LUCU News: February 2022

LUCU News: February 2022

In this newsletter, we report on: USS and Four Fights disputes, Industrial Action, and Health and Safety: Covid.

USS Dispute:  Background

Our earlier communications have set out the background to the dispute. In the first of our video explainers, pensions rep Matthew Inglis explained that the cause of the dispute is the extreme level of pessimism in USS’s March 2020 valuation. Since that video was made, USS’s assets have continued to grow. As of December 2021, the scheme’s assets were worth £92.2bn, a figure that the ‘prudent’ assumptions of the 2020 valuation said would not be reached until 2133. In response to these absurdly pessimistic assumptions, UCU called for a new moderately prudent evidence-based valuation. Instead of joining with UCU to insist upon a sensible valuation, the employers’ group UUK prioritised avoiding any financial consequences for themselves by proposing severe cuts of up to 35% to your pension.

Hopefully, you will have logged into the official USS modeller to see how you will be affected by UUK’s proposals. If you haven’t been able to, the graph below provides a guide for different combinations of salary and year of birth. Note that the assumptions that underpin the USS modeller were agreed with UUK and are not disputed. Our employers accept these figures. But despite this, the post-truth comms team at UUK continues to falsely assert that for “the vast majority” of USS members the cut will be between 10% and 18%. Those of us who used the USS modeller know that this is simply untrue.

UCU’s proposal

At our General Meeting on 12th January, members expressed strong support for UCU issuing counterproposals designed to avoid industrial action. This was fed back to national UCU by branch officers, and a national Branch Delegates Meeting was held to discuss the form of these counterproposals. A version of the proposals that attracted strong local support were issued by UCU on 26th January. This solution would involve retaining existing benefits for at least a year, at the cost of contribution rises for members and employers. Critically, the cost to employers would still be within the overall cost envelope of the pension contributions forecast for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years.

The UCU proposal is consistent with the views of USS members as expressed in the recently completed consultation. The responses from the consultation show that most respondents are in favour of maintaining current benefits, even if this means paying slightly more until a new valuation could be completed. 

Nevertheless, UUK’s response to UCU’s attempt to resolve the dispute was to issue a statement saying that “The union’s proposal does not appear to be a serious attempt to reach agreement as it doesn’t reflect the views employers have expressed in consultations”. Apparently, UUK is willing to reach an agreement, but only if that agreement reflects their views!

Notably, UUK’s statement was issued without consultation with employers. Following productive discussions with the branch throughout January, the University has replied to UUK as follows:

Loughborough University welcomes the proposal tabled by UCU as an indication of potential first steps towards resolving the current dispute. We have supported in previous consultations a move to conditional indexation, a moderately prudent valuation at the earliest opportunity, and governance changes to USS. These are issues that will need to be resolved in the next period, and we are supportive of UUK and UCU working together to this end.

We strongly welcome UCU’s acceptance that benefit changes are likely to be necessary and see this as a significant change in their position (UCU’s letter says they will accept the ‘[securing of] current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the … valuation’).  

We have stated in previous consultations that we believe the current valuation was excessively prudent. It will be crucial to agree in negotiations what constitutes ‘moderate’ prudence. A suggestion would be to return towards the level of risk deemed acceptable in the 2017 valuation.

The ‘back-stop’ position proposed in point 3 commits employers to higher contribution rates whilst employee contributions remain unchanged. Even noting potential changes to benefits, this is not a realistic proposal and would call on UUK to negotiate with UCU to seek equal treatment to employer and employee contributions in this clause and bring total contributions as close as possible to current levels. 

We support a pausing of industrial action whilst meaningful dialogue at national level takes place over the coming weeks on the issues above, noting the very tight timeframes involved. 

We welcome this recognition from the University that UCU’s proposals were made in good faith as part of a genuine attempt to solve the dispute. Although we disagree with parts of the University’s approach, it is clear that if UUK adopted it then there would be a strong chance of a negotiated solution prior to industrial action. It is now crucial that the Vice Chancellor insists that his representatives do a better job of representing him than they have to date.

