UCU branch briefing
28 March 2018
Starts to distribute letter to people attending.
Working to explain [missed the opening of this statement], talking to Jarvis, politicians, regulator, USS – giving feedback from members to these folk. UUK wanted informal talks, wanted to meet with ACAS. SH and PB sat down with Jarvis and a couple of other UUK folks, not formal talks [not clear the date of this meeting]. EPF met later in week and UUK board meeting last Friday. UCU explained ideas from members, need to deal with lack of trust, and needed something in writing, can’t go back and forth without that since UUK have been nervous about their mandate. UCU needed to know what they got from UUK was something they had a mandate for. UUK’s document on Friday is not a starting position, it is their position they are rolling out to members to get endorsement for.
What we’ve got: independent panel to push valuation. Status quo to April 2019. Commitment to principle of comparable guaranteed pension (not where we were at beginning of process). We have accomplished a lot so far etc etc. Have moved them 180 degrees from where they started.
Themes in responses. DC proposal: SH has been working on this in advance of this meeting today. AJ’s letter says not consulting on a DC scheme—can be shared with all members. What does “comparable guaranteed pension” mean? Earlier talks had put DB back on table (not very good terms). Members want more clarity on “comparable”. From AJ’s letter: “maintaining meaningful Defined Benefit pension offer at this valuation”. What about long term? More complicated. “Work jointly with UCU to consider other risk sharing alternatives”. Don’t know what this means long-term, but emphasis on working jointly with UCU. Members also asked about staff and students supporting are able to feel secure from victimisation. Jarvis’s letter says “rebuild trust etc.” which sounds incompatible with victimisation.
Can’t circulate letter from Pensions Regulator to David Eastwood (chair of trustee board of USS). SH and PB have been talking to Labour and others to say that we need to know that TPR won’t block the process. TPR has said that Eastwood triggered rule 74.6 a long time ago: the nuclear button to maintain benefits with much increased payments by employees and employers. TPR says that 76.4 provides safety – don’t have to do anything else like DC since 76.4 will protect fund. “We can appreciate why UCU and UUK may want to set up a panel as a way to help resolve the number of maters between then. We cannot pre-empt the panel’s report, but we see this an opportunity to bring all stakeholders together and [avoid future problems]. We will engage with the panel at an appropriate point.”
SH thinks we can’t get: can’t get “no detriment”. Have been floating this idea all the way along and as heard from branches. Policy is meaningful DB, not no detriment. If decide to go down that road, will have to ballot members. Employers’ view is that they have politics to play on their side and that an independent panel has to be respected and the results not pre-empted by committing to no detriment in advance.
Way forward: USS board meets on 11 April. If we say we don’t want the deal with no detriment, will miss this window. Need it to go through USS board. But what SH thinks is we should launch another consultation now including what has been said, give members all the information. If we launch that next week, can get it done by next week. Keep action live on assessment and make it clear that we will intend to reballot if USS or TPR block the proposals down the line. If members decide this isn’t enough, go into next phase strong, but if don’t get chance to decide, increases divisions within the union.
Finally, have to link it with what branches have said about further action. Notices going out today on further strike action. Employers and USS need to see that if solutions aren’t found, action will happen. Matt Waddup will go through details. So consultation with members does not foreclose the action if they decide to reject it.
Next steps to be determined by branches and members. Three things that were fundamentally important from the last meeting here. ACAS proposals way off what could be considered acceptable – got that point. Had to be a status quo – members should not suffer as consequence of failure of negotiation. And need to extend that to maximum period possible. Most support for the independent review panel and reconsidering the valuation methodology. This is the starting point. Important now that opportunity for root and branch review of methodology is taken and shaped in our interests. Commitment from employers to move into space with us they never offered to do before. Because of the pressure they are under. Maintain momentum that takes is into the talks, need a clear steer of where members are. Functioning and structure of panel are miles away from where we are now, and that enables us to have clear, informed evidence bases to make decisions about future of pension scheme, in terms of benefits, contributions, etc. Need to continue to press employers since that has forced them to argue. For first time, public statement from TPR encouraging us to work jointly to maximise negotiating space. Different type of pressure put on Trustee Board of USS. They could do stupid things, but they are not doing that since they have been dragged into space where they have to give UCU opportunity to negotiate.
