Branch Motions: USS Dispute and Anti-Casualisation

At a well attend branch meeting yesterday, it was unanimously agreed that the current proposal put forward in the USS Pensions dispute does not address many of concerns that members have with the pension reforms.  The meeting called for members to reject the proposal in the current e-ballot and for a Special HE Sector Conference to be convened, in order to debate the HE pensions campaigns and the use of ASOS actions.

The branch also voted to nominate Katy Price to represent the branch at the national branch officers’ meeting on USS in Manchester on January 28, 2015

The meeting also unanimously voted support for the Queen Mary Anti-Casualisation campaign.  Caoimhe Mader McGuinness​ was nominated as the branch’s delegate to the UCU national meeting of staff on casualized contracts on February 13, 2015.

USS Motion:

QM UCU branch believes that the current ‘potential agreement’ offer recently endorsed by a majority of HEC and communicated to members amounts to a major cut in staff pensions.

– The new proposals will see the ending of the final salary scheme resulting in a significant loss for these members (approximately 75% of the current members of USS).

– Whilst staff who joined the scheme after 2011 on the career re-evaluated benefits scheme would make some small gains this would come at the cost of higher contributions.

– The acceptance of the introduction of a defined contribution element to the scheme for contributions over £55,000 is a major concession to the employers.  This would mean that the revised scheme would have two parallel arrangements incentivising employers to increase the scope of the DC scheme through lowering the threshold below £55,000 in the future. It is well-known that DC schemes are far inferior to the existing DB scheme as they rest on the individual taking on the pension risk alongside the risks associated with stock market performance such that members will have no guarantee of a pension derived from the DC element on retirement. Accepting the DC element further risks undermining the scheme as a whole as members decide to leave.

– The new proposals would still mean that USS offers an inferior pension to that of the Teacher’s scheme – TPS.

– However, of most concern is that UCU negotiators have, in effect, accepted the flawed (and widely discredited, even amongst a number of employers) actuarial valuation of the scheme that suggests that the scheme is in deficit and has to embark on a de-risking investment strategy that will, inevitably shrink the funds within the scheme payable to members. Members voted in the national ballot to reject the employer valuation of the scheme and the resultant proposals for revising it. The proposals being offered to members are still based on the flawed evaluation which members have already rejected, overwhelmingly.

– For these reasons we ask members to vote no in the E-ballot thus sending a clear message to employers and UCU negotiators that Queen Mary UCU members want the national strike ballot mandated fulfilled and that members are willing to take action to defend their pensions

– Finally, Queen Mary 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.​

Anti-Casualization Motion:

Queen Mary UCU branch notes:

  1. That the casualization of staff is a growing concern across Higher and Further Education
  2. That casualized academic and academic-related staff from 17 universities have decided to move towards a national conference on the issue, to be held at SOAS on the 7th February, 2015. This conference is an attempt to coordinate local campaigns, share resources and experiences, encourage the development of new campaigns and broaden out the campaign nationally.
  3. That local campaigns focusing on anti-casulaization have succeeded in recruiting more members to UCU making UCU more representative of casualized staff.

Believes:

  1. That local campaigns are an important aspect of fighting the casualization of labour in education.
  2. That national coordination between those campaigns is an important development.
  3. That it is important to support casualized staff in their efforts to organise in order to better their pay and conditions.

Resolves:

  1. To support the national conference organized by the concerned staff and students and publicise it in the appropriate forums.
  2. To donate £100 pounds towards the organising costs of the conference.
  3. To work with sympathetic UCU branches and relevant national structures to promote increasing awareness about the problem of casualization in HE as a way of developing an effective national strategy to address it with the support and engagement of other groups of staff in the sector.
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