Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 22nd November 2017

1) USS Industrial Action Ballot – Coming Soon!

The ballot for industrial action opens next week, running until 19th January 2018.

You will be receiving ballot papers – to your nominated address – shortly.

The decision to hold the ballot comes on the back of events last week. UCU had asked UUK to reach an agreement with us, regarding the future of the USS scheme, by Monday last week. We received no such assurance, thus triggering an industrial dispute on grounds of ‘the employers’ failure to agree to “protect members’ pension benefits”‘.

We also received confirmation that UUK are formally proposing the end of USS defined benefit (DB) scheme and a move to a defined contribution (DC) scheme.

DC is a potentially drastic cut to our USS pensions. It could lead to a final pension worth around 20% of that in the best defined benefit schemes. As our General Secretary has made clear, ‘Universities UK (UUK) have made a proposal to UCU which would mean the effective end of USS as we know it. It is the worst proposal I have received in twenty years of representing university staff and we need to fight it’.

Although UCU national negotiators consider a shift to DC the view of a minority of employers, UUK has decided to take this drastic step. Reflecting the desire of HE employers to disinvest in staff, they have decided to propose effectively privatising USS, to strip away the collective risk pooling of the scheme and support the ideological construction of the so-called USS deficit.

The USS dispute is an intergenerational Higher Education staff issue. The struggle to defend USS is one for future generations of academics-to-be and their need for a decent pension. Remind postgrads that UCU membership is now free for postgrads who teach.

2) Solidarity with UCU at Bath and Southampton

Colleagues at the University of Bath, many of whom have been pointing out the avarice of their VC for many years, have seen much of their work vindicated this week in HEFCE’s ‘report of a enquiry into governance surrounding senior pay at the University of Bath’:

As highlighted by Bath UCU President and South West UCU Region President, Michael Carley:

The Vice-Chancellor and senior managers did not act “in good faith” when the Remuneration Committee was discussed at Court in February (FIndings 25 and 26)
Consideration should be given to including staff and/or student representatives on the Remuneration Committee (Recommendation 11)
There is not “sufficient evidence that Council has considered these matters [remuneration] as thoroughly as it should” (Finding 32)

Michael added ‘it has taken a long time for Bath UCU and others to get to this stage, but we have been vindicated by the regulator’.

Colleagues at the University of Southampton were shocked last week by the announcement that 75 lecturers’ jobs are at risk.

The University says it wants to reduce staff costs, but it has already slashed the proportion of money that it spends on staff. A decade ago 60% of the university’s income went on staff costs. That figure is now just 53%.

At the same time, senior salaries have ballooned, with the vice-chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden’s pay and benefits package now £352,000 and the number of staff earning over £100,000 rising to 137.

Members may have seen the recent headline about the Southampton VC: ‘University of Southampton advertises chauffeur job in the same week as making 75 job cuts’