughborough UCU. This workshop is for LUCU members only, and you can attend via Teams link.
The “Starting conversations about race and racism” teach-out is hybrid. Denise Coles and Amanda Harrington will talk about how to start conversations about race and racism, with fellow workers and students, in meetings, corridors, formally and in informal exchanges. All are welcome to attend in person at: The Council Chambers, Loughborough Students Union, or via Zoom Link.
ASOS: We would also like to remind members that ASOS is ongoing.
It is vital that the union returns a Yes vote to further action to give our negotiators the necessary mandate and leverage to succeed in discussions with UUK and UCEA. Your ballot must be received by 31 March, and the last safe posting date is 28 March. If you have not received a ballot, please contact UCU directly: replacement ballot request form.
Thanks to Saul Albert and Anthony Kevins we have some inspiring videos that showcase student support for our action. Please support UCU Rising by circulating these videos via your social media. We are very grateful to Saul and Anthony for creating these valuable resources. To see the videos on our various platforms please click the links: YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.
Local Strike Fund
We would like to acknowledge grateful receipt of a £100 donation from Leicester Workers Support Group, which will allow us to make another donation to the UCU Fighting Fund, directly benefitting our members in the coming months.
EDI: We are pleased to report that there will be direct union involvement on the new University EDI Operations Committee, led by the new PVC-EDI Charlotte Croffie. This recognises union members as a key stakeholder constituency, and our participation in the work of the committee will enable us to inform the direction and implementation of EDI initiatives. As this is not a space for negotiation, the three campus trade unions will rotate sending a delegate to serve for one year. There will be regular meetings with Unite and Unison to consolidate the unions’ perspective.
LUCU is currently in the process of expanding our representation on LUCU committee by seeking multiple equality officers. Our aim is to maximise our engagement with relevant university EDI projects and working groups and to prioritise aspects of EDI in line with national campaigns. We have expressions of interest from two members to stand for the following officer roles: Disability; Women & LGBTQ+. We are keen to hear from other members who may wish to join committee and lead on BAME. We would like to assure members that we recognise the importance of an intersectional approach to EDI, and we envision our EDI officers and other committee members working together to ensure our approach to EDI is aligned with best practice.
REF: LUCU will also continue to have a voice on the REF Code of Practice Working Group, which is chaired by the PVC for Research and Innovation. The group works to ensure the fair and transparent identification of staff and selection of outputs for REF. We ask that members feedback any issues of concern about the REF process in their schools so that they can be raised either at a working group meeting or ARSNC.
Professor Dan Parsons, PVC – Research and Innovation, attended ARSNC to discuss items we had put forward for discussion following concerns raised by our members about the internal review of REF outputs at school level, as well as grant capture and EDI. It was agreed that schools should ensure they approach the review with parity and transparency in mind; the process should be developmental in focus, and internal scores will not be used as a measure of performance during PDRs. The University also recognises the inherent biases in the grant process in terms of applicants with protected characteristics, and the PCV was keen to ensure that the University aims to mitigate as much as possible these external factors when, for example, considering applications for university fellowships and promotion.
Restructures: We have been in consultations with management about restructures in IT Services, the Research and Innovation Office, and the School of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering. We can report that no redundancies are planned, and where individual members have requested it, a caseworker has been assigned for support.
WAMS and Workload: Members have raised concerns about the timing of workload allocation, which, in some schools, has come too late for efficient planning of teaching and research. Steve Harris, Change Portfolio Manager & Process Improvement Lead, has agreed to review WAMS to explore how workload allocation can be managed in a timelier manner.
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.
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.
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.
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.