Be the XX

The ballots close on 30 October.  Now is your last chance to have your say on pensions, equality, casualization, workload and pay.


“I’ll let others do the voting”

Not voting is the same as voting ‘no’; Kent UCU would rather you actively voted ‘no’ than not at all.  But as we’ve explained in these emails, we believe that a YES vote is called for.


Vote for your own security and wellbeing.

Vote out of concern for others.

Vote because democracy matters.


For more information visit the UCU website


Kent UCU urges you to vote YES to action and YES to action short of a strike in both ballots.



Renewed dispute between Universities UK (UUK) and UCU, over the USS scheme

You will have no doubt read various communications about the renewed dispute between Universities UK (UUK) and UCU, over the USS scheme. UCU wishes to explain the situation as we see it, challenge some of the analysis, and outline what we as a branch would like to see this University do in order to ensure that the USS scheme is managed in a way acceptable to its members, preserving Defined Benefits.

The Valuation
Central to the dispute over USS is the valuation of the scheme’s assets and liabilities. On a rolling programme, USS establishes whether the scheme is in surplus or deficit and adjusts contributions to reflect that. However, there is no fixed valuation methodology and, within reason, the scheme’s trustees can adopt many different ways of assessing the scheme’s assets and liabilities and, therefore, contribution rates.

When strike action was called off in 2018, a Joint Expert Panel (JEP), comprising representatives of UCU and the employers and with an independent chair, was established to look at how the scheme operated. In its first report, it made seven recommendations for modifying the assumptions of the 2017 valuation, and both the employers and the union accepted these recommendations and asked the USS trustees to implement all of them.

The JEP estimated that if all its recommendations were applied to the 2017 valuation contributions would need to rise from 26% to 29.2%. However, USS have since announced a 2018 valuation to supersede the 2017 valuation. They have calculated that if all the JEP recommendations were applied to the 2018 valuation then contributions could return to 26% of salary, split between employers (18%) and employees (8%). USS’s trustees have refused to implement several of the most significant JEP recommendations.

USS has not been able to effectively articulate why the full set of recommendations proposed by the JEP cannot be implemented as agreed by both sides in the dispute. Employers are trying to blame the lack of full implementation of the JEP proposals on vague allusions to the requirements of the Pensions Regulator. But the truth is that USS did not even try to persuade the Regulator to accept them – despite the Regulator saying that it was open to being persuaded – and UUK have not pushed USS to do so.

We call upon the University management publicly to demand the implementation of the JEP recommendations in full.
We call upon the University management publicly to support a 26% contribution rate based on implementation of the JEP recommendations in full.

Contribution Rates
Because USS has refused to accept all the JEP recommendations it is able to claim that the scheme is now in deficit and requires additional contributions. Your contributions, and those of the employers, increased in April 2019. Under its ‘option 3’, which the employers have not seriously challenged, USS has proposed that they increase again in October and, most likely, again in two years’ time at which stage total contribution rates will go above 34% of salary. And all this is based on the 2017 valuation methodology that was heavily criticised in the JEP report.

Our employers are arguing that the threat of an increase to 34% of salary is a chimera because, so the line goes, the second JEP report, which is due to be published later this year, will contain recommendations that will alter the scheme’s valuation methodology and governance and thus avert the proposed future increases.

At this stage we have no faith that the USS trustees will implement this second JEP report given its refusal to implement fully the first.

We are not prepared to commit on trust to further increases in contributions, nor are we prepared to agree to cost increases on the basis of a deeply flawed valuation that presents a healthy Scheme as being in deficit. If our employers are, then we call for them to shoulder 100% of the unwarranted increases in contributions.