Industrial action

You will have received information from Jo Grady, UCU’s General Secretary, announcing that we will be taking industrial action from 14th February if the dispute is not resolved. Before that date USS Joint Negotiating Committee meetings are scheduled to take place on 1st and 11th February, so there is plenty of time for a negotiated solution to emerge.  However, if UUK remains intransigent, UCU will consider the implementation of an assessment and marking boycott to follow strike action.

UUK’s cuts are due to be formally confirmed at a meeting on 22nd February, so it is vital that the industrial action – if it is needed – is solid. We must demonstrate that we are not willing to accept such dramatic and unjustified cuts to our pensions, and that we will not tolerate our employers telling us that they want an agreement, but only if that agreement matches their views. 

Picket volunteers – as previously please get in touch with branch secretary Marc Gibson  – who is again co-ordinating this activity: M.A.Gibson@lboro.ac.uk.

Four Fights

The Four Fights component of Industrial Action begins to run alongside the USS element as of Monday and Tuesday 21st and 22nd February.

Industrial action: Organising to Win

We are very pleased to acknowledge a generous donation to the UCU strike funds from our campus colleagues in Unite the Union – a very big thank you!!

Covid Update

The latest testing data shows that the University undertook 7,154 LFTs (figure includes staff and students), with 107 positive Covid cases diagnosed.

Whilst it is acknowledged that trends in infection rates and more serious complications look positive overall, LUCU remains acutely aware of how quickly the outlook might change. In this regard, LUCU commends the comparatively cautious approach taken by LU in its decision to retain its strategy of regular testing for staff and students on campuses, and for its continued support for hybrid working where practicable.  LUCU will continue to closely co-operate with Unite and Unison in working with LU management to ensure that members are enabled to work in as safe a way as possible.

LUCU Committee

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

LUCU December 2021 Covid Bulletin

LUCU December 2021 Covid Bulletin

Alec Edworthy, our lead health and safety officer, reports on the latest Covid stats and the most recent meeting between the trade unions and management. 

Case Levels

LUCU continues to work closely with the other campus unions to monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus, meeting on a weekly basis with Neil Budworth, Director of Health, Safety, and Wellbeing, and Anne Lamb, Director of HR. While there has been an increase in cases reported by staff and students, the majority of these have been cases in staff who have school age children where it appears the children have been exposed at school and unfortunately brought it home.

There was a slight increase in cases in students which coincided with the fair being in town, the suspicion being that it came about from increased socialisation over that period, but otherwise cases in students living on campus remain very low and only slightly higher in those students living off campus. 

Face Coverings

The Chief Operating Officer Richard Taylor has sent a reminder to all staff and students that they “must wear face coverings in indoor public areas when moving around”, maintain social distancing, and participate in regular testing (staff and students should be taking LFD tests at least once a week and ideally twice per week).

Ventilation

The focus of our activities recently has been on ensuring that ventilation levels in teaching spaces and offices are at or above the levels required. Ventilation in teaching spaces and offices is provided in one of two ways, either using forced air as part of the overall building ventilation mechanism (managed and monitored by the Building Management System, or BMS) or using the doors and windows in the rooms, referred to as natural ventilation.  The potential viral load in a room is approximated using the proxy of CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels; the higher the CO2 in each area the less ventilation there is and therefore the higher the viral load is likely to be.  Most rooms which have forced air managed by the BMS have their CO2 levels monitored by the BMS, and reports on the levels observed in these spaces are regularly reviewed by Facilities Management to identify any spaces where there may be a need for alterations to be made. 

Most rooms which are naturally ventilated have been fitted with CO2 monitors which give the occupants a quick visual overview of the level in the room. These devices are generally attached to the wall in the room and look very similar to the carbon monoxide (CO) or smoke alarms that many of us have in our homes, except that they have three lights on them, one green, one amber and one red.  Green means that the level of CO2 is below the deemed safe level (the chosen level being 800ppm, with the faster it flashes indicating the closer it is to this threshold), amber means that the CO2 has increased above this lower limit and additional ventilation should be used (e.g. open additional windows or doors), and red means that an unacceptable level of CO2 has been detected (more than 1000ppm) and if it is not possible to provide additional ventilation (or doing so does not extinguish the red light) then the space should be vacated.

