Pensions Dispute – Act now to save your pension

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Your pension next!

By now you will have heard that the USS fund is at least £7bn in deficit.  The employers and the pensions regulator are going to use this astronomical sum to do away with your final salary pension.  This figure of £7bn is magical accounting – the USS fund is highly solvent (see Dennis Leech’s blog for more on this http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/dennisleech/entry/uss_is_highly/).  This attack on your pension is both ideological and unnecessary.

IF WE DO NOT ACT NOW WE WILL LOSE THE FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEME

What does this mean for you?

Let’s assume that you live for 17 years beyond retirement.  If the changes to the pension benefits the employers are trying to implement become reality then:

As a lecturer you could lose over £70,000
As a senior lecturer you could lose over £140,000
As a professor you could lose over £290,000

 We have to act fast. The employers intend to have the new benefits structure in place by March 2015.

 We will need a HUGE campaign to defend our pension entitlements and we encourage you to vote YES to strike action and action short of a strike in the upcoming ballot (1st to 20th October).

 If UCU negotiators can go to the employers with the knowledge that they have a mandate from the membership for industrial action and a dynamic campaign – we have a much greater chance of saving our pensions.

 Also, it’s worth having a close read of the article about the upcoming dispute on the time higher website http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/uss-reforms-seen-as-radical-attack-on-pensions/2015786.article ​ – particularly the bit about previously accrued benefits. This is going to get messy!​

More details of the ballot can be found at http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/pdf/UCUHE230.pdf

 The exec recommend voting YES to taking action on this urgent issue.

The pay deal is a pay cut

Members will have been sent an electronic voting paper in relation to the pay offer. The offer is for a 2% rise next year (2014/5) which leaves us with nothing more than the 1%​ for this year (2013/4) that has already been imposed.

The positive news is that 2% is double the initial 1% offer, likely to be just above inflation, and the offer clearly leaves national bargaining intact.

The negative side is that the offer leaves us with only 1% for the year in which we are (still) in dispute, 2013/4, and 2% for next year, 2014-5. Accepting the offer would mean we have effectively failed in the 2013/4 dispute and will have signed up to a deal that totally fails to provide the catch-up we need. The extras, i.e. £30 added to the bottom spine, are hardly enough to sweeten the deal. This has long been UCEA’s agenda: to offer something more for next year while moving on from this year’s dispute. Be clear: accepting 2% for next year means that this year’s dispute is definitely ended.

In the light of this, your UCU Executive is recommending rejection. We understand that improving the 1% offer will not be easy but we are convinced of our cause: the employers are sitting on a significant surplus and and we must continue to apply pressure to win the deal we deserve.

In terms of the marking boycott, now suspended until 6 May, management have indicated to UCU at Goldsmiths that if ‘staff privately mark and park, there would be no “need” for pay deductions’ and, furthermore, ‘there would be no “legal” questions about the ownership of marked work.’

Members met on the 16th of April to consider this offer. We welcomed the offer and agreed that while we continue to fully support the marking boycott and will not process marks or administer the marking process, we are committed to the principle of reconciling marks as soon as possible on conclusion of the dispute.

Marking Boycott Starts 28th April!

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UCU’s marking boycott is due to start on 28 April. This is the latest part of our national dispute with the employers in response to their 1% pay offer which is on the back of a 13% pay cut over the last 5 years. We are reluctant to take this course of action but feel that we have little alternative if we are to drag the employers back into serious negotiations.

The boycott will involve not marking work, not circulating marks, not providing feedback to students and not taking part in administrative duties that pertain directly to processing marks.

There are some excellent FAQs from UCU at http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/instructions-for-the-marking-boycott/#.Uy2821wQfHg and Goldsmiths Students Union (http://www.goldsmithssu.org/news/article/6013/Marking-Boycott-101/

An action committee to coordinate preparation will meet on Friday, 28 March at 1pm RHB 139. All are welcome to join.

