USS – responding to the consultation

The employers are currently consulting on the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). Your branch officers (Paul Hubert, President, and Owen Lyne, Secretary) attended a collective consultation meeting about them on 2 April with university management.

We strongly encourage all members to feed any questions and concerns through us, so we can convey them at the next meeting (May 8th) and at any other opportunities we get, whether or not members also submit them directly to the USS consultation website. Please note that the views of UCU members who are not members of the USS but who are entitled to be should also be taken into account in this process.

Please also consider attending the university’s presentations, at which these changes will be explained and a chance to comment will be given. Even if little is changed by the consultation, it will at least ensure you are as fully informed as possible about these enormously significant changes to USS. It is also important to register concerns through this means – we need to impress upon the employer that there is strong feeling and try to ensure that answers are provided to any questions we have.

Information on them and how to sign up is given here . We are told that there are many places still available at these sessions. See also dates and times below.

We encourage all members to make individual submissions to the consultation through the USS consultation website as well as through the other channels – the UCU centrally has published material about how to do this and we intend to circulate further information in the near future which you may find helps you with this. Two (personal) resources for responding to the consultation questions are the following:

Dennis Leech’s blog – emeritus professor of economics at Warwick University and UCU branch pensions officer

Mike Otsuka suggestions – one of those who drove LSE as an institution to making critical comments on the reality of the deficit

If many people make similar points, the USS will have to consider and respond to them after the consultation. Time expressing your views is therefore well-spent.

Please feel free to pass this message on to non-union colleagues – you could use it to encourage them to join to make sure they are heard as loudly as possible but if they won’t do that they can still lodge individual queries and views.

Dates, times and venues are:

7 April 2015 – Medway Campus, Rochester Building R2-09 at 9.30, 11.00, 13.30 and 15.00
8 April 2015 – Canterbury Campus, Gulbenkian Cinema at 9.30 and 11.00 and Jennison Lecture Theatre, 13.30pm and 15.00
13, 14 and 15 April 2015, Canterbury Campus, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2 at 9.30, 11.00, 13.30 and 15.00
The sessions will last approximately 90 minutes and can be booked by visiting: www.towerswatson.com/events/21036

USS dispute & Branch meeting 22nd January

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

This is the latest news that the branch has about the USS action:

http://defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk/2015/branches-prepare-for-action-to-restart/

It is a very short article, so I quote it in full here:

“Branches prepare for action to restart

8 January 2015

UCU branches have been asked to prepare members to recommence the assessment boycott on Friday 16 January, to be confirmed after a specially arranged Higher Education Committee (HEC) has met on 14 January.

UCU has also served a fresh notice on the employers that continuous action short of a strike in the form of an assessment and marking boycott will restart; this comes after the suspension of action to allow negotiations following an HEC meeting on 19 November 2014.

The special HEC called for 14 January will allow negotiators to provide an update on progress. A report of this meeting will be communicated to branches as soon as possible.

In the meantime branches have been advised to prepare for the action and reconvene industrial action committees.”

Therefore we expect to have further news in the next few days, but we anticipate the assessment boycott will restart THIS Friday.

We will hold a branch meeting next week, Thurs 22nd January (week 13), at 1pm in the Peter Brown room, The Missing Link, Darwin College.

http://www.kent.ac.uk/timetabling/rooms/room.html?room=D.PeterBro

Please attend if at all possible.

We will primarily discuss the latest news on the USS dispute, but if members would like to add other items to the agenda, please contact me as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

Owen Lyne

Branch secretary

University of Kent UCU

 

“Kent Union should pay all staff a living wage”

The branch is concerned about the pay and conditions of staff employed on what are effectively ‘zero hours contracts’ and other marginal contracts. This affects some people who may teach or work alongside us. Even more it impacts on low-paid staff in catering, cleaning and other roles, many of whom are also students.

