On Thursday 5 April about 60 members attended an Emergency General Meeting of City UCU. Most of the meeting was spent discussing the pensions dispute. There were a lot of questions and members raised concerns about the clarity – or lack of clarity – of the latest offer.
Members present were very clear that the unity that our branch has achieved should not be undermined. Our branch has grown in number, with about 190 new members since January. We have also grown in strength and confidence. Whatever the outcome of this vote, we will need to continue to work together to fight on pensions now and in the future, but also to fight on the issues that are impacting our everyday working lives at City: workload, casualisation, bullying, inequality and more.
A motion (copied in full below) in support of a ‘No’ vote was moved and was passed by a majority of those at the meeting. As such City UCU Branch Policy, as democratically decided is to RECOMMEND A NO VOTE in the current USS ballot for the reasons outlined in the motion. The vote on the motion was not, however, unanimous and a significant minority of members at the meeting either voted against or abstained. We recognise that this difference of opinion will persist and we strongly support ongoing comradely dialogue and discussion.
The branch vote to support a reject vote rested on the belief that UCU negotiators should return to UUK and seek improvements to the 23 March proposal taking into account the many concerns that branches have raised about its implementation and contents. And that industrial action must not be suspended while these negotiations are ongoing
For those looking for more detailed rationales on why our branch voted to recommend a No vote we recommend the collection of USSBriefs https://ussbriefs.com/, to which our member, Claire Marris, has contributed. These include three briefs (ussbriefs6, ussbriefs11 and ussbriefs14) that detail the arguments in favour of a No vote as well as other material on the background to the dispute and that provide other perspectives.
In line with the motion we will also be calling on the national union to hold a special conference on USS before or after the May Congress. This is to enable the broader discussion and concerns of members to be voiced and to create the time and space to develop national pension policy in a democratic way.
We also very briefly discussed, and passed unanimously, a motion that we will submit to UCU Congress. This motion is an attempt to address the concerns of members about transparency in the way that our union operates nationally during a dispute.
Members have until 14:00 on Friday 13 April to vote in the ballot, and we would encourage all members to vote whatever their inclination is.
City UCU Committee
Motion in support of a NO vote – passed by a majority.
This UCU branch notes:
- the support and energy of our membership during the course of the fourteen days of strike action in defence of our pensions the branch delegates meeting (held on the 28th March at UCU HQ, London) on the USS dispute where last-minute evidence was tabled, on which delegates had no opportunity to consult their members;
- that at the conclusion of the branch delegates meeting no vote was taken on what was clearly the crucial issue the Higher Education Committee (HEC) were going to decide on afterwards – whether to send the UUK offer as it stands to a ballot or not;
- that according to branch delegates present at the meeting a majority of branches favoured a ‘revise and resubmit’ position rather than putting the current offer to ballot;
- the HEC meeting decided by a narrow majority of 10-8 to ballot members on a proposal from UUK whose wording was not the outcome of a formal negotiating process between the properly constituted UCU negotiating group on USS and UUK;
- that the UUK offer contains many areas of uncertainty that need to be clarified before an offer can be accepted, including:
- There have been no details provided by UUK about how it envisages any revised contributions and benefits will be shared between the employer and USS members.
- There have been no details provided by UUK about the valuation that will be used to inform the future pension scheme. Our principle worry is shared by leading pensions experts who warn that unless this uncertainly is cleared up, the offer on the table will simply revert to the notorious ‘November valuation’ provided by USS. If this happens, our pension would revert to being a defined contribution scheme by default and the UUK offer would be effectively nullified.
- We have no concrete assurances about the intent of USS and the Pensions Regulator that any mutually agreed settlement will be acceptable to them. This is important, since any deal requires the final agreement of both. However, since the offer was made public, USS has signaled its intention to revert to the November valuation.
This UCU branch believes:
- That UCU negotiators should return to UUK and seek improvements to the 23 March proposal taking into account the many concerns that branches have raised about its implementation and contents
- That industrial action must not be suspended while these negotiations are ongoing
This UCU branch resolves:
- To recommend to members to vote against the UUK proposal in the consultation
- To circulate this petition to members along with other materials urging a vote against the UUK proposal: https://goo.gl/forms/jpuLLPtkgLOigF2O2
- To call for a Special Meeting of UCU Higher Education Sector Conference to discuss the USS dispute under Rule11.* If possible this Special Meeting would be held immediately prior to or following Congress.
Late Congress Motion: Union transparency and accountability during disputes – passed unanimously.
The USS dispute, branch delegate and HEC meetings and ballot have produced member anger around issues of transparency and accountability within UCU.
Congress resolves that:
- The role and purpose of Branch Delegate Meetings during a dispute should be clarified, including voting rights (per branch or weighted by membership and when and how votes can be called).
- During a dispute, any five HEC/FEC members may call for a reconvened meeting of HEC/FEC, within two weeks, to progress the dispute.
- HEC/FEC must agree contextual information accompanying national ballots of members. Ballot text will be circulated to branch officers at least 1 working day in advance of the ballot going live.
- A means for members/branches to contact HEC/FEC members is publicised.
- Information about upcoming HEC/FEC/NEC meetings and agenda items is publicised.
- Mechanisms for HEC/FEC to consider relevant branch motions is determined.