Open letter against the suspension of action in Higher Education by UCU activists

22 November 2014

Dear colleague

Defend Pensions – Fight to Win – Join the call for a Higher Education Sector Conference

We believe that the UCU leadership of the USS pension dispute has no strategy for defending our pensions. Their approach is to negotiate cuts in our pensions without putting up a serious fight.

At the Special Higher Education Committee of the NEC meeting on 19 November, the majority of pre-92 HEC members voted en bloc, 14 to 6:

  • to suspend the action until 15 January, when the negotiations are set to finish, removing all pressure on the employers during the negotiations
  • against putting a new counter-proposal based on Final Salary For All into the negotiations
  • against withdrawing the offer to the employers to break the link between existing pensions and RPI

This is not just a disaster for members of USS. Abandonment of Final Salary in USS invites the Government and employers to close Final Salary in the Teachers Pension Scheme.

Despite their stated opposition to the Employers’ deficit projections, the majority on the HEC intend to negotiate cuts to USS as if this deficit cannot be changed. So whatever formula they use, our pensions will be cut to pay for a “deficit” of £13bn, even though UCU says that it should be at most £5bn – and this still assumes that all employers could go bankrupt tomorrow!

The only way to change this defeatist strategy is to call a Special Higher Education Sector Conference. To put Final Salary back on the table, it must take place before 15 January. To put credible industrial action in place we need a Sector Conference to decide on the types of action we should take and the timetable for implementing it, before 15 January.

This Conference should be open to both pre- and post-92 delegates and have the capacity to debate both pensions campaigns and the deployment of ASOS and strike action. (See the Model Motion below.)

We need a strategy to win the dispute, one that uses ASOS and Strike Action on members’ terms, one that challenges the Employers industrially and politically, and one that we can escalate to hit the Employers hard if they try to railroad through changes to the scheme. A Higher Education Sector Conference is the only democratic forum the union has that permits branches to send motions and delegates and hold the HEC to account.

Time is short. If you agree with us, pass the motion below through your branch.

UCU is your union. The USS dispute is pivotal for the union as a whole. Let us fight together to defend our pensions.

Signed:
Lesley McGorrigan, University of Leeds, HEC
Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham, HEC
Jo McNeill, University of Liverpool, HEC
Paul Blackledge, Leeds Beckett University, HEC
Sean Wallis, University College London, HEC
Saira Weiner, Liverpool John Moores University, HEC
Ioanna Ioannou, University College London, HEC
Karen Evans, University of Liverpool, HEC
Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow, HEC, USS Joint Negotiating Committee
Trish McManus, University of Brighton, HEC
Jim Wolfreys, Kings College London
Mark O’Brien, University of Liverpool
Tom Hickey, University of Brighton
Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds
Jane Hardy, University of Hertfordshire

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To add your name email s.wallis@ucl.ac.uk.
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Model Motion to call for a HESC
This UCU branch supports the call for the requisition of a Special HE Sector Conference under rule 16.10 to debate the campaigns to defend pensions in HE, and to defend the capacity of the UCU to call industrial action short of a strike as part of those campaigns.

Procedural notes:

  1. Motions must be approved by a quorate branch meeting. (Please include in your submission the number attending the branch meeting, and what the branch quorum is.)
  2. The motion must be passed through twenty branches from separate institutions. (Institutions with more than one branch count as one for this purpose.)
  3. Motions should be sent to Sally Hunt (shunt@ucu.org.uk), General Secretary, with a copy to Michael MacNeil (mmacneil@ucu.org.uk), National Head of Bargaining and Negotiations, and Joanna De Groot (jdegroot@ucu.org.uk), Vice

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