Countdown to Assessment Boycott

Following a series of two-hour strikes and one-day strikes, the next stage of the pay dispute will take the form of a marking boycott in effect from the 28th of April.

Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU, has given the following statement:

The Higher Education Committee met on Friday 14 February to review the current dispute and agree next steps. It was noted that members had already taken substantial industrial action in the campaign for fair pay and that in the continued absence of any movement from the employers, further escalated action would be necessary.

Having examined assessment timetables, HEC therefore confirmed the implementation of a marking boycott with effect from Monday 28 April.

This is a serious but unavoidable step for which the union will need to fully prepare members.

HEC therefore agreed that between now and 28 April the union should prioritise working with branches to maximise the impact of a marking boycott, including in the minority of institutions where most assessment has already been done.

This will include branch meetings to discuss the marking sanction, joint union meetings, early discussions with local students’ unions and continued campaigning activity including a focus on VC/Principals’ pay and perks.

UCU reported that the employers have agreed to talks in March (see the UCU statement here, or this considerably more readable article in The Independent).

Two Hour Strike, Monday 10th February: Picket Lines and Virtual Picketing

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Our next two-hour strike action, part of our ongoing dispute over pay, will take place between 9 and 11am on Monday 10th February.

We will have picket lines outside the college. The branch’s executive committee has voted for a ‘virtual picket’ to take place at this time as well, with members using the time to email the warden directly. Suggested text has already been sent out; if you are a member and haven’t received this, email gucu-admin@gold.ac.uk

This action is a response to the employers’ offer of a mere 1% pay rise, amounting to a very substantial cut in pay when compared to inflation and cost of living rises; for more information and resources please see http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/

Why We Are Striking Today

VC Salaries in Context

Source http://www.dhirajmurthy.com/fairpayinhe/

Employers are still only offering a 1% pay rise, amounting to a massive decrease in real terms for Higher Education Staff pay. In spite of this, across the country wardens and vice-chancellors are receiving much larger pay rises (including here at Goldsmiths). The sector reports record surpluses but still refuses to pay staff fairly. For these reasons, UCU will be taking strike action today (Thursday 6th February), along with other Higher Education staff unions.

To find out more about the context of this dispute, have a look at this article on openDemocracy, from our own branch secretary:http://tinyurl.com/of4dsk4

Reports from today’s debate and last week’s rally

At the end of the second of our weekly two-hour strikes, a quick report on the activity we’ve engaged in:

Thursday 23/01/14: UCU officers address a rally outside the RHB

Thursday 23/01/14: UCU officers address a rally outside the RHB

Last week our rally outside the Richard Hoggart Building drew around one hundred and fifty staff and students to hear speeches from UCU members and march with us to the Deptford Town Hall.

28/01/14: Goldsmiths UCU President addresses the crowd outside the college

28/01/14: Goldsmiths UCU President addresses the crowd outside the college

Today, after a quick rally in front of the college where Goldsmiths UCU President Tom Henri addressed a large crowd of staff and students, we hosted a fantastic open discussion in the Students’ Union. Led by officers of UCU and the Students’ Union, questions and statements from the floor put the strike in the wider context of the privatisation and marketisation of education, both here at Goldsmiths and nationally across the UK, and debated about the next stages of the struggle. Attended by between 160 and 200 people, the atmosphere was brilliant and set the stage for taking the struggle further.

28/01/14: Goldsmiths UCU Secretary kicks off an open discussion in the SU

28/01/14: Goldsmiths UCU Secretary kicks off an open discussion in the SU

After the discussion we marched to Deptford Town Hall, where students chanted for the warden to come out and explain why he has taken a 9% raise while staff have only been offered a measly 1% – amounting to a cut in real terms of up to 16%. At 4pm we returned to work – but staff and students have given a clear message to management: the dispute is far from over, and we have the energy and the will to keep the pressure on.

28/01/14: Led by UCU and SU officers, staff and students gathered outside Deptford Town Hall

28/01/14: Led by UCU and SU officers, staff and students gathered outside Deptford Town Hall

Tuesday 28th Jan: 2 Hour Strike, 2-4pm

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The second of our series of two hour strikes will take place tomorrow – Tuesday the 28th of January – from 2pm until 4pm.

