University of Brighton fails to match the Real Living Wage

Cambridge University is leading the way on pay, says UNISON, whilst Brighton lags well behind.

Responding to the announcement that the University of Cambridge is to seek formal accreditation as a real living wage employer,

UNISON’s head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Cambridge University’s commitment to give its lowest paid staff a fair wage is a move that urgently needs to be replicated in other universities across the UK. There is no place for low pay in higher education.

“Almost 12,000 staff working in universities earn below the real living wage, trapping them in poverty. That’s in stark contrast to around 5,500 senior university staff who are paid more than £100,000 a year.

“The huge disparity between the richest and the poorest university employees at some of the UK’s most respected institutions has to end.

“This small move at Cambridge goes a long way towards closing the inequality gap and guaranteeing a secure, decent wage for all staff at the university.”

Sadly, the real living wage of £8.75/hour is now more than the bottom two spinal points at the University of Brighton, which means that many grade 1 employees are being paid less than at many other universities, which have signed up to  become Living Wage Employers. The 37 hour week doesn’t help, but we want to see real movement so that Brighton University doesn’t get a reputation for being one of the most exploitative public sector employers in the region and across the sector.

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Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

We’ll only have a handful of members who are members of the USS, but if you are, this is important:

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) At a meeting of the USS JNC yesterday, 23 January, Universities UK, on behalf of the university employers proposed changes to the scheme that would move all future accrual from April 2019 to a defined contribution scheme. With the support of the Independent Chair, these changes were agreed. The changes are in response to the increased in the deficit in the USS and are likely to result in a severe reduction in future benefits for all members of the scheme. Employers Proposals    From 1 April 2019 (at the earliest):

  • The salary threshold (the salary up to which defined benefits currently build up) will reduce to zero, subject to review at future valuations;
  • Future benefits will be built up in the USS Investment Builder (the defined contribution part of the scheme);
  • The employer contribution will cover the cost of future benefits in the USS Investment Builder, death and incapacity benefits, investment management charges, deficit recovery contributions, and scheme running costs;
  • Members will contribute 8% of pay, but will have access to a lower cost option of contributing 4% while still receiving the full employer contribution into USS Investment Builder;
  • The ‘match’ – the additional 1% employer contribution currently available – will be discontinued from the date at which the changes take effect.

What this means for members of the scheme Benefits already earned by both active and deferred members are protected by law and in the scheme rules. Benefits already being paid to retired members are not affected by these changes. This means that benefits in the scheme earned up till April 2019 will not be affected. From April 2019 the scheme will become a defined contribution (DC) scheme only. This means that instead of having a guaranteed income on retirement, the pension that members receive will be based on a annuity that will be dependent on the investment performance of the scheme and the annuity rates payable at the time of retirement. Effectively this transfers risk to individual members of the scheme from the employers. Whilst combined employer and employee contributions will remain at their current level (18% for employers, 8% for employees), DC schemes normally result in lower pensions for members. It is likely that these changes will impact most on the youngest and lower paid members of the scheme who can least afford a reduced pension. Scheme Consultation Arrangements USS are required to run a statutory consultation on the changes to the scheme. This consultation will take place later this year. The university as the employer in the scheme will organise the consultation in each individual institution that participates in the scheme. Employers are encouraged to hold meetings with all members of the scheme and all recognised unions, including UNISON. The employer is required to:

  • Provide written information to all affected employees details of the proposed changes
  • Undertake a consultation with affected employees and their representatives
  • Provide a report to the USS trustees of the views expressed by the trade unions and members, including oral responses received at consultation meetings

