UCU Left Report from HEC, 7th December 2012

 Committee Secretary’s Report

There was some discussion of the Chancellor’s Autumn statement.  The Government is probably looking for 1% pay awards to be the norm in the public sector.  Schoolteachers are being threatened with performance-related pay.

UCU’s professorial project is attracting press attention and is likely to be reported in the Guardian.  The research UCU has undertaken documents race and gender inequalities in professorial posts and pay.  The report is titled ‘The position of women and BME staff in professorial roles in UK HEIs’.

The New JNCHES review of bargaining arrangements is proceeding.  A report will be sent to national negotiators.

There will be four branch briefings on HE in FE. These are important to attend. In the current climate institutions may try to cut costs by shifting courses/teaching to FE – we need to ensure that there is no divide and rule. Some institutions are setting up ‘institutions’ to compete with private providers.

UCLAN is changing its corporate form to a company limited by guarantee.  It was agreed to have a longer discussion at a future HEC on the corporate form of HEIs, since this has implications for governance and other matters. In effect this form of governance is another step in the direction of privatisation

London Met faces more cuts and attempt to shift the burden of its financial crisis onto the staff. Governors met on 29th November.  The employer is planning to cut courses and redesign the academic contract, leading to staffing cuts and substantial increases in annual teaching hours (up to 850 hours, a major breach of the post-92 national contact).  Later in the meeting the section 188 notice was received.

Pay/JNCHES Negotiations

Paul Bridge gave a report on the JNCHES negotiations and the recent pay ballot.  There was some discussion about the ballot outcome and the way forward.  The HEC agreed the following recommendations:

1) Further briefings for branches/LAs on the risks associated with Action Short of a Strike

2) Where ASOS is considered, future ballot inserts specifically link the need for a positive vote for strike action to ensure the tactical deployment of ASOS

3) UCEA is informed that UCU reluctantly accepts the 2012 final offer

4) Branch/LAs’ and members’ opinion is sought on the shape of the 2013 claim via a survey approved by the national negotiators

5) Negotiators seek to agree a joint claim with the other trade unions

6) A Special HE Sector Conference is called in February 2013

7) The national negotiators produce a report for the conference and an enabling motion with recommendations for the conference.

Recommendations 2, 5, 6 and 7 were carried unanimously.  There was a division of votes on recommendations 1, 3 and 4, with a majority in favour.

UCU Left members spoke against accepting the pay offer (reluctantly or otherwise). It was argued that we should not be putting our hands up to another pay cut. In previous years we have not accepted the pay offer and it has been imposed by employers without our compliance.

It is important that Branches/LAs hold meetings to discuss what they think should be in the 2013 claim and how UCU should campaign for it.  UCU members in HE have now experienced four years of pay increases well below the rate of inflation.  This affects both living standards and the value of pensions.

Performance Management

This item was discussed extensively. Following a motion at UCU’s annual conference a seminar was held on 6th November to discuss UCU policy on the performance management of university staff. A report of this seminar was tabled at HEC and it was agreed that this report should be further discussed by members of UCU’s Ratification Panel together with the chair of the Equality Committee with a view to developing union policy and recommendations. UCU Left wants to see robust policy developed which can help us to resist these moves to manage ‘performance’ and to protect staff members who are bullied, deemed incompetent or may lose their jobs as a result.

Universities are increasingly putting in place performance delivery targets for academic and academic-related staff and forcing increased ‘productivity’ on already stressed and overworked individuals. Queen Mary came within a few days of a strike in the face of a particularly draconian regime. Targets are now often tied together with staff annual appraisals, turning these from benign conversations about training and support needs into performance management meetings. Under this new regime target setting is also completely individualised and goes against ideas of collective working and group goals. In addition institutional objectives can be forced on to staff even if they do not meet the staff member’s research interests and personal values


Following reports from meetings with pre-92 pension reps, the report to HEC was far less than transparent.

There was little progress reported to HEC; a series of consultation meetings were taking place with pensions reps and we were told that further meeting with the employers was scheduled for this month to schedule further planning meetings in the New Year. One of the negotiators blamed the work to contract action over the summer for putting the negotiators in a worse position, due to the fall in gilts in the intervening period!  As can be seen from the report of the Manchester Pensions meeting (see Appendix 1), a great deal of detail was omitted from the report to HEC. In particular the question of tiered pension contributions was put back on the agenda, despite being rejected at the Special USS conference in September.

National Guidance on Recognition Agreements

Guidance for branches on recognition agreements, including facility time, was approved.  This is a major piece of work which should be valuable to branches.


Anti-Casualisation Committee

The Annual Meeting for members on casual contracts is on Friday 15th February 2013.  It is important that branches/LAs elect members to attend this Conference.  The Anti-Casualisation Committee is planning a day of campaigning activity on 6th March 2013 around union recruitment of staff on casualised contracts.  It would be good if local branches/LAs could plan suitable activities for that week, highlighting the issues facing members on casualised contracts.

Policy issues

UCU is lobbying against VAT exemption for private providers of HE. The impacts of this exemption are far reaching. Putting private providers on the same footing as not-for-profit institutions is another financial incentive to the marketization of the sector.

Records of student achievement – these could have major workload implications.

Student feedback – UCU is discussing with NUS to find ways of avoiding bullying and harassment of staff.

Open Access

There is a paper from Meera Sabaratnam, University of Cambridge, and Paul Kirby, University of Sussex, entitled ‘Open Access: HEFCE, REF2020 and the Threat to Academic Freedom’.  It is available here.