If you encounter a CO2 monitor with a red light on it, please do ensure that you file a Near Miss though the University’s Incident Reporting System and drop us an email too please so that we can follow up on it. Where staff have raised concerns with us (for example G Block and SCH105), these have been swiftly investigated by the University, with changes being made in those spaces to improve ventilation. 

LUCU Committee

LUCU News November 2021

LUCU News November 2021

GTVO – USS & Four Fights

We are very grateful to our Reps and members who volunteered their time to get the vote out! And thanks to all our members who endured with such good grace the many communications about returning your ballots. We are quietly confident that we are over the 50% threshold, and we will be writing to you again next week with the formal results for each ballot.

How You Can Help Build Support

Members have produced the following graphics that explain succinctly what is at stake regarding USS, workload, pay, and casualisation. We would appreciate members using the graphic as an email footer, sharing it on social media, and/or printing and displaying it on their office doors.

Video archive

If you haven’t had a chance yet to watch the videos by our Pensions Rep Matthew Inglis and our Negotiating Secretary Marc Gibson, you can find them on the LUCU YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIx1LVG6eg71sYj_RwLIxnQ

Covid Update

The Dispute Process

We can confirm that the agreement reached with management last year following the dispute process remains in place. The dispute resolution process comprises a pro-active response from SMTs. Managers are asked to identify as early as possible staff who may be concerned about providing in-person teaching. Requests to teach online rather than in-person should be treated sympathetically, and HR business partners are available to assist in determining what action is most appropriate to help staff, without necessarily triggering an OH consultation.

The resolution process has been very successful, but we continue to hear of a few isolated cases across campus where members are being unduly pressured to teach in-person. These individuals are being supported by our caseworkers.  If you are facing pressure to teach in-person, please let us know at UCU@lboro.ac.uk, or contact our Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix – A.dix@lboro.ac.uk, and we will raise the case as a matter of urgency with HR.

Health and Safety on Campus

We continue to meet regularly with management to monitor how the University is responding to the pandemic and the health and safety measures it is putting in place to protect staff and students. We are hearing reports from members who are increasingly concerned about people not wearing masks while moving around buildings or in teaching spaces, students being unresponsive when asked to wear masks in teaching spaces, students complaining about requests to wear masks, overcrowding in some hallways and teaching spaces, and requests to work on campus when people could perform their duties from home.

We have lobbied management to implement the following: 

  • To make mask-wearing mandatory as it is within their legal right to do;
  • To make public ventilation figures for every teaching space;
  • To provide CO2 monitors in shared enclosed spaces, including teaching rooms;
  • To allow home-working wherever possible (following SAGE guidance).

To be fair and transparent, we have offered management the opportunity to explain to members their reasons for declining these requests, and you will find their response attached to this newsletter.  

LUCU will continue to lobby management to agree to the above requests, because we believe that decisions should be based on scientific guidance rather than government guidance where the two may be in conflict, and our Health and Safety Officers believe the above measures would result in a safer campus environment.  Further, in relation to mask-wearing, we do not agree that it is appropriate to place the burden of enforcement on staff.   We would like the University to resource a plan for enforcement as they did last year.

We will also lobby management to provide appropriate support for staff whose requests for students to wear masks is being ignored and work to ensure that our members experience no detriment due to student complaints about reasonable requests to wear masks.  Please let us know if you have any concerns about Covid safety measures, especially concerning mask-wearing, in your work area: UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

LUCU Committee

LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

In this newsletter, we report on USS, Covid-19 H&S, Anti-Casualisation, and Dynamic Working. 

USS

Our Pensions Rep Matthew Inglis has produced an excellent short video that explains the cause of the pension dispute and demonstrates how the 2020 evaluation is flawed. We encourage all members to watch this: you can find it here. Please share the video to help publicise this issue.