UNISON response  UNISON is extremely disappointed at the outcome of these negotiations. We believe that it should have been possible to negotiate a settlement that protected a significant element of the Defined Benefit Scheme. We believe that the changes proposed by the employers are unnecessarily severe and will result in significant detriment to scheme members. We will continue to campaign for these proposals to be reversed and call on all parties to re-enter negotiations. However, UNISON has not been party to the negotiations as UCU have sole negotiating rights in the scheme and were not consulted by UCU over any counter proposals. As you may be aware, UCU have already balloted members over the proposed changes and have announced their intention to take strike action in at least 61 HE institutions that offer USS to staff. It is likely that further details on the dates for industrial action will be announced shortly. The UNISON Higher Education Service Group have agreed to consult UNISON members who are members of the USS about balloting for industrial action to oppose these changes. We will write again shortly with further details on the consultation. It is very important that branches identify all members that are part of the scheme and update the RMS/WARMS to ensure that they are able to participate in any ballot for industrial action. If you have any questions concerning the USS or require further information, please contact Ben Thomas

Are you a member of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)?

This isn’t the most exciting post, I appreciate, but if you are a USS member, we need to know about it…

The higher education employers represented by Universities UK (UUK) have proposed significant changes to the USS pension scheme. USS is the pension scheme predominantly for academic and related staff in pre-1992 institutions. The University and College Union (UCU) has sole negotiation rights for members of the scheme. However, some UNISON branches will have members in the scheme because some members of staff at the University will have transferred here from other universities where USS is common and retained their USS membership.

USS is currently a hybrid pension scheme, with defined benefits for earnings up to £55,000 with defined contribution benefits above this threshold. Universities UK (UUK) has tabled a proposal to change the benefits of the scheme from September 2018 so that the scheme becomes a defined contribution scheme only for all USS members. Defined contribution schemes are usually significantly worse than defined benefit schemes. Under these proposals, all past service in the defined benefit section of the scheme would be protected. However, UNISON believes that these proposed changes are unnecessary and represent a significant and damaging cut to member’s benefits.

Meetings between UCU, USS and the employers are continuing.

UNISON and other support staff unions have argued that because we have members in the scheme we should be fully involved in these negotiations but this has previously been rejected by both the employers and UCU. Nonetheless, to ensure our members’ interests are put forward we will continue to work closely with UCU on changes to the scheme and submit details of our negotiating priorities for them to take forward.

USS is the largest pension scheme in the higher education sector and there is a clear danger that if the USS implements these detrimental changes, this will impact on other pension schemes in the sector.

As you may be aware, UCU is currently balloting its members on taking industrial action in pre 1992 universities concerning these changes. This ballot opened 28 November 2017 and is due to close on 19 January 2018 with an expectation that any action will commence mid-February.

UNISON met with UUK recently to express our concerns at the proposals and warn that unless they are improved that we also may take action.

UNISON’s Higher Education Service Group Executive is trying to ascertain the exact details of the negotiations and will be discussing the issue at their next meeting on 10 January 2018 to decide what course of action UNISON will be taking in response to the proposals. This will include the potential for industrial action.

If you are a member of USS, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can keep you informed of what is happening.

2018 Higher Education Conference

Delegates from Brighton will be going to Chester in January 2018 for the annual HE conference, where policies for 2018 and beyond will be discussed and agreed.

Our branch has three motions on the agenda and one amendment to a motion has been ruled out of order.

Full details about the conference are here.

The final document containing all the motions to be discussed is here.



UNISON “There for you” Newsletter

There for you Newsletter Dec 2017

Financial Assistance – if you are in financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances

 Small Grants

o School Uniform (May-July)

o Winter Fuel Dec-Feb – currently available

Links to Credit Unions – for loans/savings

Wellbeing breaks – during illness/respite for carers

Support & information – listening support & sign posting to other organisations

Debt advice – freephone 0800 389 3302

UCU strike Action at the University 23rd-24th November

Members will have seen (through the University’s one-way communication system) that UCU members are due to take strike action this week from 1pm on Thursday 23rd and all day on Friday 24th, followed by a work-to-contract over the next few months.