Questions from the floor
SJ (Cambridge): About USS trustee, if consultation done by UUK doesn’t take place, old DC proposal can’t take place. But isn’t it USS trustee who decides what happens on 30 June? Their comments to Josephine Cumbo were not encouraging. Are they expected to impose the cost-sharing split? Or do we expect TPR to allow them to make no decision?
??? (Keele): Why couldn’t some of this contextual information have bene shared with our members? We have had polls and EGMs without this information. Hard to represent members now.
MC (Bath): If status quo stays, do we have same scheme till 2022? What exactly counts as a detriment?
DW (Aberdeen): Are we to assume scheme remains exactly as it is till 31 March 2019, and then could be reduction for next three years?
SH: Response to Cambridge, can’t get USS Trustee Board to say they’ll do nothing because of their regulatory responsibility. What we can do is let them know that they don’t have to implement DC or hit 76.4 button because TPR is willing to support the process. Next stage will have to be joint proposal to JNC from UCU and UUK about agreed joint process (when it is agreed).
Cambridge: Why don’t we wait to ballot till after JNC? Something that can happen before panel reports? Why don’t we use JNC to put something back on the table other than DC?
PB: Very hard to get agreement at JNC since it operates under current methodology, so need the changes from panel before JNC can move towards something new. We have to get a different set of assumptions to negotiate benefits.
SH: response to Keele. We were awaiting outcome of branch meetings, and this letter from Jarvis came in just before this meeting, came out of talks last night that SH was in. Status quo: UUK document says “April 2019 at least”. Can’t do no detriment; if we want that, have to go back to members. “Meaningful DB” is a big advance.
D (Strathclyde): New information completely changes the motions in hand. How can we vote on anything today?
De Groot: This isn’t a meeting where we vote on motions. It’s a consultation.
Strathclyde: When do we get to consult with our branches on this new stuff?
M (Goldsmiths): Action on assessment – is that strike action in June or an assessment boycott? In Jarvis’s letter, “other risk sharing alternatives” – are we assuming risk-sharing will be among employers and not increase contributions, i.e., pay cut.
S (Sheffield): What will remit of the independent panel be? Can it start afresh with new valuation? And is a year a long enough time period? Sheffield members is expecting that panel is going to report and UCU reporting back regularly.
DW (Liverpool): News this morning has to be welcomed. It is a victory for the campaign we have been through. But this is not an end point. It is the starting point because it raises a series of questions. First question goes back to Paul: November valuation is crucial. Josephine Cumbo said in interview with USS: “Trustee has full confidence that [November] valuation is basis to go forward absent new evidence”. We need clear assurance they will move on valuation, but before we get into June. If we go into June with November valuation, we lose everything.
PB: Look at numbers on USS Trustee Board. We have at face value: they have 4 board members, and we have 3, out of 12. So November technical provisions will have to change because panel will be taking a direct role in the assumptions that make up the technical provisions. Push and pull with Trustee Board and with CEO of USS. PB thinks UUK is ready to challenge a number of assumptions that brought us to this point.
SH: Response to Strathclyde, it has moved from where things were at the weekend. Strathclyde: Welcomes the significant move, and want to digest it and talk about it. Response to Goldsmiths: Strikes in May & June, not an assessment boycott. But Trade Union Act means mandate runs till June, but if need to take action beyond that, will have to reballot anyway. Response to Cambridge: in the statement, there are important concessions, like “understanding unique nature of higher education sector”, i.e., not single-employer. We should be reporting back to UCU on a regular basis, should be no secrecy on this, SH will commit to doing this on our side. Response to David Whyte at Liverpool, move forward but don’t trust them, verify everything, make it as difficult as possible for UUK to walk away from this. It would be very bold for USS Trustee Board to walk away from what UUK, UCU, TPR, university minister, and opposition leaders want—extraordinary lack of political judgment for USS Trustee Board to do that.
question: Negotiators didn’t respond and is that long enough.
SH: No didn’t go through negotiators but SH is senior elected representative of union. Document went straight to SWG and sent it out to members. Do what you need to in the room to get a result. About timeline, we need to do things more quickly – UCU has avoided putting timelines in here except for April 2019 and want “meaningful DB” beyond that. Would make others walk away if we tried to stretch timeline. SH doesn’t know how long it will take, need to see timeline, remit, feeding in evidence.