We would like to remind members of the EGM on the USS Pension Dispute on October 8, 2021 – 1:00 – 1:50 on Teams. You can join the meeting via link that has been emailed to all members. If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question about the dispute, please contact UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

Covid Update

Face Masks

Following our last Covid update, some members raised concerns with the branch about the University no longer requiring the use of face masks; academic colleagues were especially concerned about higher risks posed by teaching in spaces where students were not wearing masks. At the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee meeting on 15 Sept., LUCU raised the issue with management, and they agreed to take a more robust approach toward encouraging the use of face masks on campus.  We appreciate the constructive response to the concerns we raised. In addition, so that colleagues can feel more secure about asking students to wear face masks, the University has provided a slide that can be inserted into lecture materials or used on LEARN to request that students wear face masks in teaching sessions (unless exempt). You can download the slide here.

Ventilation

Ventilation levels have been checked in all areas that have mechanical ventilation and the details of the ventilation rates should be included in the risk assessments which are available for staff to read if they wish (please speak to your School Safety Officer is you are unsure where to find them).  CO2 monitors are being used in several locations where there are concerns about ventilation levels (especially those with poor or no mechanical ventilation).

Testing and Covid Cases

All students moving into on-campus accommodation have been required to take a lateral flow test before being permitted to collect their keys. Up to mid-afternoon on 29 September 2021, there had only been four positive results, and, given that approximately 2,000 tests per day are being carried out this is a good sign.  Students will continue to be required to undertake at least one lateral flow test per week; external funding for the current testing programme is in place to the end of October, but almost certainly will be extended to the end of the first term at least.  Staff are asked to take a lateral flow test at least once a week when they are coming onto campus. 

Returning to Campus

With term having started, many staff have been asked to return, at least part time, to working on campus.  This may be for a number of different reasons, but unless there is a specific health and safety risk which has not been addressed, in general our contracts oblige us to comply with these requests. LUCU’s position is that the University should follow Indie-Sage advice, which would see those staff who can work from home continue to do so, and those activities (e.g. area and school meetings) that can be done virtually continue to take place on Teams.  We will continue to make this case to management. If you have specific concerns (e.g. too many people in an office or teaching space, having to use public transport at peak times to travel to campus, etc.) then please discuss these with your line manager in the first instance. Don’t hesitate to contact the union if you do not feel your concerns are being adequately addressed.

Dynamic Working

In discussions with management, LUCU has been broadly supportive of the initiative to introduce dynamic working. We welcome the greater flexibility this mode of working offers – especially for colleagues in professional services – and its potential to benefit those who have caring responsibilities or a disability.  The opportunity for staff to work ‘dynamically’ is at the discretion of line managers, and LUCU is keen to ensure that the policy is applied fairly across job families, schools, and units across campus.  If you experience any problems in relation to Dynamic Working, please contact your area Rep or the committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk so that we can bring them to the attention of HR.  If your request to work ‘dynamically’ is refused and you feel that you have been treated unfairly, you may also contact our Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix for individual support: A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk

Anti-Casualisation Campaign

The Casualisation Task and Finish Group, established following industrial action in 2018/19, has concluded its first phase. This has resulted in a Charter of Principles that the University has committed to in respect of casual employment, which is to be reviewed annually by management and campus unions. While we do not think this will eradicate the problems that casualisation causes, we hope that it will:

1) Improve pay and conditions for hourly paid workers in the immediate term;

2) Enable staff on open-ended contracts to make the case for more secure forms of employment when new staff are required;

3) Provide a platform for further organisation and negotiation.

The Charter of Principles can be read in full here. We’ll soon be publishing guidance for casual workers who feel these principles are not being honoured, and for staff on open-ended contracts who wish to support casualised colleagues. UCU has also recently produced some excellent materials for casual and open-ended staff: you can find them here. In the meantime, if you have any concerns, queries or suggestions, please contact David Bell on anticaslboro@gmail.com. If you are concerned that your employment at Loughborough is not in keeping with the spirit of the principles, please copy in your Department Rep, if possible (see here for a list of Reps).

LUCU Committee

Joint campus trade unions online meeting

Joint campus trade unions online meeting scheduled for Tuesday September 14th from 1- 2pm on MS Teams.
 