We will be hosting an open discussion on the next steps of the struggle in the stretch at 2:15pm.

Please let us know if you think your pay will be affected by the action. We can offer compensation for docked pay, particularly for hourly paid staff.

This strike will form part of national action currently being undertaken by UCU in support of Fair Pay in Higher Education. See http://fairpay.web.ucu.org.uk/ for more information.

General Meeting Agenda: June 11, 2013

AGENDA

Goldsmiths UCU General Meeting 11 June 2013

National pay claim 2013
VT assimilation negotiations
Updating of staff files
Congress Report and discussion on subs
New Executive
Delegates for People’s Assembly, 22 June
AOB
Academic Staff Recognition and Development, HEA and UCU presentations
Multiculturalism and Education in the Age of Austerity day at UCU: Report from Deirdre Osborne (if present)

Notes:

1. Pay Claim

UCU have noted their disappointment at the pay offer of 1% and the substantial loss of pay, 13% over 5 years. HE Sector Conference delegates have voted to endorse rejection of the pay offer along with other HE unions and to prepare to ballot for action in the autumn.

2. VT Assimilation

After many years, we have finally able to report that we have reached a draft agreement on the assimilation of hourly paid staff onto the single pay spine. This will be subject to ratification by UCU nationally and will go out to ballot of all Goldsmiths UCU members in the summer.

4. Congress report and subscription rates discussion

Nationally (though not at Goldsmiths) UCU has accrued a £2 million deficit due to losing members. Instead of sanctioning a budget that may involve compulsory redundancies, Congress delegates voted for an integrated strategy of cost reductions, recruitment campaigns in low density institutions and raising subscriptions over two years by up to 5% above inflation as necessary.

7. i) Academic Staff Recognition and Development : HEA and UCU presentations

There will be a presentation/discussion session 2-4pm Friday June 14th NAB 314 on the topic of Academic Staff Recognition and Development.

Guest speakers will be Richard Brawn from the Higher Education Academy and Michael MacNeil, National Head of H.E. for the UCU.  The focus will be on the recognition of excellence in academic teaching and how we can best support H.E. teaching practice.

Queries to m.c.halvorson@gold.ac.uk

Next General Meeting: Assimilation of Hourly Paid Staff

There is a very important general meeting at 1pm next Tuesday, 11 June, in RHB150.

There are a number of local and national issues that we need to discuss.

1. After many many years, we have finally able to report that we have reached a draft agreement on the assimilation of hourly paid staff onto the single pay spine. This will be subject to ratification by UCU nationally and, crucially, will go out to ballot of all Goldsmiths UCU members in the summer. It has taken an enormous amount of work to get this far and we are aware that members – especially those who are hourly paid – will have many questions about the new scheme.

2. UCU Congress took place last week and there are two major issues to report. 

  • The first is that the HE Sector Conference delegates voted to endorse rejection of the pay offer of 1% (along with other HE unions) and to prepare to ballot for action in the autumn. Delegates were acutely aware of the substantial loss of pay – some 13% over 5 years – which has accumulated in recent years.
  • The second is in relation to a projected £2 million deficit at UCU nationally arising from the loss of members over the last  two years (not at Goldsmiths we would like to add!). Instead of sanctioning a budget that may involve compulsory redundancies, delegates voted for an integrated strategy of cost reductions, recruitment campaigns in low density institutions and raising subscriptions over two years by up to 5% above inflation as necessary. This was not taken lightly but is much more preferable than being complicit in a compulsory redundancy policy for UCU staff at a time when local branches are opposing precisely such a policy.
  • Branch motions to Congress on opposing redundancies amongst Initial Teacher Education staff and supporting the national People’s Assembly on 22 June were both passed overwhelmingly.

Please do join us at the meeting on Tuesday 11 June to discuss these extremely important issues.