Employee/Employer Contribution Rate Split
The ‘no detriment’ motion which the UCU Congress passed earlier this year called upon employers to shoulder the proposed increases in contributions to the scheme occasioned by the refusal to implement the JEP. Our members lost a considerable amount of money prosecuting a fourteen-day strike against proposed changes to our pensions, changes which our employers ultimately conceded were, far from being essential, unnecessary. We have already shouldered increases to our contributions to the scheme, despite the JEP’s recommendations being accepted by the union and employers. We see no reason for members to suffer further increases when a way forward has already been found. UUK has claimed that sharing contribution increases between employers and members is necessary due to the scheme rules, but this is false. The no detriment proposal is entirely consistent with scheme rules; there is no obligation to split contribution increases 65%/35% between employers and members. That applies only when the JNC cannot agree on how to divide contributions. We have proposed a very reasonable and just solution. If the JNC fails to agree, it will be due entirely to employer intransigence.

We call upon the University management to acknowledge that the 65/35% cost sharing does not have to be applied.

Jobs or Pensions?
Unsurprisingly, the employers have begun following the lead of the more hawkish of their members and threatening our jobs, essentially saying that we must choose between our jobs or our pensions. As Adam Tickell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex and a Universities UK spokesman and the chair of the Employers Pensions Forum, said in mid-July in the Financial Times, “if employers have to make higher contributions then that will be felt very, very quickly in job losses”. We are appalled, but sadly not at all surprised, at the cavalier attitude Universities UK is taking towards the lives and livelihoods of their employees. It is all the more offensive when it comes at the end of a decade of universities expanding with fancy new buildings and far-flung campuses while wages have been in steady decline in real terms. The higher education sector desperately needs leaders who can lead without resorting to the expedient of threatening their staff.

We call on the University management to publicly rebuke Adam Tickell and Universities UK for this threat and to commit to a policy of no job cuts in response to the outcome of the USS dispute.

Forthcoming Industrial Action
UCU will be balloting its members for industrial action starting on 9 September. We fully expect nearly all branches to pass the 50% turnout threshold and to return an overwhelming mandate for industrial action. The last time we were forced to do this in Spring 2018, we were told that we were wrong, that we just did not understand pensions, that there was no alternative. We chose to strike anyway, knowing we were right and knowing this was the only way to force our employers to do the right thing. The work of the JEP has completely vindicated the position of the UCU while castigating UUK, USS, and the Pensions Regulator. Yet our members still lost up to 5% of their annual salary in strike deductions in order to prove to our employers what they should have already known had they been taking their responsibilities seriously. We encourage all branches to file collective grievances for the return of strike deductions from the Spring 2018 industrial action. We also believe that if our employers again force us into industrial action, this time with the full knowledge that there is a better alternative, there can be absolutely no justification for strike deductions.

We call on the University management to affirm that any settlement of the dispute will include full repayment of strike deductions with interest.

Let’s Talk About This
Another round of industrial action over USS will be damaging to the higher education sector and this institution, but it can be avoided through open and honest discussions about our options. It will not be avoided if employers simply do as they are told by USS and Universities UK.

We call on the University management to engage in open discussions with our local UCU branch around finding ways to settle this dispute that avoid reducing the quality of our pensions or increasing our contributions and avoids a dispute that will damage our institution. We believe these discussions should be reported to all university employees as thoroughly and quickly as possible as they proceed.

Branch Officers

Sian, Philip, Owen and Mark

Statement re funds raised for precarious staff in spring 2018 strike

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

Those colleagues who were at Kent during Spring 2018 may recall that some departments organised donations to top-up union hardship payments for precarious staff taking part in industrial action. Due to changes in management policy that the branch achieved, some of the proposed pay deductions never took place and not all of the funds were disbursed. In some departments, it had been made clear from the start where any unused funds would go (such as to national or local hardship funds, or precarious worker campaigns), but in others this was not foreseen. In liaison with those organising the funds, the local UCU branch, and the local Precariat group, we’ve now made the following decision.

“We, the UCU University of Kent Branch and the Precarious Workers at the University of Kent Group, agree that what is left of the funds, raised in order to sustain precarious staff during the 2018 strike in different departments (and which has been partly used to supplement their Strike Pay), will be transferred to the Precarious Workers Club Bank Account. These funds will be used in order to sustain further campaigns on precarity and casualisation, as well as to supplement Strike Pay in forthcoming strikes, as agreed with donors during the crowdfunding campaigns in spring 2018.”