Loughborough University branches of UCU – University and College Union, Unite the union & Unison – Loughborough University are meeting together. Members please check your email for the link to the meeting. Join us to air your opinions, and hear those of your colleagues, on the planned health & safety measures for start of term at Loughborough University.
 
#LboroFamily

LUCU News September 2021

LUCU News September 2021

As we start a new academic year, LUCU is responding to the ongoing difficulties associated with the Covid pandemic and new threats to our pensions following UUK’s latest actions.

Covid Update

Representatives from LUCU continue to meet with the other campus unions and representatives from HR and University Health and Safety on a weekly basis.  Plans remain fluid as we continue to monitor case rates locally, nationally, and internationally, though a general plan for the beginning of the semester has been put together.

Teaching Delivery

For large lectures, teaching will initially be blended, with half of a class attending in person and half attending via MS Teams, with the halves switching on a weekly basis.  This policy will be reviewed on a two-weekly basis. Seminars are expected to be 100% in-person using rooms that have a normal (i.e. pre-Covid) capacity of approximately twice that of the class size. In some instances, this may not be possible to accommodate, and in those cases the seminar will either take place completely online, or in a room of as great a capacity as possible which also has additional ventilation.  Social distancing will remain at 2m for staff/student interactions, but it will almost certainly be completely relaxed for students themselves (except in labs which will remain at 1m+ because it has received positive feedback).

Testing

The University is strongly encouraging students to test before they travel. However, all students staying in on-campus accommodation will be required to have a Lateral Flow Test upon arrival. Anyone with a positive result will be denied access to their accommodation and asked to return home; it is accepted that this will not be possible in all cases so alternative plans are being drawn up to house students in this situation.  It is the intention that a similar test-to-access scheme will be in place for students who are resident in the town centre and third-party halls of residence, but these plans are not fully formed yet.  Our on-campus test facilities are currently guaranteed to be in place until the end of September, and the University is pushing DfE and PHE to extend this to at least the end of October. 

The University is conducting wastewater monitoring in all but two halls of residence on campus (the two which aren’t subject to testing are because of issues about the locations of sampling points). This has already detected a positive case where an individual was self-isolating due to a positive result, so it demonstrates that even with small case numbers it can prove useful.  A vaccination hub will be created on campus that will operate for five days from late September into early October to encourage and help students to get vaccinated. International students will also be able to get vaccinated on campus.

Face Coverings

Staff and students will be expected to wear face coverings when moving around indoor spaces. Students won’t be expected to wear face coverings when sitting in lectures or study spaces. The University position is that face coverings are not needed where there is social distancing of 2m between staff and students as well as additional ventilation. Notwithstanding, staff should still feel empowered to politely request the use of face coverings (unless someone is exempt), but you should be aware that individuals have the right to refuse the request.  LUCU and the other campus trade unions have argued that management should robustly enforce the use of face coverings on campus indoors, as they have the right to do.

Office spaces will remain at reduced occupancy levels, although where there is a need for increased staffing local mitigations (such as carefully placed perspex screens) will be used where appropriate and subject to suitable risk assessments and monitoring.  The University is also increasing the use of CO2 monitors to check ventilation levels in areas of concern.

If you have any concerns about the safety of your workplace relevant to Covid (or any other H&S issue), please contact your UCU Rep, or committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

USS Pensions – Update

You will have received an important email from Jo Grady, UCU’s General Secretary, with the subject line ‘Important Update on Today’s USS Negotiations.’

Unfortunately, UUK has pushed through their proposal to significantly cut our benefits, even though they consider the 2020 valuation unjustified: they propose to reduce the salary cap for defined benefits from £60,000 to £40,000 per annum, cap indexation at 2.5 per cent per annum, and reduce the accrual rate from 1/75th of salary to 1/85th of salary.

At the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), UCU put forward a compromise position, which would have involved sharing the cost of the unreasonable USS valuation between employers and employees. Unfortunately, UUK effectively blocked this proposal from being considered by refusing to provide any ‘covenant support’ (the commitment that employers make to pension schemes) if the UCU proposals were implemented. The net result is that UUK want employees to bear the full cost of USS’s flawed valuation.

