USS & Four Fights Strike Update – 15th March

USS & Four Fights Strike Update

Additional Strike Days Announced 

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.

Picket Details

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.  

LUCU Committee 

LUCU Strike Bulletin – 10 February 2022

LUCU Strike Bulletin – 10 February 2022

Call for pickets

We are asking you to come forwards to help the branch mount pickets across all gates of the University during the strike. Please contact Marc Gibson M.A.Gibson@lboro.ac.uk

Deductions

The branch understands that deductions for the forthcoming strikes will again be staggered in March and April and is a token of the good relations that continue here between the branch and LU’s senior managers, for which we continue to be grateful.

Out of Office Message

Please find a suggested Out Of Office Message that you may adopt or use as the basis of your own message during strike action:

I am taking part in the UCU industrial action to protect pensions, and to end gender, race and disability pay gaps, precarious employment contracts and excessive workloads. During the strike period beginning 14th February, I will not be answering emails.  

If you are a student and need to discuss a wellbeing issue, please contact: <insert details here>  

If you would like further information about the reasons for the UCU industrial action, you can follow these links:  here, or here.  

Your closing address
Your name

Information for students

It is important to keep students as ‘on side’ as possible, and, while members are not obliged to declare strike action in advance, in keeping with the spirit of ‘good will’ shown by management in staggering deductions, we invite members to inform students and colleagues that you will not be teaching/keeping your appointments.  Here is a suggested template that you may adapt for use with your students, either in an email or on your LEARN pages (you may wish to put in figures that reflect your own prospective losses):

Dear <name>

You may be aware that the University and College Union (UCU), which represents lecturers and professional services staff such as librarians and IT specialists, has called a strike beginning on Monday, 14 February and extending in its first phase until Tuesday 22 February (inclusive). 

As a member of the union, I am writing to let you know that I will be observing this strike. This means that none of my teaching on those days will take place. I would like to take this opportunity to explain why I believe it necessary to take strike action, and would appreciate it if you can take a moment to consider my message. 

The first and most important reason staff are striking is to resist drastic cuts proposed to their pensions.  Depending on their age, lecturers stand to lose between 25% and 35% of their income in retirement. Personally, I face losing 27% of my pension, INSERT YOUR OWN FIGURE HERE IF YOU WISH and this level of financial loss would result in unsustainable damage to my living standards in retirement. These cuts are based on a flawed model of what the pension scheme is worth and how it is likely to perform in future.  UCU has tabled alternative, workable proposals for the pension scheme that, at present, employers are refusing to engage with. Loughborough University’s management agrees with the union that the valuation of the pension scheme is problematic; however, this issue cannot be solved at a local level. Therefore, the union has called national strike action in order to exert pressure on university employers to negotiate in good faith and to find a fair solution.

The second reason for taking strike action is what UCU calls the ‘Four Fights’ (addressing major problems in the university sector of falling pay, excessive workload, inequality, and insecure employment contracts).

Taking strike action is a very difficult thing to do and something we consider only as a last resort. For one thing, our pay is deducted when we are on strike. But it is also difficult because we want to be doing our jobs, the most important and enjoyable part of which is giving students the best possible learning experience. I know that having your teaching cancelled will cause you disappointment and frustration, but I hope that you can understand my reasons for taking strike action, even if you may not agree with them.

If you would like to learn more about the industrial action, please take a look at this video which has been made by a Loughborough lecturer, and which has been shared with LSU for circulation to their members.

Your sincerely  

LUCU News December 2021

LUCU News December 2021

USS: Response to Vice-Chancellor’s email

We have reported on our ongoing work with management related to workload, EDI and casualisation in previous newsletters, so we concentrate here on USS.

We welcome the University’s continuing willingness to discuss these issues with the branch. This has led to a several important developments. Firstly, we are pleased that the University continues to recognise that the current USS valuation is excessively prudent and that, as a result, the cuts to our pensions we are being asked to accept are unnecessary. Secondly, we are also pleased that the University has called for a new evidence-based, moderately prudent valuation to supersede the existing flawed valuation.

Making such a call was one of the two demands that UCU made of employers in the current dispute. Finally, we very much welcome the University’s acceptance that UUK should provide the same level of covenant support to all proposals considered at the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). UUK’s refusal to do this in August, with the consequence that UCU’s proposals could not be considered, is a direct cause of the industrial action scheduled.