MG (Nottingham): About timeline, our members are concerned that April 2019, if we got a result we weren’t happy with, options for industrial action would be extremely limited. How can we deal with that problem?
TA (SOAS): Question about status quo till 2019 and meaningful DB after that. Status quo is £55k, but two weeks ago, we rejected DB of just over £42k. That could be called “meaningful DB” but it is unacceptable to members. Whatever emerges will be compared to that rejected offer.
??/ (Glasgow): If we continue taking strike action, what is the strike about?
?? (Lancaster): When was letter from Jarvis received, date and time?
SH: Question about meaningful DB and what happens in April 2019. Transparency should let us know where things are going pretty early, and can take steps industrially to deal with it. Complete lack of trust in “independent” chair of JNC, so this panel avoids that problem: cannot be bounced through without UCU agreement. Jarvis letter came through in the morning of 28 March. SH was in conversation till late last night with UUK and TPR feeding in responses to what was coming out of branch meetings.
J (York): Expert in non-profit strategy. What does the word “intend” mean here? We are winning. Why are we rushing to make a decision on their timeline? We can tell them just before we strike. They are in the position of weakness.
??? (KCL): About timing of asking members about the offer and the action. SH said wanted people to have a real choice so action would be kept on while members were consulted, so why was message put out to say further industrial action will not change employers?
CB (Salford): Employer has history of victimisation and reprisals, is happening now. In letter from Jarvis about “rebuild relationship with your members” – doesn’t say anything about not redoing work missed during strike days? Have I missed something?
??? (Bristol): What is HEC going to be deciding later? At last delegates meeting, clear that HEC would be deciding about report to SWG. Delegates meeting was clear about rejection.
SH: About “intend”, SH trusts UUK on that. In response to Jim, SH put out Q&As, doesn’t think it undermined any position. Doesn’t agree. About catching up missed work, UCU was very clear about binning resetting or redoing any work. UUK did raise that, and it was a very short discussion: not talking about it. A lot of branch motions focused on no victimisation of members and students. UUK said late last night and this morning that they are not mandated to instruct every university not to victimise, but can urge to rebuild relationships. SH will support any branch with victimisation, will turn up and ballot as needed if it happens. To HEC will be document from SH and PB, informed by feedback from this meeting. HEC are in the room listening.
Douglas Chalmers (chair of HEC): Need to do something on basis of what branches think. Listened at the last one and took proposal off table. Would be interested in HEC coming to a decision on whether to consult all the members on the proposal from UUK informed by new information and by points made in today’s delegate meeting. To confirm strike action plans. Also take any motions that have been sent in by individual HEC members, can bring points to HEC members after this meeting.
R (???): Back to the review panel, any agreed outcome would be recommended to USS. Problem is what if the outcome is something that members rejected two weeks ago. Can we go back to UUK and ask clause to have outcome from panel put to UCU members?
M (City): On equalities, doesn’t state whether equalities impact assessment will be done. Is that something we can push for?
N (Birkbeck): Lively meeting yesterday, some issues clarified by information today. Key issue is four weeks till next set of strikes. Why not get a proposal from UCU rather than one from UUK in this time and put a revised proposal back to branches or membership?
SJ (Cambridge): Does balloting on UUK proposal mean suspending strike action?
SH: No reason why any outcome of panel could not be put to members, but HEC should decide that point. About equalities, lots of concern from branches, we need to argue in panel for impact assessments and intergenerational fairness. Why now? Because it is front of us. It wasn’t imposed on us. UUK have reconsidered and taken it through EPF and Board, can hold the line on this. We have to decide on whether we want it or not.
PB: Way we have negotiated this, structures and positions not changing. Will continue to report back and have delegate meetings, much greater sensitivity about USS. Dangerous to not continue being open, democratic, transparent on panel.
DW (Liverpool): How will this meeting move forward? If we are discussing Jarvis’s information as part of our “revise and resubmit”: 37 branches are asking for “revise and resubmit”, 3 asking for acceptance of agreement. None of the 37 statements say just about DB. Will this be part of a revise and resubmit? Vast majority want other things as well.
