Pensions Dispute – Act now to save your pension

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  This attack on your pension is both ideological and unnecessary.


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 ​ – particularly the bit about previously accrued benefits. This is going to get messy!​

More details of the ballot can be found at

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

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

Leaflet for 3rd December strike

Why are we striking?

For a decent pay award…

Since 2009, UCU members in higher education (HE) have had pay cuts resulting in an average cumulative loss of 13%. At the same time, money from student tuition fees is pouring into the HE sector, creating an operating surplus of over £2 billion.

Not everyone, however, is in the same boat. The assault on wages is happening at the same time as an unprecedented boom for those at the top. Over 2500 people in higher education earn more than £100,000 a year; at Goldsmiths, this number has increased from 1 to 4 in the last year! Half of all vice-chancellors earn over £242,000 a year, with our own Warden receiving a 9% pay increase this year. Meanwhile, ordinary staff face increased casualisation, rising workloads and cuts to pensions.

…but in the context of the Government’s assault on universities

Youth unemployment now stands at nearly one million. Yet instead of investing properly in post-16 education, the government has trebled tuition fees and scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance in order to drive down demand for continuing education during a recession. It has, however, shown not just disregard for the lives of young people but staggering incompetence in overseeing its own market reforms. The budget of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will have to be cut by some £1.4 billion in the next two years to pay for the increased demand for loans, a substantial part of which is generated by students in private colleges that have few of the restraints placed on publicly regulated institutions. This is a market literally out of control.

We are told that – just as university and college employers “cannot afford” a decent pay rise despite money in the bank – market reforms of further and higher education were necessary at a time of austerity. But the government’s introduction of fees and loans was never about saving money. It was designed to massage the public accounts and demonstrate its love of free enterprise. Yet the claim by universities minister, David Willetts, that the recent sell-off of student debt from the 1990s – worth £890 million but sold for £160 million – represented ‘good value for money, helping to reduce public sector net debt’ is laughable. Not only is his understanding of what constitutes ‘good value’ demented; the idea that reducing the country’s net debt by 0.000133% is of any significance is risible. This is not about good value but about an ideological commitment to free markets – whatever the cost to the public.

And the cost has been huge – not simply in terms of massively increased student debt, but in widening social inequality. Since 2010/11, part-time undergraduate numbers have fallen by some 40%, with a 27% drop in postgraduates. Even the official regulator, HEFCE, admitted that these decreases ‘are likely to have implications for equality and diversity’ and to have a disproportionate impact on non-traditional students, mature students and men from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is at the same time that young people living in richer parts of the country are between six and nine times more likely to go to selective universities.

The pay dispute must be seen in this wider context: a neoliberal restructuring of post-16 education that is set to reward the wealthy and to target the poor, and to introduce competition, market forces and private actors into the delivery of higher education whenever possible.

In this context, the pay dispute should be fought not simply as a battle over a few hundred pounds but also over the future of an education system being ravaged by the ideological desire of successive governments to make it function just like any other private institution.

Leaflet for strike on 03/12/13

Press release for tomorrow’s strike, Tuesday 3rd December

Goldsmiths College trade unions on strike 3rd December 2013

Trade unions representing the staff at Goldsmiths College have called for further strike action.  On Tuesday 3rd December, members of UCU and UNISON, representing staff from porters to professors, will walk out at in protest at the 1% pay offer from the employers.  Taking into account the sector-wide pay freeze since 2009, this amounts to a pay cut in real terms of 13%. During this period we have seen senior management salaries rise faster than inflation and universities accumulating huge surpluses since the tripling of student fees.

Below is an open letter to Pat Loughrey, the Warden (Vice-Chancellor) of Goldsmiths from the members of Goldsmiths branch of the UCU.

On Tuesday 3rd December lecturers and support staff at Goldsmiths will be taking strike action for the second time this year and we would like to make clear our reasons for this. For the fifth successive year UCEA, the employers organisation, have made an offer to increase pay by 1%, well below the current rate of inflation. In effect both lecturers and support staff have seen their incomes fall by 13% since 2008.

Over the same period, student fees have been increased to £9,000 a year for home students and upwards of £11,000 for international students. Thanks to successful recruitment and the acknowledged high quality of degree courses at Goldsmiths the University has managed to maintain a healthy operating surplus, some of which has been invested in improving the state of the teaching accommodation. Sadly this has not been extended to investing in the majority of the staff all of whom make a substantial contribution to the success of Goldsmiths.

While salaries of lecturers and support staff have declined in real terms, the same cannot be said of the Warden who has recently been awarded a 9% pay rise and benefits from a pension contribution far in excess of the annual salary of most support staff. We would like to congratulate him on his success in helping secure the place of Goldsmiths in a global marketplace but would remind him of the contribution to this of everyone who works here. A few crumbs from the top table wouldn’t go amiss.