However, we are disappointed that the University is not willing to call for the current UUK proposals to be withdrawn, the second of the two demands in UCU’s dispute letter. The rationale given by the Vice Chancellor – this would mean that we would be on a path to crippling contribution increases – is unjustified for at least two reasons. The first is that it ignores the fact that employers’ actions put staff on a path to crippling pension cuts. Essentially the Vice Chancellor’s argument is that the costs associated with the flawed 2020 valuation are so crippling that the University cannot risk being exposed to a share of them, so staff must be exposed to almost 100% of these costs instead. This is simply not fair. The second reason is (as explained here) withdrawing the UUK proposals would not involve significant contribution rises until October 2022. This would create enough space to find a negotiated settlement without the need for industrial action. Such a settlement would prevent the unaffordable increases scheduled for that date.

To be clear, the forthcoming industrial action would not be necessary if employers were willing to (i) call for a new evidence-based, moderately prudent valuation, and (ii) withdraw the current UUK proposals, and (iii) enter into good faith negotiations to find a fairer solution. We are very pleased that the University accepts (i) and (iii), but we are disappointed that it has chosen industrial action over calling for the withdrawal of the UUK proposals.

EGM Report: USS/Four Fights/Industrial Action

At the UCU delegates’ meeting on 12 November, the Branch representatives voted in line with the views expressed by Loughborough members at the EGM two days earlier: that is, in support of re-balloting universities that did not reach the 50% threshold, with industrial action to begin in the New Year.

The NEC met the following week and indeed decided to re-ballot those universities, but also to initiate strike action before the Christmas break. Therefore, failing a last-minute breakthrough in negotiations, we will be on strike on December 1-3 inclusive. We encourage you to let students know in advance if you will be taking part in strike action so as to maintain good relations and to avoid causing them undue inconvenience.

We are grateful to senior management for agreeing to delay pay deductions for December strike action until February, and for agreeing to maintain pension contributions during the action.

Pickets

There will be in-person pickets on campus each day. We will meet at the main University entrance at 8:00 am and picket until approximately 11 o’clock. There will be a BBQ on Friday.

BBQ on the Picket Line

To keep members safe, hand sanitiser will be provided as required on picket lines, social distancing will be observed, a list of participants for contact tracing purposes will be kept, and members intending to join the picket are asked to take a lateral flow test before participating.

Members who do not wish to use public transport to attend a picket might consider offering or taking part in virtual forms of action, such as organising a teach-in or using social media to distribute fliers and messages.

If you can support the action by joining a picket, offering a virtual event, or helping to advertise the action, please contact Marc Gibson

Out of Office Message

Below is a suggested out-of-office message for you to use during the period of industrial action. Of course, please feel free to adapt as you see fit:

I am currently unavailable as I am taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action to defend our right to a fair pension. Please redirect your query to the University management, asking them to use their leverage to help secure a return to negotiations.

Solidarity with Leicester UCU

Some of our members will be supporting Leicester colleagues to GTVO in their re-ballot on USS. If you can’t travel to join the Loughborough picket line, but live in Leicester, please consider visiting their picket lines: they propose an 8:30 am start, with each day ending with a rally and march at 11am.

Branch News

LUCU Health and Safety officers undertook a programme of health and safety inspections in one School (as per Regulation 5 of the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations), following multiple reports from members in three subject areas who reported excessive workloads and work-related stressors that were having a detrimental impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.

The inspection took place between 26 October and 19 November. Four meetings chaired by a LUCU H&S officer enabled participants (both members and non-members in the School) to feed back on their work experience in terms of Demands (workload, work patterns and environment); Control (how much say they have over how they work); Support (resources provided both centrally by the University and by line management); and Change (how changes are managed and communicated). This was followed up by a survey. In total, we captured feedback from 66 staff.

The data collected revealed significant stress hazards, and a discursive analysis of responses, along with the survey results, was submitted to HR, with a request that management urgently develop an action plan to address the problems (with deadlines for reaching interim targets, as well as long term improvements). We are pleased to report that the University recognizes the validity of concerns about staff wellbeing in the School, and a meeting is scheduled between HR and the School’s SMT to start formulating an action plan. We will continue to monitor the situation through our reps, as well as through consultation with management about progress on the action plan.

New Reps

We would like to welcome two new reps. Saul Albert, who lectures on social psychology in Social Sciences and Humanities, is our new rep in Communications and Media. Tony Sutton, who is a University Teacher in Wolfson, will now be representing members in Mechanical Engineering. Saul succeeds Dominic Wring, while Tony is taking over from Kaddour Bouazza-Marouf. The Branch Committee would like to thank Dom and Kaddour for their many years of excellent service to members in their areas.

LUCU reps serve as essential ‘on the ground’ points of contact for members. If you might be interested in serving as a rep for your area and would like to know more about what the role entails, we encourage you to talk to our Membership Secretary Marie Hanlon

LUCU Committee