Category Archives: STAGgering

STAGgering is the blog of the Surrey branch of the UCU. It aims to provide a critical but fair perspective on the University and its activities.

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

Struggle for top research grades fuels bullying among university staff

From the Guardian:

The fevered build up to this month’s university research audit has exposed academics to an atmosphere of competitiveness and bullying, according to a survey by the Guardian’s higher education network.

More than half of UK university staff questioned by the network said recent policy changes such as the introduction of the research excellence framework – a new process for measuring the quality of academic research – had fuelled campus bullying.

The survey questioned over 1,300 university staff who have experienced bullying at work, half of which are based at UK institutions. The research did not attempt to measure the scale of bullying, but asked respondents about its causes and how well universities deal with such behaviour.

 

More…

Death by performance review

Imperial College London is to examine its staff policies after the death of an academic who was believed to have been placed under a performance review.

Stefan Grimm, professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, was found dead in Northwood, Middlesex, in September. An inquest was opened and adjourned at the West London District Coroner’s Court on 8 October.

Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.

More…

Six myths about how the unions are ruining Britain

The Daily Mail front page caught my eye yesterday: it announced that trade unions were now paying their members to go on strike. I confess to being almost impressed at that infernal organ’s ability to alchemise scandals out of the prosaic, and it got me thinking about the other myths that are commonly peddled about trade unions. Let’s have a look at six regulars, and give them a good old busting….

Article continues at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/13/five-myths-trade-unions-ruining-britain-daily-mail

workplaces with rising employee job satisfaction also experienced improvements in workplace performance

Analysing the nationally representative 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NIESR) found those workplaces with rising employee job satisfaction also experienced improvements in workplace performance, while deteriorating employee job satisfaction is detrimental to workplace performance. Employee job satisfaction was found to be positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, the quality of output and service and an additive scale combining all three aspects of performance. Workplaces experiencing an improvement in non-pecuniary job satisfaction – whether measured in terms of the average level of satisfaction in the workforce, or measured in terms of an increase in the proportion “very satisfied” or a reduction in the proportion “very dissatisfied” – also experience an improvement in performance. By contrast, there was no robust association between job-related affect (measured in terms of the amount of time feeling tense, depressed, worried, gloomy, uneasy and miserable) and workplace performance, nor pay satisfaction and workplace performance.

from http://niesr.ac.uk/blog/happier-workers-higher-profits

more at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/worker-wellbeing-and-workplace-performance

At York they do things differently

University of York academics have written an open letter to their VC about their University’s position on the Pensions dispute and got this response: http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/response-to-open-letter/

central20hall20and20lakeThe tone of the response letter, civilised, caring and encouraging negotiation, is strikingly (pardon the pun) different from that of the email Surrey staff have received from their Vice-President, Human Resources.

Spinning the staff survey

Here is something a new member wrote and said he didm’t mind if we published it.

After our head of department’s admirable efforts to get us to complete the Staff Survey, I was disappointed to say the least at Paul Stephenson’s misleading spin on the results in the Surrey Life newsletter (Summer 2014 issue).

Where there was a high positive percentage score, he quoted the percentage; where there was a low positive percentage score, he only told us about the shift in percentage from the previous year.

So, the following have been airbrushed out of the account:

4. In my team, we have the resources we need to complete our work effectively; only 49% agree; 30% disagree

10. I have an awareness of the University’s new ‘Create Wonder’ brand: 42% do not.

11. I am aware of the 5 new University values introduced in January 2014: 50% are not

12. The University does a good job of keeping me informed about matters affecting me: only 53% think so

14. There is good communication between people in different parts of the organisation: only 31% think so; 40% disagree

35. I feel I could approach a member of the Executive Board if I wanted to raise something with them: only 32% agree; 41% think not

36. I trust the University’s Executive Board to lead the organisation effectively: only 44% agree

39. If so did the changes improve working arrangements/ make no difference/ make matters worse?: only 39% think changes made things better; 40% think changes made things worse

46. I believe progression is fair at the University: only 39% agree

Given the way that the figures have been interpreted, it is perhaps no wonder that only 69% of staff engaged in the survey, and that:

53. Where I work effective action has been taken on the results of the last staff survey: only 26% agree.

I don’t suppose anything can be done about this, but I wonder what the point of a survey is unless the results are acknowledged fairly, and acted upon.