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pensions

Motion passed at UCU@UEA Emergency General Meeting 19.11.14

UCU at UEA EGM 19/11/14 Resolution

 

UEA UCU notes that the senior management team’s response to the assessment boycott called for 6th November and continuing has been to threaten to deduct 100% pay on grounds that it does not accept partial performance of contracts.

 

We note too, the letter signed by over 100 academics – both UCU members and not – condemning the university’s stance and we note the letter published in this week’s Times Higher Education in a similar vein, signed by thirty or so academics at other universities but who have contact or collaborations with colleagues at UEA.

 

This union believes the University’s response to be disproportionate and aggressive, and likely both to damage relationships with staff (in the long and short term) and to harm recruitment. It is a clear rejection of the collaborative “do different” ideals on which UEA was founded 50 years ago. It fails both to respect the sincerely held views of staff about the merits of the dispute and the genuine worries staff have for the long term viability of their own pensions, and to take any account of the hard work above and beyond that all colleagues provide – to students, to other staff. Last, it is incredibly poor and short sighted industrial relations practice; the fact that deducting 100% pay might be lawful – which this union does not accept – does not mean that employers should deduct the totality of wages. The Senior Management Team says that it is “with profound regret that we find ourselves in a situation where we have to take that stance” but has never explained why it has to. The vast majority of other universities are deducting a much smaller proportion.

 

We also note that the University has accepted uncritically the explanations, figures and projections provided by USS and the Employers’ Pension Forum when there is a good deal of counter-evidence to the contrary on both the size of the deficit and how best to tackle it from reputable economists and statisticians. There is not a “one-size” fits all approach from university employers – several pre-1992 Russell Group institutions, namely Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge have taken stances significantly at odds with taken by UEA.

 

This union calls for the University of East Anglia to:

  1. Pay back any pay deducted since 6th November 2014;
  2. Show a commitment to work with the union to establish a more balanced policy on deductions for industrial action short of a strike, that better takes account of not only the university’s legitimate interests, but the interests of its staff to take lawful action without punitive disproportionate threat of penalty;
  3. Show a commitment from the senior management team that they are making representations to the employers’ national negotiators that they want them to engage in a constructive dialogue in good faith with the UCU national negotiators based around all sets of figures, data and projections;
  4. Open up communications with its own staff – UCU members and non-members alike – affected by the proposed changes to understand the views and to investigate these issues further at local level.

 

If the senior management does not withdraw its threat to deduct 100% of pay of anyone taking part in action short of a strike in this current dispute, this union will, as a first step, call on UCU nationally to authorise the grey-listing of UEA. If the senior management carries out its threat to victimise people taking part in action short of a strike and withholds their pay indefinitely, this union will regard this as an escalation on the part of management and will respond proportionately. Our responses may include, but may not be limited to, withdrawal of any co-operation not specified in our contracts, and/or calling on UCU nationally to authorise strike action.

 

 

 

ASOS Diary

Amanda Williams, acting President of UEA UCU is keeping a diary while taking part in the marking boycott.

12/11/14

A very busy day today, one of the modules I look after teaches 500 students and has a teaching team of 7 people and I had some bits and bobs to sort out for that. I was meant to be chairing a teaching practices forum but we had a speaker in for a GM today from the UCU national negotiating team so a colleague stepped in to chair instead.

Off to meet the national speaker for the UCU GM (who had had to tangle with the London to Norwich trains which were running late/cancelled. Sometimes it’s has felt quite lonely being a branch committee out on a limb on the pointy end of a national industrial dispute and the feeling that Norwich is out on a limb was exacerbated by the trains.   The meeting was the first general meeting I have chaired and was a bit of a baptism of fire. Feelings were running understandably high. We will soon need to have some elections for the committee as we have a lot of casual vacancies at the moment (which I forgot to mention in the meeting). Hopefully the level of engagement we saw in the meeting yesterday will be reflected in getting lots of people to put themselves forward for nomination into committee and officer roles. We need to harness all that energy for the good of the members of UCU at UEA. And we need to put in all the legwork to get a EGM for next week.

After that back to normal so a couple of meetings about UCU casework, a meeting with a colleague about their teaching practice and a meeting with my head of group about one of my big modules.

 

10/11/14

So in work today, not getting paid – well probably, maybe? I don’t have any assessment activities scheduled until the end of the week. Busy day today. I took a seminar about leases and financial instruments, had a couple of hours of “office hour”. I’ve taught 700 students this semester so office hours can get quite busy. I also took a couple of lectures today and attended a university committee as the UCU representative.

9/11/14

The actions started officially last Thursday and all last week was quite busy behind the scenes, with a lot of letter writing and email drafting going on. I worked about 60 hours (including the weekend) and expect to get paid for just Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; since I got dropped into the post of Acting President for the local UCU branch at the start of October, 50-60 hour weeks have been pretty typical. Other people have been busy writing letters or Facebook postings. I was sent a link to a Facebook page which a UEA student had written and the support of the student body and individual students is brilliant.

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.

 

HELP SAVE OUR PENSIONS

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.