On September 3, UCU held a members’ briefing that addressed USS, as well as Covid and the Four Fights campaign.  If you like more detail about pensions negotiations and how UCU proposes to respond to the JNC decision, you can watch the recording here: UCU higher education briefing, 03 September 2021 – YouTube

How much will this cost you?

You can see how much pension you will lose if the UUK proposals come into force by using the First Actuarial modeller at: http://ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller.

Please Check Your Details

Assuming the JNC’s recommendation is approved by the USS trustees, a 60-day consultation will follow with scheme members. This means that industrial action will likely be needed if UUK are to revisit their position. Because the law requires that industrial action ballots are conducted by post, it is extremely important that UCU has an up-to-date postal address for you that you check regularly (i.e. if you are mostly working from home at the moment, it would be better to receive your ballot paper at home).

You can check/amend your UCU account details here: UCU – Support Home Page.  If you prefer, you can update your mailing address by emailing our branch administrator Callum Salfield.

The Oxbridge Joint Statement

Recently, Cambridge UCU and Oxford UCU branches published a joint statement with their universities calling for reform of the USS scheme. The proposed new design would involve conditional indexation – a form of member risk-and-reward-sharing.  This would not solve the problem of the 2020 valuation, but it could offer a long-term solution to funding USS that would ensure members receive a good pension. LUCU and Lboro management share the belief that conditional indexation is a viable option for pension scheme redesign, and we will be joining several other institutions in issuing a joint statement to this effect.  Although the USS pension dispute cannot be resolved at a local level, LUCU committee will work with Lboro management to protect pension benefits wherever possible.

Joint Union Activity

Over the past year LUCU has worked closely with the other campus trade unions to increase our leverage in negotiations, and we will continue to collaborate with Unite and UNISON where this enables us to best serve members’ interests.  Currently, we are working together on issues of pay, restructures, the reform of grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures, as well as workplace health and safety. 

A combined trades union meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, 2021, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm on Teams. You can join the meeting via this link: Click here to join the meeting

The purpose of this EGM is two-fold:

1) to canvass members’ opinions on the health and safety measures that the University has planned for the start of term in October;

2) to update members on decisions reached at the UCU Special HE Sector Conference (September 9th) where USS will be a key agenda item.

LUCU Committee

LUCU News: August 2021

LUCU News: August 2021

Covid Update

LUCU Health and Safety officers continue to meet weekly with management to inform and monitor how the University is responding to the pandemic. We are pleased that the University is planning to retain the use of masks, social distancing, and increased ventilation, as well as the testing, track and trace regime.

While returning to work on campus is currently permitted, it is not mandatory at present: decisions about returning to campus working are devolved to individual schools and services to manage on a justifiable as-required basis.  If you have a significant concern about being required to come back to campus that you feel is not being handled appropriately by your line management, contact your LUCU area Rep or committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk.  

The University has produced an updated set of Q&As for staff, which may be found here: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/studying-working-living/staff/faqs/

USS Update

The fall-out from the flawed March 2020 valuation of the USS pension scheme continues. Following a consultation with employers, including Loughborough, we now know that Universities UK (UUK) intends to propose ~25% cuts to the value of your pension. LUCU strongly encourages you to use the UCU modeller to calculate how much annual income in retirement you personally stand to lose if UUK is able to force through these cuts. The modeller has been produced by First Actuarial (a professional firm of actuaries), is easy to use, and is available here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller.

The next important stage in the process is the August meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), when it is expected that UUK plans to formally propose these cuts to your pension. The JNC is made up of equal numbers of representatives from UUK and UCU, plus an independent chair. If the independent chair decides to vote with the UUK representatives then, unfortunately, it is likely that industrial action will be required to protect our pensions. 

For background on the dispute, and details of why UUK’s proposed cuts are unjustified, two helpful

sources are:

– Woon Wong’s article in the Newsletter of the Royal Economic Society, entitled “Universities’ superannuation fund is accumulating surplus assets!”: https://www.res.org.uk/resources-page/universities-superannuation-fund-is-accumulating-surplus-assets.html.

