All posts by Collette Maxfield

Result of ‘Defend pensions’ ballot of USS members. October 2017

Message from Sally Hunt:
 
I wanted to let you know about the result of the ballot.
 
86.6% of members who voted said they would be prepared to take industrial action to defend USS pension benefits on a turnout of 55.8% of those eligible.

This turnout – if replicated in a statutory ballot – well exceeds the 50% turnout requirement set by the government as the minimum legal requirement.
 
Thank you for your support of the union. Later today, your elected negotiators will begin detailed talks with the employers. No one should be in any doubt about the difficulty of the task they are undertaking on your behalf.
 
Universities UK (UUK), which represents the USS institutions in these negotiations, recognises that institutions have the ability to pay extra in order to safeguard existing benefits. However so far they have said that this is not an option and unless we can change their minds or persuade both UUK and USS itself to adjust their valuation methodology, detrimental change is inevitable.
 
Some employers have even signalled that they wish to move wholly to a scheme in which your pension income will be dependent on what returns if any there are from the investment of your contributions in the stock market – in essence a pension with no guarantees.
 
I hope our ballot result concentrates the minds of your employers. All we want is for them to stand up for staff and help us to protect your interests in the fund rather than look away while benefits are cut.
 
Be in no doubt that I and colleagues will try to solve this difficult dispute but if we need to seek your support for action it is good to know that you are with us in such large numbers.
 

Response to valuation of the University Superannuation Scheme

In response to the information circulated by the University recently concerning the valuation of the University Superannuation Scheme, our former Surrey UCU Pension Rep is happy to share his consequent response to the University:

I believe that USS is using the same Gilts plus methodology for valuation which they used in 2014 therefore it is not more optimistic. It is also more pessimistic than USS’s best estimate of future returns on their investments. 

Independent studies, and I believe those of USS’s consultants, have verified that the required funding gap is within the employers ability to pay but may not be in line with employers willingness to pay. It all revolves around how much employers value their employees across the whole range of the salary spectrum.

Report for UCU: Progressing the valuation of the USS. 15 September 2017. The First Actuarial report prepared for UCU as a response to the USS’s consultation document, also concludes:  The current employers’ contribution rate of 18% of pensionable pay, of which 15.1% goes towards defined benefits, is prudent. The asset income which is required, in addition to contributions, to pay the benefits in full is low. Indeed, in a scenario of “best estimate” pay rises, the benefits of the USS can very nearly be paid from contributions, without reliance on the assets. We can be very confident that the scheme is not vulnerable to forced disinvestment. We can be very confident that the cash flow in will meet benefit outgo for the very long term, so in the mean time fluctuations of market value or the pension scheme’s balance sheet are of low importance. The break even returns of 1.36% pa real CPI on past service and 1.85% pa real over CPI on future service are well below the expected returns on equities and property. The likelihood that the USS can achieve the break even returns is high. If the actual performance achieved exceeds the break even returns, the funding level will improve. Any funding level could be achieved eventually, given time. The cost of longevity improvements should be partially covered by the link of the USS’s NPA to SPA. At some point, there may need to be an adjustment to the balance of the contribution rate and the benefits to respond to improving longevity, but this point is not imminent. Subject to this point about increasing longevity, the cash flow analysis does not show any need to increase the contribution rate. The employers should be able to regard their current contribution rate as reliable. Making the same point the other way around, there is no need to reduce members’ benefits. Full report: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss?utm_source=lyr-campaignupdate&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=members&utm_term=_all-members&utm_content=The+Friday+email:+22+September+2017

Urgent announcement from Sally Hunt: A major university (Southampton) has become the first to publicly call for current USS pension benefits to be wholly replaced by a defined contribution scheme. Forget the pensions jargon. What this means in simple terms is that rather than being based on scheme rules as now, your annual pension will be completely dependent upon what returns your monthly USS contributions can get from the stock market. If other universities follow suit, UCU will need every member to stand together with the union and say NO.

Please also find the following information on USS which may be of use:

Request a replacement USS e-ballotThe ballot to defend the USS pension is currently open. If you haven’t voted please vote now. It’s crucial that we show that members are prepared to defend their pensions so please check your inbox (and junk box) for the unique link UCU has sent you and let UCU know if you can’t find it: https://yoursay.ucu.org.uk/s3/USS

USS Posters: show your support. If you’ve already voted why not put one of the new UCU / USS posters up on your door. Please download here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss?utm_source=lyr-campaignupdate&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=members&utm_term=_all-members&utm_content=The+Friday+email:+22+September+2017

We will keep you updated as and when we receive more details –

 

University of Surrey pays 18 members of staff £140,000 or more – but only one of them is female

3 August 2017

getSURREY reports:

http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/university-surrey-pays-18-members-13417537

The University of Surrey employs 18 members of staff remunerated to a total of £140,000 or more – but only one of those staff members is female, newly published data has revealed.