This article warns of the danger of a ‘pay-to-say’ model of open access in which academics or their institutions pay to have their work published.  This would mean that the ability to pay could replace peer review as the gateway to academic publishing.

Attack on teacher training in universities

A motion was submitted but not debated due to procedural reasons: it was submitted by two branch members, not HEC members.The motion was an alert to the Teaching Agency’s reduction in the allocation of Initial Teacher Education places to HE education departments. The threat of redundancies was highlighted.

The motion called for UCU to:

  • conduct some analysis in this area
  • issue urgent advice to branches
  • launch a campaign on the defence of education departments with immediate effect
  • engage in immediate dialogue with other teacher trade unions on the transfer of initial teacher education from HE into schools
  •  formulate and publicise a joint position and campaign strategy
  •  immediately organise the joint conference with other teacher unions on defence of teacher education that was agreed at 2012 congress

This was a missed opportunity to address a serious potential threat to jobs across the sector, particularly in light of the recent NEC discussions on the need to tackle the problem of declining UCUmembership. The union needs to be leading a fight over these issues and demonstrate to potential members that it is an organisation worth joining.


USS Pensions Representatives Meetings Report

Whilst it was not reported to HEC and neither were the documents that were presented to pension reps included in the HEC documents, pre-92 pension reps have been told that the USS scheme, being inferior to TPS may lead to a flight of talent to the post-92 sector. This is the basis that the UCU is now negotiating, the impact of market forces on pre-92 pensions, a quicksand upon which to negotiate. The special pensions meeting in September made it clear that any deal had to narrow the gap between the CARE scheme and the Final Salary scheme, a negotiating aim made all the more urgent by the fact that at current recruitment rates to the scheme, a majority will be on CARE within six years. We should bear in mind that our industrial action is suspended but that we are still in dispute. Other pensions schemes that have introduced two streams have eventually closed one stream in favour of one. Thus, it is estimated that in 6 years over half of the USS membership will be in CRB and this will be the “tipping point” for it to be cost beneficial to close USS final salary.

Below is a report from the Manchester Meeting

UCU Pensions Briefing, Manchester Mechanics Institute 5/12/12

Alan Carr, Geraldine Egan, Roger Brookes

Accompanying material ppt slides and booklet (USS and TPS comparisons a joint UCU and Employers publication)

Feedback required by mid January to pensions@ucu.org


Changes to USS implemented in October 2011. The current headline value of the USS fund is 77 % funded this equates to a short fall of £2.9 billion. Despite the fund not being fully funded this headline figure is vastly over cautious. The current time is the worst on record for gilts.

The booklet endeavours to highlight the differences and models the benefits USS v TPS. TPS appears to have greater benefits than USS it however costs more (table on page 6).

USS still has some aspects that are better than TPS: lump sum payment is built in as opposed to bought; death in service is higher, currently unreduced pension on redundancy (until 2014) for those over 55 (or 50 depending on institution).

Average service in USS is 11 years. 13 % of USS members are now in the CRB part; in the University sector that is 10 % of USS membership. This is more so in research intensive universities as there is a higher turnover.

Other pensions schemes that have introduced two streams have eventually closed one stream in favour of one. Thus, it is estimated that in 6 years over half of the USS membership will be in CRB and this will be the “tipping point” for it to be cost beneficial to close USS final salary.

There is a limited window in which to improve USS CRB. By improving USS CRB sufficiently there would be the opportunity to make it costly to move those on final salary thus it would with all probability secure that the USS final salary runs its full course.

Negotiating Environment:

The Management and UCU negotiating teams have met. They are now in a period of consultation with their membership. This meeting and the resulting call for feedback is part of the UCU process.

The NEC motion to impose ASOS during the summer has moved negotiations to a different environment previously USS was valued at the triennial evaluation as being 98 % fully funded. It was widely thought that the fund had been undervalued at this point and that it was for all intents and purposes at least fully funded. In 2011 the gilts were valued at gilts + 1.7 % rather than a more normal rate of gilts + 2 %. More recently the fund has had an interim evaluation of 77% funded; this headline value is damaging. This headline value is heavily distorted; the fund is, given the economic climate, performing “well”. The issue is that gilts are not performing well at this moment due to the Bank of England’s quantitative easing. There have been calls from many circles, including the CBI, to ease the performance measure of gilts so that it is taken as a 25 year average, rather than an instantaneous measure at one point in time.

There is a recognition from management (and other commentators) that the changes to USS were too far too soon. There was at the time a thought that public sector pensions would be more deeply cut. Also it was assumed (for some reason) that pay would be at a RPI+ level!!!

As a result USS in comparison is an unattractive pension scheme. The obvious scheme to compare to is TPS as this is the one running in our sister post ’92 institutions. There is real concern that the gulf between the two will lead to the drift of talent to the post ’92 institutions.

List of proposals in order of perceived ease of Employers acceptance.

Keep Lump Sum (TPS has one at £12 per loss of £1 per annum from pension)*
Introduce tiered member contributions (similar to proposed previously)
Increase contributions (still much below that of TPS)
Improve revaluation
Improve accrual rate (currently 1/80th move to 1/56th)
Remove inflation cap

There is no prospect of returning to the final salary scheme wholesale.

*TPS unlike USS has no automatic lump sum payment on retirement. However, members of TPS and sacrifice some of their pension to buy a lump sum at the rate of £12 lump sum for £1 p.a. reduction in pension. There for if a pension is drawn for over 12 years the pensioner loses out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.