– Sam Marsh’s article in USSBriefs entitled “How extreme prudence and misguided risk-management sent the USS into crisis”: https://medium.com/ussbriefs/how-extreme-prudence-and-misguided-risk-management-sent-the-uss-into-crisis-baf78c35d9e1.

Casework Update

We have reported before in the newsletter on the personal casework undertaken by members of the Branch. At this point in the academic cycle, with the year heading to a close, it might be helpful to provide an update on our recent casework activity. Since October 2020, we have supported 24 members who approached us seeking advice and representation. These cases have ranged from grievances to disciplinary hearings, and from workload issues to restructures and redundancies. The number also includes several colleagues whom we have assisted in securing exemption from in-person teaching at the height of the pandemic. 

Many of these cases are complex, involving caseworkers in significant preparation and multiple meetings. Some of them are ongoing and not to be resolved until the next academic year (by which time other members seeking our support will doubtless have come forward). In each instance, however, we hope that we have been able to offer colleagues facing difficult circumstances both practical guidance and emotional support.

We should say a word about the place of casework in the Branch’s activity at large. Although each case is inevitably individual in its focus, supporting a particular colleague, it is far from true that casework is cut off from our broader campaigning. Regular meetings of the casework team identify patterns and tendencies – how the University is managing restructures, for example – and this then informs our negotiations with the institution. What seems to be a narrowly personal activity is thus always collective in its implications.

As members know, our caseworkers are all volunteers, taking on this task in addition to their day jobs in the institution. Currently we have an excellent team of dedicated people – but more caseworkers are always very welcome. A short training session, delivered either on campus or online by the Union’s regional office, will be arranged for the early autumn – so, if you think you might be interested in becoming a caseworker, do look out for details in due course. In the meantime, if anyone would like to talk about what the role entails, or would like casework support, please contact our Personal Casework Co-ordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk).

UCU National Campaign: Building Power in the Workplace

We would like to call attention to this guide that UCU has produced for members, which outlines how to bring about deeper levels of organising to produce the power necessary to win significant victories on the four fights: Pensions, Pay, Casualisation and Workload. https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/11564/Building-power-in-workplace-an-introduction/pdf/Building_power_in_workplace_June21.pdf

LUCU Newsletter

Committee has been discussing how best to use the newsletter to communicate with members. We are moving away from lengthy newsletters issued every two months in favour of a shorter newsletter that we will send out during the first week of each month. We will continue to send email briefings about urgent matters as they occur.

LUCU Committee – 02/08/2021

LUCU News: June 2021

LUCU News: June 2021

AGM Report

Matters of interest going forward that were reported on/discussed are as follows: ongoing negotiations with management have resulted in a formal review of the PDR process, promotions process, and Grievance process being initiated this year – these reviews will conclude at different points through 2021-22. A Charter to improve and protect the working terms and conditions of Casual Staff is in the final stages of negotiation following the work of the Anti-Casualisation Task and Finish Group, and we will report back when this has been adopted. 

Three motions were debated: 1) Rule Change Motion (Annual General Meeting) – passed; 2) Rule Change Motion (Rules for Local Motions) – withdrawn; 3) Local Subs Motion 2021 – passed. 

Local Subs Motion 2021

The majority of our local branch income pays for our excellent administrative support, without which the branch would not be able to achieve all it does.  Branch officers would spend much more time doing administrative tasks and would have far less time to spend negotiating with the University and supporting members through casework.  UCU staff are members of the USS pension scheme alongside us.

This motion had two aims:

  1. We needed to stem a current deficit in the branch finances and allow for expected staffing cost increases, especially due to USS;
  2. We hoped to move from a regressive flat-fee structure to a progressive tiered structure.

As a result of this motion passing, local subscription rates will move from a flat fee paid by all members (whose earnings vary enormously) to a tiered structure based on the pay bands used for your national UCU subscriptions.  This does mean a small increase for our highest earners but allows for a decrease for those earning less.  Our very lowest earners (under £5,000 per year), typically employed part time and often on precarious contracts, will no longer pay local subscriptions.  Previously they paid over three times more for their local subscription than their national subscription.