Thanks again to all who donated, and to all who participated and supported, in any way, that action.

Best wishes,

Owen Lyne
Branch secretary
University of Kent UCU


Dear University of Kent UCU members,


UCU, nationally and locally, has been trying to move staff from casual/precarious contracts onto decent, ongoing, secure contracts for many years.

University management, however, seems to plan to address anti-casualisation by making very large numbers of such staff redundant.

We attach this worrying paper (JSNCC 2018-15 Workforce Profile – Programme of Projects) which will be discussed at the Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultation Committee (JSNCC) on Weds 24th October.

It contains the following chilling clause

3.3.2. To determine how many other salaried academic positions should be created in order to reduce reliance on HPLs for ongoing teaching by at least 50%.

When you observe that, according to section 5.1 “The University currently employs over 800 HPLs”, this states a clear intention to put over 400 jobs at risk, and our experience in the HPL pilot in the spring was the majority of those at risk did NOT get one of the new posts. It is also clear from the stated timeline in the document that these redundancies would happen this academic year. If this allowed to go ahead in the way described, we would have hundreds less colleagues in September 2019.

We also attach Academic Workforce Profiling – Key messages narrative 18 October 2018 which has been circulated in some schools, in case you have not seen that either.

Please attend our emergency meeting, Monday 22nd October, 1-2pm, Moot Chamber, Wigoder Building, to discuss how we resist this project.

In solidarity,
Owen, Mark and Sian

Emergency Branch Meeting

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

At our last branch meeting we did not have enough members present to pass the hardship and boycott motions on the agenda.

We also now have the JSNCC papers to discuss (see our emails earlier this week), so we will hold an emergency branch meeting at

1pm on Monday 22nd October (week 5) in the Moot Chamber in the Wigoder Building


Please attend if you can,
Owen, Mark and Sian

USS Update

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

We updated you last month on why we had a Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) consultation going on while awaiting the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report.

That report is now available and contains lots of positive information.

A copy of the executive summary and the full report are also available on the local Human Resources (HR) webpages.

UCU nationally has a superannuation working group (SWG) that has endorsed the recommendations of the JEP on the USS, and called upon Universities UK (UUK) and USS to do similar.

UUK is currently consulting with employers:

UUK has published its consultation document:

Branch officers consider the report a considerable vindication of our industrial action in the spring and, if adopted by the pension scheme, a considerable victory compared to the proposals we were fighting. We are urging university senior management to support the JEP report in the consultation.

In particular, the JEP report alters the method of calculating the deficit and in the process removes 75% of it, and thus 75% of the huge attack upon our pensions.

This would not have been achieved without our action. We can fight and we can win.

We suggest you bear this in mind in relation to the pay dispute too!

Best wishes,
Owen, Mark and Sian

USS consultation

Dear University of Kent UCU members,

You may be wondering why we now have a consultation over USS which proposes very large increases in contributions, both for employees and employers? What is going on? We hope this email helps explain.

We are currently fighting on two fronts: pay claim (see earlier email) and the USS consultation. In both situations, we are being offered less (pay/pension) while asked to do more (work/contribution). We must be loud and clear on both issues by voting (pay) or answering the consultation (USS).

The joint expert panel (JEP) was set up by UCU and UUK to examine the 2017 USS valuation, as a result of our strong industrial action earlier this year.

The JEP contains experts nominated by both the union and the employer. The JEP is due to release its first report later this month.

Meanwhile, USS last week began a consultation on a staged series of contribution increases for employers and employees that USS say are required to maintain existing benefits. In simple terms, one can view this consultation as primarily in case the JEP fails to reach any agreement.

In that scenario, the pension regulator will want to know what USS would do, and this is the fall-back position (based on current USS rules – that benefits mostly stay the same, but contributions increase to close that contested deficit).

These proposals are based, of course, on the contested 2017 valuation which is now being examined by the JEP. In UCU’s view it would have been better if USS had waited for the JEP to report, since its recommendations are likely to have a considerable influence upon what happens next.