A number of student staff are launching a new campaign this week to call on Kent Union to pay a Living Wage to all of its student staff. Hundreds of students are employed by or through the union and the organisers say:

We believe that if Kent Union wants to be the ‘excellent employer’ that it claims to be, and holds many accolades for try to do so, it should lead the way in the student union movement by joining others such as LSE, Sussex and Manchester in committing to pay all of its employed staff a Living Wage at minimum. Currently all 500 student staff that are not in Supervisor positions are paid the minimum wage, as well as the 200+ casual staff via Jobshop.

Building upon this, it is then our intention to lobby the University, in support of fair pay, to pay a Living Wage to all staff including those on time-sheets. As a Freedom of Information request last year showed, approximately 25% of employees were still paid minimum wage – around 700 staff members. This is not the future I, and others, believe in.

The petition they have launched to start the campaign is at https://www.change.org/p/kent-union-kent-union-should-pay-all-staff-a-livingwage. Please sign up to support it and watch out for further news.

Still the Enemy Within – film showing Sat 10 January

This Saturday 10 January the Gulbenkian is screening this documentary about the 1984-85  Miners Strike in association with our colleagues in UNISON University of Kent branch. More information about the show at:

http://www.thegulbenkian.co.uk/events/cinema/2015/January/2015-01-still-the-enemy-within.html

The film’s director, Owen Gower, will be answering questions after the screening, which commences at 14:30.

More info about the film at http://the-enemy-within.org.uk/

Vice-Chancellor receives UCU petition

Branch officers and members assembled at the Registry with a copy of the UCU national petition about the USS today.

1 petition delivery

3 members of the committee then went inside to meet our Vice-Chancellor Dame Julia Goodfellow, who is also President-elect of Universities UK. She was kind enough to listen while we reiterated the importance we attach to the issue of proper pensions as well as offering some insight into the University perspective and quizzing us about prospects for the USS and other recent developements in the landscape.

2014-12-09 13.29.47

 

 

USS dispute – update

Our boycott of assessment and marking has been suspended to allow talks to occur – this was a position which our branch meeting supported. However this suspension is temporary until Jan 15th, and permanently lifting the threat of action depends on the employers and USS permanently lifting the threat of serious cuts to our pensions. So far that hasn’t happened.

Our concerns remain and if an acceptable outcome is not reached we will take action again.

We will let you know if we receive fresh campaign material. In the meantime the branch still has stocks of the material already released which you can use to maintain awareness of the issues. Please contact Owen, Ersun or myself or your local rep for materials.

The national USS dispute update gives an official public statement of the position.

Up to 27% off! – the USS pensions dispute

Members of the UCU at Kent have been taking action over threatened cuts to our pensions. You can read more about the issue on the Defend USS website.

The site includes a briefing for students – we have hard copies if any members of the branch would like to use them. It is very important that members use whatever opportunity we have to try and get our message across to students and the wider public in the face of articles like the one in last week’s Kentish Gazette.

Here’s one lecturer’s response:

I’m now less than 10 years from retirement and in the past 3 years I have had my benefits reduced (by an arbitrary date that left me 12 days on the wrong side), had my state pension date moved up by another two years and now likely to have my benefits slashed substantively. What am I supposed to tell my family? The fact that we are in a low economic cycle because of major flaws in the banking and financial sectors that has affected all pension and savings schemes, probably just bottoming out now, means that this is precisely the wrong time to make long term changes to schemes as the data is completely skewed.

It is worth noting that MPs, supposedly public sector,  have inflation busting pay rises agreed, have a more than gold plated pensions scheme (only needing to pay in 5 years to get a pension equivalent of 40 years paying in at the average lecturer wage). I cut my salary by 2/3 to come here, left a pension scheme that was 1:55 to come and teach instead, more fool me. Where will we recruit the next generation of lecturers from I wonder?cropped-defenduss14_hdr_v41

Welcome to the University of Kent UCU blog

This space will carry news from and about the University of Kent branch of the UCU (University and College Union). It will also offer opportunities for discussion away from the constraints of email lists. We welcome suggestions from members about what would be useful on this blog.