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UCU reps are meeting on Wednesday 28th March to discuss options. Photo: UCU

UCU reps are meeting on Wednesday 28th March to discuss options. Photo: UCU

These motions, passed at various branches, offer a guide as to how we should approach the dispute at this critical moment

Many UCU branches have organised emergency meetings in response to the latest offer from UUK, the university employers’ organisation, to settle the pensions dispute. The following motions were all passed overwhelmingly on 26 March 2018 and are designed to guide reps attending the national meeting on Wednesday 28 March. All these motions suggest that the offer falls well short of members’ expectations.

Goldsmiths UCU

This branch welcomes the climb down by UUK in removing its previous, unacceptable offer and instructs negotiators to seek more assurances from UUK before the new offer is put to all members. In particular, these assurances should establish:

1. That a pension 'comparable with current provision' equates to one that is not inferior to our existing provision and which retains defined benefit.

  • 2. That all valuations are carried out on a transparent basis in relation both to data and decision-making, and subject to fixed deadlines such that they allow UCU to engage in effective industrial action.
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  • 3. That The Pension Regulator’s 30 June deadline be suspended.
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  • 4. That there should be no recriminations for students or staff, including any requirement to reschedule work lost as a result of industrial action.
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  • If these assurances cannot be given by 16 April, then the current programme of industrial action should continue.
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Sussex UCU

Sussex UCU calls on UCU negotiators to submit a counter-proposal to the UUK proposal of 23rd March with the following amendments:

1. Alter para 2 so that it reads "It will require maintenance of the status quo in respect of both employee contributions into USS and current pension benefits, until at least April 2019the panel has finished its work and any resulting adjustments to the scheme have been agreed."

2. Add a sentence after the first sentence of para 3: "UUK will ask the trustees of USS to provide whatever data the panel requires for its work, and all such data will be made available for public scrutiny."

3. Add a clause to para 4 sentence 1 so that it reads "The panel will focus in particular on reviewing the basis of the scheme valuation, assumptions and associated tests; this review will include an examination of the basis for setting the discount rate and the merits of assessing the scheme's solvency by predicted cash flows rather than by capitalisation of future liabilities."

4. Alter para 5 sentence 2 so that it reads "If in the light of that contributions or benefits need to be adjusted in either direction, any changes need to be made to the scheme both parties are committed to agree to recommend to the JNC and the trustee, measures aimed at stabilising the fund to provide a guaranteed pension, and an employee contribution level, broadly comparable withessentially the same as current arrangements. Recognising that employers' contributions were substantially reduced between 1997 and 2009 while employees' contributions remained unchanged, any increase in contributions that may be required for the 2019-2022 cycle should come from employers. Any UCU recommendation to the JNC would be subject to the agreement of UCU membership.

5. Insert new para after para 5: "UUK and UCU will agree a fairer alternative to the present arrangement of JNC(in which in case of a tied vote the chair uses a casting vote)."

6. Insert second new para after para 5: "UUK and UCU undertake to collaborate in the above process in good faith."

7. Add a sentence to para 7 so that it reads "Support for this process will need to be sought from the USS trustees and the pensions regulator, recognising their statutory responsibilities. This will need to include acceptance by the pensions regulator of an extension of the deadline for completing the 2017 valuation, and from the USS trustees that the conclusions resulting from the panel's work will be allowed to replace the November 2017 valuation as the basis for any reform of the current scheme. Both UCU and UUK will make the necessary approaches to seek this support.

8. Add a clause to para 8 so that it reads: "Should this process prove acceptable to all parties, including the USS trustees and the pensions regulator, this could provide the basis for the UCU to consult its branches and membersballot its members on ending the industrial action currently underway within the sector."

UCL UCU

1. UCU negotiators should submit a Counter Proposal to UUK that includes the text of UUK's proposal with the following amendment. In the bullet point beginning 'The panel will make an assessment of the valuation', delete from 'measures aimed at...' and replace the text so that the whole text now reads as follows:

  • 2. The panel will make an assessment of the valuation. If in the light of that contributions or benefits need to be adjusted in either direction, both parties are committed to agree to recommend to the JNC and the trustee measures aimed at stabilising the fund to provide a guaranteed pension whereby employees neither pay more nor receive less than the current arrangements. To achieve this the employers will either pay more into the pension scheme, extend their temporary line of credit, or reach an agreement with the government to support the scheme.

3. This Counter Proposal should be put to UUK and negotiated over before UCU moves towards settlement.

Sheffield UCU

 

Branch notes:

1. The success of the strike action undertaken since 22nd February, and the significant concessions that we have won as a result of that action and the ongoing action short of a strike.