The changes are as follows:

TierNationalNew LocalCurrent totalNew totalChange
£60,000 & above (F0)£27.11£6.87£30.61£33.98+£3.37
£40,000 – £59,999 (F1)£23.94£4.58£27.44£28.52+£1.08
£30,000 – £39,999 (F2)£21.06£3.44£24.56£24.50-£0.06
£22,000 – £29,999 (F3)£17.96£2.52£21.46£20.48-£0.98
£15,000 – £21,999 (F4)£10.71£1.72£14.21£12.43-£1.78
£5,000 – £14,999 (F5)£4.67£0.57£8.17£5.24-£2.93
Below £5,000 (F6)£0.99£0.00£4.49£0.99-£3.50
Changes to contributions rates

77 of our lowest paid, often most precariously employed, members have their subscriptions reduced
84 pay roughly the same
319 pay just over £1 more
66 highest paid members pay £3.37 more – to use a now somewhat hackneyed phrase, “the price of a coffee”.

I’m grateful to all of the members who voted in favour of the progressive option which makes our subscription model much fairer.

David Wilson, Branch Treasurer

The composition of the LUCU Committee for 2021-22 was announced:

Chair – Mary Brewer

Negotiating Secretary – Marc Gibson

Casework Coordinator – Andrew Dix

Health and Safety Officer – Alec Edworthy

Equalities Officer – Sue Hignett

Pensions Rep – Matthew Inglis

Treasurer – David Wilson

Membership Secretary – Marie Hanlon

Ordinary member – Joanna Boehnert

EGM on Workload – Report

Our most recent EGM addressed how workload for next year is being managed across departments/schools.

There was some good news from members in SDCA, where SMT is taking a more progressive approach to workload, which involves open discussions at school meetings where staff (and our LUCU Reps) can raise the question of tariffs, un-costed work, EDI, and other issues of concern.  This effort at genuine consultation, transparency, and inclusion is welcome!  We are also pleased to report that the Dean of Loughborough London responded immediately and positively to working with us on workload and EDI related issues as part of the planning for next year’s workload. 

While these are hopeful developments, members in other schools reported limited or no consultation on workload, tariff reductions to make staff appear to be working within the 1598 agreed workload, tariffs that bear scant relation to the time needed for tasks, stress from overwork, a lack of transparency/fairness relevant to workload, and uncertainty regarding the appropriate consideration of EDI and workload. LUCU will be running a workload campaign in 2021-22, with the aim addressing the problems with workload that have been highlighted by members.

In response to issues raised by the Workload Task and Finish group (which is ongoing),  the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor is preparing a paper on the new workload model that will be presented at the next ARSNC, and we will report back to members about this in due course.  

If you would like a copy of the minutes from the AGM and/or EGM, please write to UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

Covid Update

LUCU continue to work closely alongside the other campus unions, HR, and Health and Safety to monitor the situation surrounding Covid-19.

Loughborough still has the highest student testing compliance rates in HE, and it is because of this that cases remain very low.  We have seen a slight increase in cases recently, reflecting the national situation, but with the prompt action from Connect and Protect the numbers are being kept low and full contact tracing is taking place (no links between the cases have been identified suggesting that they are community acquired rather than University related).  With the likelihood of further relaxation of the restrictions, we’re anticipating campus getting busier and more people returning to the office.  As and when this happens, we will work to ensure that our members’ working environments are managed safely and appropriately.

LUCU would like to remind our members that we must not get complacent – social distancing, face coverings (except where exempt), regular hand washing and plenty of ventilation are still essential.  If you feel comfortable, please do politely challenge others where you see these rules not being observed, or, if you prefer, please alert the relevant Health and Safety contact in your area so that they may ensure compliance with Covid safety rules. And please continue to let us know of any concerns you may have about health and safety in your area of work.

Alec Edworthy, Branch Health and Safety Officer

USS Pensions

We would like to remind members to use the UCU modeller that has been developed, which will show how your pension will be affected if the changes to USS advocated by UUK become a reality: UCU – UUK pension proposal modeller.

The modeller may be used by non-members as well, so please share widely with colleagues.

LUCU Committee

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