De Groot: Matt Waddup report then discussion about revise and resubmit about action, etc.
Matt Waddup: Representative of QUB fell ill, so reading into minutes that on 24% turnout in local ballot, members want clarification on proposal, and then 85% want to accept. Uni of Wales, 50% turnout at branch meeting want to go to ballot unanimously. On strike action, trying to meet two contradictory wishes from HEC: action or a national character and listening to what branches tell us. May and June is a coherent bundle of action on key dates, ought to be brilliant. Various positions on the April strikes, not all feel they can do it, don’t want to present weakness to employers. Need to think about how we present different patterns to public to not appear weak. Hundreds of responses from members to Friday offer (before Jarvis letter): Based on about 20 consultations, about 65-30 in favor of a national consultation. Other different, legitimate views from branch meetings. People should have a voice, even if you don’t go to a meeting. But have to involve members who want a vote.
SM (UCL): Considered three motions at meeting. Couldn’t have a debate at a meeting and an e-ballot in the time available. Well attended, and 2/3 majority rejected going to members with offer. Want clarification from regulators, and need some sort of security about DB and its level. Jarvis’s letter can only intend to affect the meeting and divide us. Letter doesn’t tell us anything else on the offer on the table. Document contains bad provisions: affordability, comparativeness. Our negotiators haven’t had a chance to deal with offer and letter, but we need to take properly cooked material to members. Have four weeks to get negotiators involved to clarify and then send to members.
??? (Exeter): Question on campaign, branch passed emergency motion about inclusion of PhD vivas in external examining action. Membership almost doubled since strike, lots of new PhD students, need to not wreck their vivas.
G (Manchester): Did an e-ballot. Comments showed common ground, whether “yes” or “no”. A few technical questions about timing and interfaces. HEC needs to be clear about how to select members and panel and give them guidance. 50% saying put to vote of members, 12% don’t know, 31% saying not to put to ballot. 638 responses. (But yes and no can be ambiguous.) Clarifications are necessary, esp. which to get from UUK.
W (Kent): Results of e-ballot yesterday. 294 responded. 278 said please do not put this to ballot. Don’t see it as a proposal, but as opening stage of conversations. Concerned about ambiguous terms. Don’t need to be rushed into this. And we should make a proposal to UUK, not vice versa.
DW (Loughbrough): meeting and online poll, overwhelming in favour of accepting the deal. Wanted further clarification, but today’s information satisfies that. Don’t disagree with seeking further clarifications from UUK. But doesn’t want to go for no detriment clause. Pre-empts the process. Consequence will be major redundancies. Is there a rush? Strikes in April, only a couple weeks away. To not rush, need to take April strikes off table.
M (Reading): Mixed response, not very good consultation. Just over 200 responses via email and meeting with 130 attending. Reject or accept makes it hard to express a revise and resubmit opinion. Meeting voted for motions using Warwick template. Majority in meeting to reject and majority by email to accept.
DN (Southampton): hard to understand what offer was. E-ballot. About 1200 members now. Committed to striking in April. Turnout of about 25% in e-ballot, and 70% wanted something they could understand put to ballot, but need more information.
GT (Oxford): Opinion this time more mixed. Small proportion of membership can attend EGM, so must ask whole membership to have a say. Now have 1700 members.
??? (Durham): Membership increased by 30%, members in every department. Email consultation in favour of accepting. But, also have questions, about putting to membership since not all can attend meetings. Need effective PR of what we’re doing.
BB (Newcastle): 950 à 1500
revise & resubmit – cf. journal submissions, not ready to send out to readers
April – students
£100m – UUK not united
??? (Brunel): Revise & resubmit. Do not ballot in present form. More action could overextend us.
??? (Salford): Need time for members to make informed decisions.
P (Hull): Majority of straw poll is don’t trust them but proceed with caution. What are consequences of rejecting this? There is a clock ticking. What message to members?
CC (Sussex): “Meaningful DB” should not go to a ballot, confusing wording. Need to tie that down, and then could put to a ballot. Arrival of Jarvis letter knocked out lots of points from their EGM – that’s a tactic by UUK.
