For months UCU has been concerned that the employers’ proposals would be forced through at this meeting. Indeed this prospect and the lack of serious negotiations on the detrimental proposals which Universities UK have nevertheless described as ‘the best possible deal for employees’ has been a key driver for the calling of the assessment boycott by UCU.
The boycott is being strongly supported across the country and it is against that backdrop of strong union action in support of our negotiating strategy that today’s meeting finally saw some progress in three key areas:
- the employers agreed not to press their proposals to a vote
- a series of formal and informal negotiating meetings between now and the next joint negotiating committee (JNC) meeting on 15 January 2015 have been agreed
- tripartite agreement was reached that actuaries representing UCU, UUK and USS should meet to discuss the funding position.
In addition to this UCU has continued to raise the question of punitive pay deductions. In this regard the employers indicated that if UCU agreed to suspend the action until the JNC on 15 January then no money would be docked from members who had participated in the action so far. This would be contingent upon sensible agreement on clearing any backlog.
The jointly agreed statement is set out below this message.
A Higher Education Committee (HEC) meeting has now been called on 19 November to consider UCU’s response on all these matters. Please note that at present the industrial action continues and that members should observe the boycott in full.
The union has also now produced an online modeller so you can see the individual impact upon you of the employers’ current proposals.
I will write again following HEC. Thank you again for your support.
UCU general secretary
JOINT UCU/UUK STATEMENT FOLLOWING THE USS JOINT NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE (JNC) HELD ON 13 NOVEMBER 2014
The JNC held today noted that both UUK and UCU had submitted negotiating position papers but did not regard the current iteration as their final positions. Accordingly, no proposals were submitted to vote at the meeting.
The parties have agreed to a series of negotiating meetings between now and the next scheduled JNC to be held on 15 January 2015. The purpose of these meetings is to close the differences between the stakeholders’ negotiating positions, with a view to reaching agreement. This will include a meeting between the respective actuaries of the USS Trustee Board, UUK, and UCU.
With the aim of encouraging productive discussions, UUK and UCU agree to consult their constituent structures on the prospect of suspending the current industrial action from 20 November 2014 until after the JNC scheduled for 15 January 2015.
The consultation will be concluded by 19 November. The intention of the consultation is to consider whether the parties are able to reach agreement that a suspension of industrial action at this early stage will mean that no member of staff will have had pay deducted and students will not have been adversely affected. This is on the basis that, at this point, institutions will not have found it necessary to apply their policies to withhold pay for the assessment and marking boycott and that individual members of staff who were participating in the industrial action will have been able to remedy, within a reasonable time scale, any backlog of work that actually resulted from the industrial action between 6 to 20 November.
I am writing to complain about how the University of Surrey is handling the University and College Union marking boycott. I am a final-year undergraduate and feel ashamed of the university that I have, up until now, loved attending.
It has come to my attention that Surrey feels it necessary to fully dock the wages of all participating staff and has even suggested that they stay at home or they may be sent home.
To send staff home without pay ensures that I not only receive no marks for work submitted, but also receive no feedback, have no access to their expertise for tutorials and, most importantly, have no lectures to attend.
I understand that the position Sir Christopher Snowden, Surrey’s president and vice-chancellor, holds as president at Universities UK would compromise Surrey’s ability to publicly condemn the upcoming changes to pensions, and nor would I expect it to condemn them; however, taking such a hard line against those who are participating in legitimate union action is a step too far.
I urge all involved to reconsider pay withdrawal and, if docking pay is deemed necessary, to ensure that it is done appropriately, ie, stopping an amount of pay that correlates with how much time is spent marking versus other roles – such roles are not voluntary and should still be paid as usual.
I will not be complaining about the lack of marking in my module evaluation questionnaires, but will do so in the National Student Survey. I can only hope that doing this will make it clear that I do not hold the lecturers responsible for taking part in valid industrial action, but rather that I hold the university and UUK responsible for not trying to come to an agreement and advocating what is in essence union-busting.
Final-year undergraduate, University of Surrey
The letter linked below has been sent to USS employers. UCU again rejects the flawed approach to USS reform adopted by UUK, asks employers to consider carefully their approach to deductions and not to escalate the dispute and provides details of UCU’s negotiating proposals.