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November, 2014:

Supporting the pension action

Here are some ways you can still support those colleagues who are in a position to carry out the marking boycott:

  • Encourage colleagues who are not already members to join UCU.
  • Encourage colleagues to write to the VC to complain about both the pension proposals and the 100% pay deduction.
  • Display the posters about the pension dispute in your offices and departments.
  • Pledge your services to help your local officers, committee and reps run the pension campaign.
  • Talk to students about the dispute.
  • Make a donation to the fighting fund. You could consider giving one or two days salary to support colleagues who are able to participate in the action for longer periods.
  • Send a message of support, via the UCU office, to your colleagues who are taking an active part in the boycott.
  • Tell people how you are supporting the campaign.
  • Email the UCU office and tell us how you are supporting the campaign.
  • Add a message to your email signature in support of your colleagues.
  • I will be wearing something pink or purple each day during the action to show my support and involvement in the action.
  • If you have any suggestions of other ways to support the campaign please let us know in the local UCU office.



Defend USS pensions

Tuesday 4th November UEA staff were told that the university will deduct 100% pay from anyone participating in the Marking boycott.


UCU Acting President Amanda Williams & the local committee sent the following open letter:

Open letter to the VC from UCU local branch committee


Dear Professor Richardson


I have today learnt that UEA intends to deduct 100% pay from staff taking part in industrial action.  As you know colleagues who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) were recently balloted over strike action and action short of a strike, and on the basis of that democratic mandate UCU has asked its members to support a marking boycott starting on 6 November.


I am disappointed by the unnecessarily adversarial attitude adopted by the Executive Team at UEA.  All staff taking part in the marking boycott are doing so reluctantly, but we believe there is little else we can do to protect not just our own pensions, but those of our future colleagues.


While we are involved in the marking boycott we will, nonetheless, be diligently undertaking the rest of our professional duties.  This is despite the fact that the university intends to withhold our full salaries.  The university is acting disproportionately.


The proposals from the employers are eroding the implicit covenant between universities and their staff by undermining the principle that USS is a defined benefit scheme.  In the private sector defined contribution schemes are common; however having recently moved from employment at a for-profit HEI I can personally testify that in the commercial sector the provision of less valuable pension schemes is compensated by substantially larger salaries.


As I am sure you are aware academics from a number of universities have challenged the assumptions on which the pension deficit, the burning bridge being used to attempt to push through these proposals, has been calculated.


Warwick, Essex and Cambridge Universities have all broken ranks to criticise UUK.  The universities in UUK are therefore by no means unanimous in either accepting the need for the pension scheme to change nor in the way in which they are responding to industrial action at a local level.


One reason often given to justify a hard line in industrial disputes is that universities need to be more business-like.  This might have been true in the 1970’s however modern businesses know that the goodwill of their workforce is not something to be frittered.  The unprecedented threat to our remuneration and the aggressive stance being adopted towards those demonstrating against that threat has undermined the morale of many staff, irrespective of whether they are members of the union or not.


I am bewildered by the attitude of the university.  I might be able to understand this confrontational approach from organisations that exist solely for the economic benefit of their shareholders, but I find it hard to understand it in an organisation whose purpose is not primarily economic.  We should be on the same side, working to protect Higher Education in the UK.


I write in hope that the university will change its stance and start to adopt a more enlightened approach.