1) USS Dispute Update
At the General Meeting last week, branch reps gave an update – Powerpoint here [link]— on the current state of the USS dispute.
The University of Bristol has submitted its response to the March UUK consultation on the USS 2018 valuation [link], with branch reps having a good deal of input at the Staff Pensions Working Group. The University continues to back the JEP and in its response, advocates for the least worst option given the constraints put down by USS trustees.
What is the this least worst option? In short, USS contributions from employers and individual staff members to be kept to under 30% – avoiding the hikes scheduled to kick in October this year and April the next – and the maintenance of the current Defined Benefit CARE part of the scheme. This April sees the first tranche of contribution increases – a rise of 0.8% of salary for individual staff member; a cut of £19 a month in take home pay for someone earning £35,000, for example, before incoming tax changes are considered. The 1% employer match in the “Investment Builder” will also end.
As pointed out in the recent UCU HQ USS update, ‘the USS Board will then consider its response at the end of March. In any national negotiations UCU will reiterate our clear position of no detriment in either benefits or contributions and continue to argue for the implementation of all of the JEP’s recommendations. If we fall short of this outcome it will ultimately be for members to decide whether further industrial action is required to achieve the union’s aims’.
Rising workload continues to be the pressing issue for Bristol UCU members: one only need consult the Staff Survey. As members are aware, Bristol UCU is currently involved in implementing a set of workload allocation principles across the University, a project University is engaging with and leading on.
Workload models or no, tackling unmanageable workload continues to be a pressing issue requiring urgent remedy. Members may be aware of the tragic story of Cardiff University lecturer Malcolm Anderson, who took his own life.
BBC Points West recent covered Malcolm’s story and the impact on his family. Bristol UCU Branch Secretary Jamie Melrose also contributed to the story:
3) Sundowner Email Policy
The University will begin drafting new advice shortly on email etiquette as part of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Campus trade unions will be invited to a working group to contribute towards its development. Members are invited to email Branch Vice President Suzy Cheeke (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any ideas for inclusion.
Flashback to Hugh Brady addressing crowd at USS rally this time last year; a pivotal moment in the strike.