  • 2. That SUCU agreed on 1st March to ‘escalate action if necessary until such time as it is clear that an agreement will be reached between UCU and UUK which retains a DB pension that can be put to members for a vote’.
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  • 3. That a new proposal from UUK was released for consultation on Friday 23rd March, ahead of a meeting for all branches and the HEC in London on Wednesday 28th March.
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  • 4. That some of the proposed terms of the agreement, in particular the formulation of a Joint Expert Panel on the valuation of USS, represent another significant concession won.
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  • 5. That the guarantee in the proposal of the status quo until April 2019 is entirely vacuous, this being the earliest date that any changes can be made.
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  • 6. That the references to ‘affordability’ in the proposal may act in effect as preconditions to any agreement reached between UCU and UUK.
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  • 7. That the proposal should be treated as an offer from UUK, not a deal, and one subject to further additions, clarifications and amendments without preconditions.
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Branch resolves:

  • 1. To instruct our negotiators to return to UUK to resolve the dispute on terms acceptable to our members, which should include the below.
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  • 2. To call on HEC to maintain our industrial action until such time as a properly negotiated agreement is reached on a proposal that can be put to members.
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  • 3. That the questions asked by our Communications Officer to Sally Hunt on Saturday 24th March (see here) should be answered publicly as soon as possible, and that if no answers to these questions are forthcoming any proposed deal should be considered suspect.
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  • 4. That an extension on the time limit for no current changes to 2021, i.e. the next valuation cycle, would allow the Joint Expert Panel sufficient time to do the job properly.
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  • 5. That any deal must include binding commitments to transparency, accountability and revised governance of USS that are agreed with UCU members in advance.
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  • 6. That the Joint Expert Panel not have any preconditions placed upon it in terms of affordability; UUK must recognise we want guarantees on Defined Benefit Pensions and provide these.
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  • 7. We call upon HEC to demand that UUK advise its members not to carry out punitive deductions.
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NATIONAL STRIKE COMMITTEE

Branch notes:

1. That the reaction of branches around #NoCapitulation to the ‘agreement’ proposed jointly by UCU and UUK demonstrated clearly that the membership of UCU branches involved in the USS dispute are not willing to accept minor concessions and want to see a resolution which protects Defined Benefit pensions now and in the future

2. That members feel a lack of ownership over the dispute at the national level, as distinct to the high level of ownership they feel in relation to the dispute at the local level

3. That while some aspects of negotiations are confidential in order to maintain a sense of ownership of the dispute amongst the membership and therefore to maintain members incredible resolve to take industrial action members must have a sense of how negotiations are progressing.

4. Many members of HEC are not based at striking institutions

Branch resolves:

1. To request that HEC sanction the creation of a temporary extra-ordinary National Strike Committee made up of delegates from branches at USS institutions which national negotiators can report to and which can give a representative viewpoint on how to progress the dispute

Motion from Newcastle University EGM

This branch welcomes the climb down by UUK in removing its previous, unacceptable offer and instructs negotiators to seek more assurances from UUK before the new offer is put to all members. The current proposal is an offer from UUK, not a deal, and one subject to further additions, clarifications and amendments without preconditions. Assurances should be sought to establish:

1. That a pension 'comparable with current provision' equates to one that is not inferior to our existing provision and which retains defined benefit with no change to the salary threshold, the accrual rate, inflation protection, or employee contributions;

2. That all valuations are carried out by the review panel on a transparent basis in relation to methodology, data, and decision-making, making all information on methodology, data, and decision-making available immediately for public scrutiny, and subject to fixed deadlines such that they allow UCU to engage in effective industrial action;

3. That the negotiators for both UUK and UCU will call on The Pension Regulator to suspend the 30 June deadline;

4. That there should be no recriminations for anyone engaging in or supporting industrial action, including any requirement to reschedule work lost as a result of industrial action and that negotiators should seek agreement from UUK that there will be no pay deductions at least for staff on casualised contracts and preferably for all staff;

5. That as the guarantee in the proposal of the status quo until April 2019 is entirely vacuous, this being the earliest date that any changes can be made, the status quo should be extended to 2021, i.e. the next valuation cycle;

6. That any deal must include binding commitments to transparency, accountability and revised governance of USS, especially the role of the “independent” chair, that are agreed with UCU members in advance;

7. That the Joint Expert Panel does not have any preconditions placed upon it in terms of affordability; UUK must recognise we want guarantees on Defined Benefit pensions and provide these;

8. That any deal must include binding commitments to transparency, accountability and revised governance of UUK, that are agreed with UCU members in advance;

9. That any outcome of negotiations must be subject to full equality and diversity impact assessments;

10. That if these assurances cannot be given by 16 April, then the current programme of industrial action should continue.

Des Freedman

Des Freedman

Des Freedman is Professor of Media and Communications in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of 'The Contradictions of Media Power' (Bloomsbury 2014), co-editor of 'The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance' (Pluto 2011), chair of the Media Reform Coalition and secretary of Goldsmiths UCU.

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