DO (Leicester): Majority were “yes, but” to ballot in e-ballot. Learned procedurally how to do things. E-ballots are good, but not enough time. But need to move quickly.
P (Ulster, and QUB): 25% response, very confusing summary. Ulster had four sub-branch meetings with 61 members attending. Want exams to go forward.
??? (Goldsmiths): Welcome climbdown, but don’t want this to go for balloting. Need assurances on transparency and deadlines. Want suspension of deadline by TPR and “comparable” not winding up “inferior”. We’re in a strong position. Not initially, but now we are. Jarvis letter is interesting: show their weakness and our strength. They had to pull together a letter to respond to what Sally Hunt raised. Ballot must be on our terms and with assurances. If not by 16 April, escalate.
J (Bristol): 116 at meeting, majority in favor of ballot. E-ballot large majority to go to a ballot on the proposal. We can return to action if needed.
CM (Dundee): Had branch meeting and e-consultation. Online, majority wanted to accept; in meeting, majority wanted to reject. Because they engaged in discussion—members said they changed their views through discussion. This comes from our strength. Suggest “revise and resubmit”. We were told this offer was fixed, but Jarvis’s letter this morning moves it. Be wary about comment from Pensions Regulator: need to see whole thing to be sure it helps us. Should not be balloting till we have a final offer, and this is not a final offer.
DA (Cardiff): Membership 1600, meeting of about 100. So went to eballot. Feeling at meeting was that this was a basis to move forward, same concerns as others. In e-ballot, 75% of 40% who voted, said should revise and resubmit. Based on today’s updates, what would go in a proposal to members: revised thing or the existing proposal?
?? (St. Andrews): Two campus meetings and email consultation. About 160 members participated, 25% of members. Monday meeting not certain since not informed about Sally’s email. But majority wanted revise & resubmit. Want different text of proposals before goes to ballot.
??? (Nottingham): E-consultation and general meeting. Small majority on e-consultation wanted to accept, but large majority in meeting wanted revise and resubmit. People changed minds in face-to-face discussion. Reject idea of presenting existing proposal to ballot. If new information from this morning was written in, would probably be acceptable to members.
??? (SOAS): EGM last week confirming status quo. EGM on Monday decided on revise and resubmit, not ballot now. Some assurances already covered today, but also no detriment and idea that affordability should be part of negotiation, not external to it. Want ballot for marking boycott and action past 19 June.
??? (Bath): continue preparation, do not suspend action short of strike, ballot only when ambiguities get resolved in our favour.
S (Sheffield): EGM of 260+ on Monday. Were 1300 and now above 1800. They already had an EGM already scheduled to create national strike committee. If we had this, we could have met last week to help negotiators. Need changes to proposal. Not asking to no detriment, but insist on no preconditions like affordability. Also, no rush – why not 3 years of no change and time for genuine discussion. Finally, can’t understand why we are considering a proposal while 9 institutions are still threatening punitive deductions.
Simon (Stirling): E-ballot, overwhelming for revise and resubmit. Today’s clarifications would probably move to a ballot.
?? (Cambridge): Online poll with 190 responses, about 60% want to continue till further clarifications received. EGM with 80 people. First to welcome proposal but not to suspend until assurance of TPR not block. Second, not to put proposal to ballot. Third, no detriment motion without further negotiation with panel. (??)
DB (RHUL): Non-militant band in favour of accepting subject to clarifications.
??? (Aberdeen): Inconclusive branch meeting with largest minority in favour of revise and resubmit. Thinks branch would support after seeing Jarvis’s letter.
A (QMUL): EGM on Tuesday of 100-200 members. Motions to strengthen valuation methodology; revise and resubmit; no detriment counterproposal; Sheffield’s proposal for a standing strike committee for dispute. Surprised that we haven’t heard more about process for revise & resubmit since many branches support that. Need to keep members with us: 75% are casualised, will lose them if we put this proposal to ballot.
??? (Open U): Already had a meeting, 15% of membership. Before Sally’s clarification on Monday, but very positive but needing a lot more reassurance from UUK and from UCU side. Need to know we can take action within any timetable agreed. If those are there, we could ballot on and that would be positive.
