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debated: 1) Rule Change Motion (Annual General Meeting) – passed; 2) Rule Change Motion (Rules for Local Motions) – withdrawn; 3) Local Subs Motion 2021 – passed.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

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

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

As you will have seen from the Vice Chancellor’s message on Wednesday, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has issued a new valuation.

The goal of the valuation is to assess the scheme’s assets and liabilities as of 31st March 2020. As the Vice Chancellor pointed out, pension funds are legally required to conduct valuations every three years. USS last undertook a valuation two years ago. Consequently,  this valuation, the date of which coincided with perhaps the most uncertain point of the pandemic, is not required to take place for another year.

USS has used a valuation method very similar to that proposed in September 2020. In its response to these proposals, Universities UK (UUK), the group which speaks on behalf of universities like Loughborough, described the valuation method as “extremely unhelpful”, “unreasonable”, “unrealistic”, “incredibly conservative” and “unjustifiable”. UUK concluded that USS was making “extreme and unwarranted” proposals. Remarkably, the proposals issued on Wednesday are actually more extreme than those which prompted these unrestrained remarks.

UCU agrees with UUK’s criticisms of the valuation method. We continue to believe that the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel, which was set up by UCU and UUK following the 2018 industrial action, should be implemented.

The branch is engaging with management colleagues here at Loughborough. A report will be provided at the forthcoming AGM and members will have the opportunity to pose questions to our Pensions Rep, Matthew Inglis.

LUCU Committee

LUCU Statement regarding the Strike

LUCU Statement regarding the Strike

We are writing about the email sent by the Vice Chancellor on Wednesday 13 November regarding the strike.

The VC is quite right that he engaged with staff, and that he has made a public call for limiting employee contributions to 9.1%. Most Vice Chancellors have not done this and we appreciate the VC has made himself unpopular with some of them. Further, we acknowledge the frustration for our VC that some of the universities where the ballot turnout did not exceed the 50% threshold have less proactive, less sympathetic Vice Chancellors. Moreover we take his expressed concerns about the financial implications of increased contributions by the university seriously and in good faith.

However UCU’s position is that no one, not employees and not employers, need have their contributions increased. Rather at the root of the dispute is the valuation method. The debate is not “who should fund the increases” but whether or not increases are necessary.

The resolution to the 2018 strikes came from the establishment of a UUK/UCU Joint Expert Panel, which was tasked with reviewing the valuation method and proposing a way forward. If the methodology recommended by the Joint Expert Panel in their first report had been implemented, then neither employer nor employee contributions would be going up.

A couple of other points. The VC’s email mentioned that “employees currently contribute 9.6% of salary” but we highlight that this is only true since 1st October 2019. It was 8% before last year’s strike, then went to 8.8% and now has gone up to 9.6%. The email also noted that the USS Trustee includes UCU representatives but two clarifications are in order. First, UCU has nominees not representatives: these nominees are legally independent of UCU, and their actions are not controlled by UCU. Second, in recent weeks one of the UCU nominees, Professor Jane Hutton, was dismissed by USS after raising concerns about their valuation method.

Finally, we note that our VC is in engaging in meaningful discussion with LUCU committee and is making constructive proposals about how we might resolve the situation. We are grateful to have such a proactive and sympathetic Vice Chancellor at Loughborough who engages meaningfully with the branch and we do not take this for granted. We will be in touch again to canvas members’ views on the options as we see them.

LUCU Committee

LUCU Committee Advice to Striking Members

LUCU Committee Advice to Striking Members

The branch think it important that staff who are considering strike action understand what is legally required and understand the guidance being issued in relation to both the proposed strike action between Nov 25th and Dec 4th and action short of a strike that will continue thereafter.

We believe some managers are making suggestions which are not in keeping with current guidance.

You are not required to give of strike action to management, or to students – although when asked afterwards if you did take strike action, you are required to provide this information.

It is recommended that colleagues give notice on the morning of the strike that they will be absent, as they would if they were going to be absent due to sickness. This is the case whether it involves lectures, seminars, or project supervision. This gives managers the same time frame to notify students of changes. Even though, again, there is no need to do so.

The branch is concerned that some of recommendations from some managers are asking to ensure the ‘smooth running of the programmes’ after December 4th is a request to ignore the action short of strike, thus to act to minimise disruption lessens and undermines the impact of the strike itself.

For more information please see the FAQ’s on UCU’s website.

LUCU Committee