Figures revealed through a Freedom of Information request show the university currently pays 55 employees less than the Living Wage, 23 of whom are women.

The stats show the university employs less than five apprentices, the lowest paid on just £7,800 a year

They also reveal the highest paid member of staff is paid some 24 times more than the lowest paid staff member.

A spokesman for the university said: “The university has to compete for talent in a global market for all of its staff.

“Therefore, we have to ensure our remuneration is such that we can recruit and retain talent at all levels.

“We have worked hard in recent years to improve our performance on equality, and around 30% of our senior staff are female, in line with our sector – and we are actively looking to improve the balance still further.

“All of our staff are paid above the minimum wage, and the university makes generous pension contributions of up to 18% of salary, as well as having excellent benefits, such as 40 days paid leave a year, inclusive of public holidays.

“The University of Surrey prides itself on being one of the largest and best employers in the area, and last year our staff survey highlighted staff engagement was at its highest level for seven years.”

The complete answers to the FOI request are here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/freedom_of_information_act_2000_148?nocache=incoming-1012361#incoming-1012361

Free UCU Membership to All PGRs

Excerpts from a message from Sally Hunt, President of the University and College Union:

The future of our profession

During the (recent, Presidential) election, I lost count of the senior staff who approached me to express concern about the fate of the next generation. Locked into exploitative employment with little or no job security, the current model used in …… HE has high expectations of young staff but gives little back to them. They need UCU most, yet their membership density remains low.

With your help, we want to do something about this. Let’s work together and build a trade union culture in low security areas – a culture where the union stands up for staff rights, bargains for better pay and conditions, and helps young staff to get the best out of their careers.

Pushing for better conditions from the bottom benefits both established members and the profession as a whole. We all know that this exploitative employment model is creeping upwards.

Effective from 1 October 2017, if you are a PhD student teaching in HE, ….., UCU will make your union membership free. We think this covers around 70,000 (mostly younger) staff – the majority of whom are struggling at the start of their academic careers.

It is a big offer and valid for four years (or until a more secure job is achieved). We need to remove every possible barrier in the way of young staff joining our union in the hope that positive, valuable, UCU experience will spark a lifetime habit.”

https://www.surrey.ac.uk/doctoral-college/news/free-ucu-membership-all-pgrs

Joining only takes a few minutes: https://www.ucu.org.uk/

Details on UCU CPD can be found here: http://cpd.web.ucu.org.uk/

Surrey UCU AGM 2017

We are holding the Surrey UCU AGM 2017 on:
 
Date: 4th August 2017.
Time: 13:00 – 14:00.
Location: Room 01 DK 03.

We would warmly welcome new members onto the Surrey UCU committee as we have key roles vacant at present. Surrey UCU also has facilities time (paid time) available for committee members, so please attend the AGM to find out more.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Ollie Purkiss, Liberal Democrats, response to Brexit letter

Ollie Purkiss, Liberal Democrats candidate for Surrey South West.

 

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the Higher Education sector and Brexit. I completely agree that a hard Brexit will be devastating for this sector and that we must fight to protect this socially and economically vital element of our country. The Conservative’s hard Brexit agenda is senselessly jeopardising our renowned and respected education sector and my party and I will continue to do everything in our power to stop them.

 

The EU student population contributed £3.7 billion to our economy and provided 34,000 jobs between 2012 and 2013. It is vital that the Conservative government ensure that this population can continue to study. To curtail the movement of EU students, or to actively cut their numbers would be irrational, illogical and short-sighted. Applications from the EU to Cambridge University for undergraduate courses have already dropped by 14%. We simply cannot afford to see this drop continue.

 

As well as the multitude of benefits that EU students bring to our country, UK students benefit hugely from being able to live and study in other EU member states. The Erasmus+ Programme is just one example of this. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe. Over 200,000 British students have already benefited from its opportunities. Over the next seven years Erasmus+ was set to allocate almost €1 billion to the UK and involve 250,000 participants. A hard Brexit, which would include the UK leaving the European Economic Area (EEA), would mean an end to our participation. It is senseless for us to withdraw from such a fantastic programme that has helped so many British people to develop, broaden their horizons and gain new experiences. The Tories are determined for us to cut off our nose to spite our face.

 

The EU is undeniably beneficial for our universities. It has directly invested in British universities, funding projects such as Swansea University’s new Innovation Centre. Under Framework Programme 7 (which ran from 2007 to 2013) the UK won around €8.8 billion in research grants, while paying in €5.4 billion. Through the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme the UK is set to receive £2 billion in the first two years. If the government, pull us out of the EU and the European Research Area (ERA) we will not be eligible for any future Horizon 2020 funding. Research and development, academic sharing and the exchange of ideas is essential for the future prosperity of the UK.

