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.


Huge Job Cuts At Welsh Universities linked to Brexit

Staff at Aberystwyth University are facing potential job losses as it tries to make £11.4m of cuts by April 2019.

The university has blamed increasing competition for students, rising costs, and Brexit uncertainty for needing to make the savings.  They are not alone, two other Welsh Universities (USW and UWTSD) are also considering making big job cuts.

Read full report here

This is very worrying news for the whole of the HE sector.