This is due to the University management’s insistence that two employees should be made redundant, which follows a process where groups of (mainly academic) staff were targeted for redundancy. This was during the period where voluntary severance was offered, and many people in that situation opted to take severance under the threat of redundancy.

For these remaining members of staff, retention of their jobs is the priority, and UCU members have shown themselves to be impressively sticking up for the principle that they should stick together and use their collective strength to resist compulsory redundancies. Their ballot resulted in an 85% vote in favour of industrial action to defend jobs. All UCU members should now respect that democratic decision, however they voted.

This is an important dispute, because we do not want the University management to be able to do whatever they want to, as and when they feel like it, and the money saved by ceasing to employ two individuals is peanuts in the great scheme of things.

Whilst we are not opposed to investment in the University, so much core expenditure is being cut to fund projects, which are not essential, but might look good. The reality is that we have never seen a time when so many people are suffering from work-related stress, as workloads increase and management decisions are conflicting and/or non-existent.

Whilst UCU are determined to use democratic methods to defend the jobs of their members and the principle that no compulsory redundancies should be made, the University management seem determined to risk the student experience, just to try to assert their authority and prove a point. They can easily make sure that this action does not take place by being reasonable. There is real reputational damage at stake here for the University, which affects us all.

As fellow trade unionists, we give support and encouragement to all academic staff and UCU members taking action at the end of the week. This means that we will offer verbal support at picket lines and make sure that we are not undermining their action by doing work which UCU members would normally be doing.

However, since we are not formally in dispute, we will be expected to work normally on those days and UCU members on picket lines will respect that.

If you’re a member of UNISON, please stop to say hello to strikers and offer your support. If you’re not a member of UNISON then there is no better time to make sure you join us.


2017-18 Pay Consultation – 67.8% of Brighton members reject the offer

Thanks to all those members who participated in our consultative ballot over pay in June. We are very pleased that so many of you made an effort to engage with the branch and express your view, however you voted.

The results was a rejection of the offer by 67.8% of those who voted on a 40.6% turnout.

This has been submitted to UNISON’s national office and the Service Group Executive will decide on a course of action based on all higher education branches.

More news to follow when we have it.

National Executive Council Elections 2017

It’s time to choose who speaks for you. Elections are being held for all seats on UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC), the governing body of the union.


A ballot paper will be sent to every eligible member at their home address, together with information on the candidates. The ballot opens on 3 April 2017 and closes on 28 April 2017.

If you have not received your ballot paper by 11 April, please call 0800 0857 857. Lines open 6am to midnight, Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm on Saturday.

University of Brighton Branch nominated the following candidates.

For Higher Education, our branch nominated Kath Owen and Sandy Nicoll.

They stand for:

  • A fighting and democratic union
  • Active campaigning branches
  • A decent pay rise
  • No to privatisation and outsourcing
  • Defend migrant staff, students & refugees
  • For free education

We support their candidacy as we believe our union needs to:

  • End austerity, defend public services
  • Defend all our communities from bigotry
  • End poverty pay, Living Wage now
  • Celebrate our international campus communities
  • Stop Trump, oppose racism
  • Defend the NHS

We also nominated the following candidates:

Jacqui Berry, Diana Leach and Dan Sartin for South East Regional Seats

Josie Runswick for the Young Members’ Seat

April Ashley for a Black Members’ Seat

Roger Lewis for a Disabled Members’ Seat

We want our NEC to reflect the democracy of our union, so please make sure you use your vote!

2017-18 Pay Claim

The trade unions have submitted a joint pay claim for the increase due 1st August 2017.

Higher education unions submit 2017-18 pay claim

Key points from the claim are:

  • An increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of RPI plus £1,200, or RPI plus 3%, whichever is greater;
  • £10 per hour minimum wage with all HEIs to become living wage employers, ensuring all campus staff are paid at least the Living Wage Foundation rate.


For members working for the Students’ Union, we’ll be asking you what you want a pay claim to focus on, with a members’ survey, before submitting a claim to the SU management.

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