MM (Imperial): EGM yesterday, followed by e-ballot. EGM with 90, 11% of membership. Put motions to e-ballot as well. Confusion about what we are talking about, couldn’t answer questions. First motion was more assurances from USS and TPR before it goes to ballot: 43% in favour, 42% against in EGM. In e-ballot, also evenly balanced. Seond motion was to go to a ballot: 55% in favour at EGM and 32% against. In e-ballot, 74% in favour of going to ballot and 16% to not ballot.
??? (Birkbeck): Branch meeting yesterday & email consultation—consensus was revise & resubmit. We have some time, a couple weeks to clarify vagueness. Worried about vagueness, lack of trust in employers. This will show whether we were right to be suspicious, if they are willing to clarify.
?? (Inst. of Education): EGM yesterday with good attendance. Revise & resubmit position. Will not second guess responses of members at meeting based on new information from Jarvis this morning. Offer was too ambiguous, esp. affordability constraint needs to be removed. Opinions changed through discussion, and supported no detriment clause with only one abstention. Concerned about working to timescale and agenda laid down by employers, not us. Any revised offer going to ballot must give us time to have discussions and debates in branches, which can’t happen over Easter leave period. Probably well into April for an e-ballot. Shouldn’t be bounced into it. Any offer must be worth the 14 days’ pay we have lost and keeps new members active.
??? (Glasgow): 214 members of 1400. Strong mandate to vote for a ballot.
??? (Warwick): Tuesday EGM with about 100 people, 80% thought not ready to go to ballot. Wanted movement on issues already raised. Online poll put up on Friday that said something very different, only 2 options: 180 responses, with 70% members saying support for balloting because comments were all about revise and resubmit. Strong feeling from branch for revise and resubmit.
??? (Essex): Ready to go forward, can take action again next year.
?? (Surrey): Would prefer to consult members at this point.
N (Leeds): EGM yesterday, well attended. Revise & resubmit position. This proposal is just a negotiating position and no trust in management whatsoever. Need to move UUK further. What is mechanism for going back into negotiation?
??? (St. George’s): Unanimous to go to ballot, but wanted to express concerns about what we’re dealing with.
??? (UEA): 70% majority about not balloting—want clarification, not necessarily revision. This is close, but there’s so little trust of UUK that we need clarification. Some of it from Jarvis’s letter might have swayed opinion.
GH(Aston): EGM on Monday, 50 there which is 15%. Large majority to put to ballot. Important that administrators and academics able to commit to strike action on same terms. Useful to have Jarvis’s terms incorporated in what is put to members.
??? (KCL): EGM voted revise and resubmit. E-mail consultation more divided between revise & resubmit and go to ballot. Concern that we have initiative and employers ready to give way further, losing the momentum, esp. Sally’s statement about “slim” likelihood—inappropriate and undermined work of us on picket lines. Need to row back from that position.
??? (Aberystwyth): Held EGM yesterday, want to ballot but only with clarity. No detriment not realistic or sensible. Predetermines result of expert panel, and conflicts with position at start of industrial action. Esp. what we told our students.
M (City): Couldn’t have an EGM, but would have to have renegotiation come before next set of strike action, can’t afford it and don’t have branch funds to support it.
EH (London School of Hygiene, etc.): 370 members, 20% voted, with 53% accept with request for clarifications, 40% to accept on condition that concerns were addressed. Concerns on governance of USS and UUK, what happens after April 2019, more on universities’ acceptance of risk.
HH (Cranfield): Yes to ballot, but low response rate. Concern in that year about how VCs behave, worries about redundancies.
??? (Ruskin): Email ballot. Principal supports us, need to call on VCs to speak out. Revise & resubmit. Believe we can get no detriment because things have moved on. People join a fighting union. Don’t trust UUK.
??? (Keele): Members who wanted to accept on eballot changed mind at EGM because they had more information and time. Need more time and discussion before can make a decision. Need UCU to take control of process.
??? (Strathclyde): 26% member increase. Equalities needs to include lots, and consider groups other than lecturers.
??? (Liverpool): Liverpool losing 220 people, under incredible pressure, need to win something concrete. “For the avoidance of all doubt”, revise and resubmit, ask for straw poll on revise and resubmit.
TH (Senate House): EGM refused to answer about balloting because wanted more information.