….as are all our recent newsletters. You can find them on the Newsletter page, funnily enough.
….as are all our recent newsletters. You can find them on the Newsletter page, funnily enough.
We had 60 people there, which was brilliant given the weather. Thanks in particular to those who made it from outside Moulsecoomb. We really appreciate their efforts to get here.
Sandy Nicoll from UNISON’s National Executive Council spoke and we discussed a wide rang of subjects – pay, stress, casual workers, annual leave, job description changes, the government review of higher education funding etc.
I’ll make sure we produce a video as soon as possible. Please let us know if you’d like to help.
Two members volunteered to be officers of the branch, but we’re always looking for more members to get involved so give us a shout if you’re interested.
UNISON calls for the abolition of fees and free higher education in response to Theresa May’s review
“Any change in tuition fees needs to support wider access for students that need flexibility in study options,” UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman said today.
She was speaking after prime minister Theresa May admitted that students in England face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world”, and announced an “independent review of fees and student finance” to take place over the next year.
Tuition fees in England currently stand at £9,250 a year, which leaves student nurses, for instance, qualifying with a debt of more than £50,000.
“UNISON remains committed to a free education system funded by general taxation and is keen to contribute to any examination of fairer ways of resourcing post-16 education,” said Ms Rowe-Merriman.
She also said students and staff needed to be involved in the review, to make sure that “a radical overhaul of a broken system takes place.”
“Students take on the burden of debt whilst business does little to contribute to ensuring it gets a highly skilled workforce,” she added. “This needs to change as a matter of urgency.”
She pointed out that a well educated workforce benefits the economy and society as a whole, not just individual graduates.
Public sector workers including nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers and many more, are all educated at universities around the UK.
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.
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):
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a link to a free local programme for those nearing retirement or recently retired.
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.
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.
Financial Assistance – if you are in financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances
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