TPS members on strike tomorrow

Tomorrow (Thursday 10th May), UCU members with their pensions on the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) will go on strike alongside members of PCS and Unite unions.  There is also a London-wide march from St Thomas’s hospital at 12 noon going to a rally at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster 1pm, at which Oxford UCU President Terry Hoad is to speak. Although members at Goldsmiths are on the USS pension scheme, we still need to show solidarity. Members are encouraged in particular to join the picket lines at Lewisham College, Lewisham Way campus from 8am.

The elections in Greece and France, as well as the strength of the anti-Coalition vote here in the UK last week, have shown that resistance to a Neo-Liberal agenda of austerity has gained momentum. A statement from UCULeft, sent out today, reminded members that ‘UCU members, like other Public Sector workers, have just suffered the first instalment of the “austerity tax” through increased pension contributions taken from our April pay. That is reason enough to get out on the picket lines and rallies tomorrow to make common cause with civil servants, hospitals and others, let alone the other cuts to our pensions which face us.’

More information, include live updates from strikers around the country, can be found at

Solidarity with TPS Strike, General Meeting 28 March 2012 and Important Information about the General Secretary’s Consultation Ballot

Please find below a notice on the TPS strike and how you can show solidarity, as well as the agenda for our General Meeting next week. The agenda includes information about Sally Hunt’s proposed changes to UCU.

1. TPS strike action – show solidarity

Please note that the 28th of March is a strike day for our colleagues who are on the Teacher’s Pension Scheme (TPS). Proposed changes to this pension scheme are likely to see greater contributions from members in exchange for reduced benefits.

Members are encouraged to show solidarity on the picket lines in the morning, before the General Meeting in the afternoon. Goldsmiths UCU members are asked to join the pickets at Lewisham College, Lewisham Way from 8am.

2. General Meeting Agenda, 28 March 2012

The General Meeting will take place at 1pm on Wednesday the 28th of March in the Ben Pimlott Building Lecture Theatre.

Minutes for last month’s GM can be found here

1. PACE restructuring (update from PACE representatives)
2. Research Excellence Framework
3. Sally Hunt’s Consultation on the Future of UCU
4. Motion on National Student Survey
5. Submission of Motions / Delegates for UCU Congress
6. Promotions
7. AOB


1. Sally Hunt’s Consultation on the Future of UCU

After her re-election as General Secretary, Sally Hunt has proposed several changes to the way UCU is run. The three main changes are to reduce the size of UCU’s National Executive Committee from 72 to a maximum, to allow members to be directly consulted on employer’s offers before the union decides whether to escalate action, and to have members elect the national negotiator posts currently elected by annual conferences.

There has been a great deal of opposition to these proposals, and members are strongly encouraged to read this document, which goes through the proposals one by one and highlights many issues:

A ballot was opened on the 12th of March and closes on the 28th at 12noon. Although the GM takes place after the close of the ballot, it is still important that we discuss the implications of these changes, in the light of the upcoming UCU national congress.

2. Motion on National Student Survey

This branch notes:

  • That the National Student Survey (NSS) is a key element of neoliberal proposals (such as those in the 2011 Universities White Paper) to transform higher education into a marketable commodity
  • That the NSS naturalises the idea of students as ‘customers’ and staff as ‘service providers’ and further embeds a culture of ‘measuring’ and ‘ranking’ inside HE
  • That institutions are increasingly using the NSS as a performance management tool with no obvious pedagogic benefits
  • That, as the former head of the Higher Education Academy put it in the THES, the NSS is a ‘pseudoscientific tool purporting to be reliable on the spurious psychologistic grounds that there is some statistical congruence between the responses on a small group of agree-disagree questions around a common topic’.

This branch agrees:

  • To oppose the NSS and to investigate the possibility of urging members not to comply with procedures related to the NSS
  • To work with other UCU branches in developing a campaign of opposition to the NSS
  • To work with student unions and student groups to call for a boycott of the NSS
  • To develop meaningful forms of student feedback and evaluation.

Proposed: Des Freedman

Solidarity with Richmond-Upon-Thames College

Richmond College have started a three day strike today, after plans were revealed to make drastic cuts and redundancies at the college.

On Monday, the chair of Richmond UCU wrote a message to London Region UCU:

[The decision to strike] was motivated largely by the clear understanding that defeat is unthinkable and would leave people with absolutely nowhere to go. Only in the collective could members find any kind of safety and solace in the face of hostility from all sides including apparently our own support staff. ( a letter was recently published in the local newspaper ostensibly from one of our support staff attacking the Union position. It was sent to us as attachment to an e-mail by our marketing dept. only to discover that the signatory, a certain Rose Clarkson, does not exist! They were forced to retract and issue an apology)

Richmond UCU have invited UCU members to join them on the picket lines any day this week from 7.00am till 10.30am to show solidarity. Messages of support can be sent to Dave Carrier, Chair