Please find a briefing on the USS consultation which also contains suggestions for how to respond to the questions the consultation poses.

As soon as the JEP does report, we will update you further.

Best wishes,
Owen, Mark and Sian

Please vote for action in the Pay and Equality ballot

We urge you to use your vote, and to vote for industrial action in relation to our pay claim.

Here are the reasons why (all national figures taken from UCU’s main website; local figures are taken from Kent’s Financial Statements for 2017 at page 51):• Since 2009, our salaries have failed to keep up with inflation.
• Since 2009, we have experienced, in effect, a cut of 21%
• Meanwhile, in 2017, the pay going to senior management here at Kent, increased from £1,086,000 to 1,166,000
• Note that the former VC was awarded a £25,000 performance related pay bonus, on top of her salary of £299,000 (up from £279,000 i.e. by £20,000 from the previous year)
Over the last 5 years across the sector:
• capital expenditure in the sector rose by 34.9%,
• income has increased by 33.1%,
• operating surpluses have increased by 176.83%
• and reserves are up by 259.04%.
• At the same time, staff costs as a percentage of expenditure have fallen by 1.9%.

The dispute it not just about pay – it is also about gender inequality in higher education. See this webpage for more details.

When we take strike action we are saying loudly and clearly, Universities need to value their staff. We are saying loudly and clearly, we will not accept being told to do more and more work, for less and less money, while those at the top keep seeing their pay rise at a much faster and greater rate.

When you make up your mind, remember, it is not just about this year’s pay. It is about the threshold from which we begin during the next pay round. So if we secure a (for example) 4% pay rise this year, we would enter the next pay round, better off, and would hope to achieve at least an increase in line with inflation from that point.

Also remember that pay feeds into pensions, ie. any pay rise will increase a members’ pension pot.

We have shown our strength over pensions. Let us be resolved to show our strength over pay. WE ARE WORTH IT.


Sian, Mark and Owen
University of Kent UCU branch officers

Statement by the University of Kent Branch of UCU, on the ‘hostile environment’

Kent UCU has issued a statement about the current “hostile environment” created by the Home Office and its adverse impact on all migrants.

UoK UCU Branch statement to UUK on immigration

Kent UCU has also issued a joint statement with The University of Kent and the Kent Union.
Kent Union have issued a statement to reflect the particular concerns of their constituency.

UCU pay and equality consultation

Kent UCU Members are asked to vote in the consultation on pay. Members are asked to reject the employers pay offer of 2% and sanction industrial action.

Full text form UCU HQ below:

Dear colleague

I am writing to ask you to vote in this consultation on the pay offer of 2% from the higher education (HE) employers.

UCU recommends that you vote to reject the offer for the following reasons:
• 2% is well below the current rate of inflation which, as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently 3.4%
• 2% does nothing to restore ground lost against inflation since 2010 which UCU estimates to be 21% when pay settlements are cumulatively compared to rises in RPI
• 2% reflects a continuing de-prioritisation of staff pay; while the proportion of university expenditure spent on staff has fallen to just 54.7%, reserves held by institutions have increased by 259% and capital expenditure by 34.9%.
In addition to their below inflation pay offer the employers have also made no meaningful proposals to address either the continuing casualisation of the HE workforce or gender pay inequality.

You can read the union’s full claim here and the employers’ latest response here.

UCU’s position is that for too long HE has based its success on an exploitative employment model which embeds inequality, insecurity and seeks to prioritise buildings over people.

In the ballot you will be asked two questions. The first is whether you wish to accept or reject the offer. UCU recommends that you vote to reject.

You will also be asked whether if the offer is rejected you will be prepared to take sustained industrial action.

Since the passing of the 2016 Trade Union Act, UCU has to achieve a turnout of at least 50% in a statutory ballot before members are allowed to take lawful industrial action.

That means it is more vital than ever that we know your views.

Please help UCU by participating in this consultation.

Click here to vote Members receive a unique link
This is your unique link. Please do not share or forward this link.

The ballot closes at 12 noon on 27 June 2018.

Paul Bridge
UCU head of higher education