 

The Liberal Democrats are the only party that have consistently fought to stop the Tories pursuit of a hard Brexit. We have consistently called on the government to grant EU citizens living in the UK the right to remain; fought for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal; and called for the Britain to maintain its membership of the Single Market. Voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination. My colleagues and I will continue to push against a hard Brexit, advocating for the UK’s continued membership of the ERA and EEA.

Anne Milton, Conservative Party, RESPONSE TO BREXIT LETTER

Anne Milton, Conservative Party candidate for Guildford.

 

  1. This has been an issue of considerable discussion. The argument for including international students in net migration figures is that as they use local services they need to be counted in. However, they return home so are similarly counted out. I think there is much we need to do to change perceptions – international students are a positive contribution for us in Guildford but I know this message does not always come across.

 

2, 3, 4 and 5. The issues of home-rate tuition fees and visa-free access for EU students will be part of the Brexit negotiations. I know we all want to see EU nationals be able to stay and this is an issue I have raised and will continue to raise. There has been some discussion about alternative sources of funding other than raising tuition fees – Surrey is a good example of a University raising money through other sources.

 

  1. I would hope to see the continuation of Erasmus+ and other EU research funding. On this, Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, stated: “The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.”

 

  1. All EU law will be passes over so employment rights will continue. We will be free to increase protections if we wish.

Howard Smith, Labour Party, response to Brexit Letter

Howard Smith, Labour Party candidate for Guildford.

Sorry, I have received this late, but many of your statements here are Labour policy and/or in our election manifesto.

So, in broad terms I am fully supportive of your aims, much of which is common sense and to be applauded .

While the Labour Party helped trigger A50 in parliament we are determined that any deal with the EU going forward should be on the very best terms including ensuring that the UK remains a welcoming place for overseas students.

The University of Surrey is a great asset to Guildford, one that should be treasured and if elected I would do everything possible to support your continuing success as much as I can.

Zoe Franklin, Liberal Democrats, response to Brexit Letter

Zoe Franklin, Liberal Democrats candidate for Guildford.

 

Many thanks for your email. As an alumni member of the university and Liberal Democrats that issues that you raise are particularly close to my heart and I’m happy to respond on the points raised in the letter you included.
  1. The Liberal Democrats are committed to removing students from the official migration statistics. The guaranteed continuation of home-rate tuition fees and visa-free access for EU students as part of a reciprocal agreement.
    I’m afraid that I’m not aware of Liberal Democrat policy on this issue and have contacted party HQ about but havent yet heard back. As I wanted to ensure that you received this in time for the 2nd I decided to write without this information.
  2. The guaranteed right to stay for EU staff and students who currently reside or study in the UK, with freedom of movement unrestricted for those who come to work or study from the EU.
    In our manifesto the Liberal Democrats have committed to pressing for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK, ending their ongoing uncertainty. We will call for the overhaul and simplification of the registration process and the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and UK citizenship, as the current system is not fit for purpose. We will urge the government, and use our influence with Liberal leaders in European countries, to secure the same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries.
  3. Extending the franchise to EU nationals residing in Britain to vote in National Elections.
    Im afraid that Im not aware of Liberal Democrat policy on this issue and have contacted party HQ about but havent yet heard back.
  4. The securing of alternative sources of university funding other than raised tuition fees.
    The EU is undeniably beneficial for our universities. It has directly invested in British universities, funding projects such as Swansea Universitys new Innovation Centre. Under Framework Programme 7 (which ran from 2007 to 2013) the UK won around 8.8 billion in research grants, while paying in 5.4 billion. Through the EUs Horizon 2020 programme the UK is set to receive £2 billion in the first two years. If the government, pull us out of the EU and the European Research Area (ERA) we will not be eligible for any future Horizon 2020 funding. Research and development, academic sharing and the exchange of ideas is essential for the future prosperity of the UK. I dont have any specific funding sources in mind the issue of funding streams is key and as MP I will work with Liberal Democrat colleagues to identify other options.
  5. The continued support of Erasmus+ and other EU research funding.
    Over the next seven years Erasmus+ was set to allocate almost 1 billion to the UK and involve 250,000 participants. A hard Brexit, which would include the UK leaving the European Economic Area (EEA), would mean an end to our participation. It is senseless for us to withdraw from such a fantastic programme that has helped so many British people to develop, broaden their horizons and gain new experiences. The Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to protect Erasmus+ and other EU-funded schemes which increase opportunities for young people.
  6. The continued protection of the employment rights currently provided by EU law.
    As a party we are committed to defending social rights and equalities. Many important protections such as the right to 52 weeks maternity leave and rights to annual leave are currently based on EU law, and any of these rights have been upheld at the European Court of Justice. We will fight to ensure that these entitlements are not undermined.
I hope that this is helpful and if you have any further queries please do get in touch.
Regards,
Zöe Franklin
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford