All posts by Colette Maxfield

Open letter from the Surrey UCU Committee regarding the USS Pension and the ‘Four Fights’ [Pay and Equality] disputes

6th March 2020

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

Open letter from the Surrey UCU Committee regarding the USS Pension and the ‘Four Fights’ [Pay and Equality] disputes.

We are writing to you with a formal request for information. We believe that the present position of University of Surrey, in relation to the two national disputes, should be communicated as transparently as possible.

As you will be aware, the employer representatives have returned to national negotiations with UCU but with the caveat at present that they do not have a mandate from enough Vice-Chancellors to make improved offers. This is particularly relevant to the pay element of the Four Fights dispute, and the UCU position that the employers should cover member contributions increases in the USS dispute.

Please could you answer the following questions:

(1) How did this University respond in the recent USS consultation?

a) Did this University agree to increase contributions by 1%?
b) Did this University agree to increase its share by 0.5%?
c) Or was the University one of the 84% which are still unwilling to take on any more contributions?

(2) If the University is unwilling to pay RPI +3%, what improvements to the headline pay offer of 1.8% is it willing to make, in order to reverse over a decade of real terms pay cuts?

(3) Can the University commit to providing a workload model based in hours to all of your staff? If not, why not?

(4) Given that over a decade of data – gathered by, among others, yourselves – has repeatedly shown a systemic differential in pay, based on gender & ethnicity, is the University willing to commit to developing a concrete action plan to close these equalities pay gaps?

(5) Is the University willing to reduce the number of fixed term contracts it currently uses? What targets about when and how this will occur will you/the University set?

(6) We do not as yet have a formal agreement governing the contractual conditions of hourly-paid staff. What targets about when and how this will occur will you/the University set?

(7) Do you have a formal change management policy that involves meaningful consultation before announcing redundancies, either voluntary or compulsory? Are you willing to negotiate a redundancy avoidance agreement?

(8) Is there a staff or student representative on your remuneration committee that considers the salary of senior management including the vice-chancellor? Do you attend the meetings where your pay is established? If so, why?

We look forward to your responses, which we formally request to communicate to Surrey UCU Members and our UCU colleagues more widely.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

Surrey UCU Committee

191127 Talks with UCEA on Pay and Equality resume

Dear colleague

Yesterday, UCU negotiators met with UCEA for the first time since our ballot on pay and equality opened, despite our repeated requests to meet before the beginning of industrial action. It is clear that it was UCU’s strong ballot result and the prospect of solid industrial action which have brought UCEA to the table, and we thank our members for your strong and vibrant support which has had – and will continue to have – an impact on these discussions. We know exactly what it means to each of us to be called upon to withdraw our labour.

In the meeting, we made it clear that UCU members expect progress on all aspects of the claim, and pressed the employers’ representatives to improve their offer on each of the four interconnected areas of pay and working conditions. UCEA have agreed to return to their member institutions, and have committed to a written response early next week.

We wish to reiterate that while we are pleased that this consultation is occurring, the fact that it is happening against the backdrop of ongoing industrial action is a sign of a significant disconnect between university management and the staff who make up our higher education institutions. We have advised UCEA to strongly encourage their membership to engage with staff on the picket lines, and to listen to what working conditions are truly like in our sector, in order to inform their response about the progress to which they are willing to commit in this dispute.

We will communicate again when we are in a position to do so.

Vicky Blake
on behalf of UCU HE pay and equality national negotiators

Surrey UCU Statement of Solidarity: UCU Branches taking action in the Pay & Equality and USS Pension disputes 2019

The Surrey UCU Branch did not reach the 50% voting threshold imposed by the Trade Union Act (which took force 1 March 2017), we missed this barrier by only 5 votes.

As a result, Surrey UCU would like to make this statement of solidarity with the 60 UCU Branches taking part in the strike action that starts on 25th November and continues for eight consecutive working days.

We encourage our @ucusurrey members and the wider community to donate to the UCU Hardship Fund in order to financially support those taking part in the action:

We thank our colleagues at other universities making sacrifices to defend the Pay and conditions of all HE sector staff, as well as continuing to defend the pensions of those staff members in USS.

In solidarity and much gratitude


Surrey UCU Member Report Back: ‘Vision’ in HE

In July we ran a Branch survey asking you the following questions:

1, In light of recent events, what institutional changes or action do you think would restore the confidence of staff and students in the senior university management?

2, Please suggest some constructive, positive proposals for the University of Surrey that engage with the challenges that HE faces at present

3, What is your vision for the University of Surrey?

4, What is your ‘vision’ of a HE institution?

Please click below to view our pdf member report back.

190909 Surrey UCU ‘Vision’ in HE

Surrey UCU Open Letter to USSU 23.08.19

Dear USSU,

We are writing with an invitation to our Branch Meeting on 16th September, 13:00, LTL.

We feel that this is particularly important as UCU is about to enter into a double ballot for strike action over the staff USS pension and Higher Education Pay – and we would like the student body to
be informed of developments.

The UCU represents academic, academic-related staff as well as PGR students who are employed by the University. We took fourteen days of strike action in the Spring of 2018 in order to save the guaranteed benefits of the USS staff pension after a drastic change was to be imposed which would have seen future staff pensions gambled on the stock market. The guaranteed nature of the USS pension is at this point no longer under threat – but trust in the scheme is very low especially as USS is radically increasing how much staff members have to pay into their pensions. UCU believes that the increases are unfair and unnecessary – unfortunately, UCU does not feel that the employers have seriously challenged the USS stance and supported its staff members. Since the 2018 dispute, all parties have been taking part in a Joint Expert Panel, but USS is refusing to fully implement the panel recommendations.

There is a lot of information online, please click here:

Some quicK figures for you:

PAY 2019-2020

The unions submitted a pay claim this year of 3% plus retail price index (RPI) – the RPI to keep up with inflation and the 3% to override some of the pay-erosion that HE staff have experienced over
the years (UCU estimates that staff in HE have experienced a real terms cut of 21% since 2010) . Plus the unions requested joint working on key issues (gender pay gap, workload and precarious
contracts).The employers have offered 1.8% and minimal joint working. 1.8% meets the current consumer price
index including housing (CPIH) measure of inflation but not retail price index (RPI).


UCU has a policy of no detriment. Due to the lack of serious challenge from the employers to the USS stance, UCU have requested that the employers pay any increase on the 26%
contributions instead of staff members (total contributions should be no higher than 26%, as they were before the dispute in 2018 started).
USS is currently proposing rates well above 30%, climbing as high as 34.7% after 2020 as a replacement for the rate of 35.6% that is already being imposed (members contributions are set to go up to at least 9.6% of salary from this October, and at least 11% after 2020, compared with 8% if the Joint Expert Panel’s recommendations were implemented now).
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch –

Thank you for your time

The Surrey UCU Committee

University of Surrey all-staff vote of no confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and the Executive Board

On 22 March 2019 the three campus trade unions (Unite, UNISON and UCU) held an open meeting for all staff. The level of attendance was unprecedented, with standing room only in the lecture theatre.

The issues raised included:

  • The lack of detailed data to justify the espoused need for saving £15M,
  • The dubious use of uncertainties such as Brexit and the Augar review in order to justify this knee-jerk reaction,
  • The terminology used which designates staff as a cost and not as an asset,
  • A rush forward to implement changes with no apparent plan or appropriate process (e.g. equality analysis),
  • The threatening of course closures without due process, and
  • The serious implications for staff well-being, including stress and workload concerns as a result of staff reductions.

At this meeting, there was a call from the floor for an all-staff vote of no confidence, to be facilitated by the trade unions. Unite, UNISON and UCU agreed that this action could be considered by the trade unions. USSU informed staff that they are holding a referendum for students in a vote of no confidence in the VC, senior management team and governing bodies in May.

Based on the indicative figures presented to the unions in April, it is clear that over 80% of the £15m savings target that University of Surrey has set itself could be achieved as a result of the recruitment freeze and approved EVS applications. The unions raised questions as to ‘Phase 2’ and what it will encompass, but were not presented with a clear direction for the ongoing ‘Continuous Improvement Programme’.

As a result, in order to protect staff, the three campus trade unions subsequently wrote to Professor Lu requesting that the University rule out compulsory redundancies of staff until at least 31 July 2020, to allow time for a period of reflection and to alleviate the spectre of job insecurity.

This reassurance has not been provided. In the reply, Professor Lu wrote only that: ‘The outcome of our recent Enhanced Voluntary Severance scheme, together with other measures we have taken, means that in all likelihood we will not be looking at wide-ranging compulsory redundancies across the University as part of the Continuous Improvement Programme…….I cannot categorically rule out the need for local action involving redundancies in some areas’.

Further outsourcing of University services also remains a concern for staff and formal requests have not produced categorical assurances: Professor Lu has stated ‘I do not envisage any significant changes here in the foreseeable future’.

Therefore we invite you to participate in this all-staff vote of no confidence.

Please note your participation will be kept completely anonymous from the University (payroll numbers are requested to verify that staff members have only voted once).

This vote will close at 12pm on Friday 17 May 2019.

Please share the voting link with other staff members so that they also get their say:

190502 Response from the Vice-Chancellor re Compulsory Redundancies

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your email. I am acutely aware of the challenging situation we are working through at the University, the impact it has had on staff.
I naturally wish to bring clarity and certainty to all of our staff as quickly as I can. The outcome of our recent Enhanced Voluntary Severance scheme, together with other measures we have taken, means that in all likelihood we will not be looking at wide-ranging compulsory redundancies across the University as part of the Continuous Improvement Programme.

Given the ongoing challenges we face with Augar and Brexit, I cannot categorically rule out the need for local action involving redundancies in some areas, but I would see these as operating business as usual, rather than a wider change programme. Any such action would be supported through voluntary severance packages and other means.

I will continue to communicate with staff, both personally and through the Continuous Improvement Programme team, and with you and your Union colleagues about the next steps. We have town hall meetings planned for next week, and we will be engaging staff further to help them shape the steps in the programme, and I am confident this will help provide reassurance on the nature and progress of the programme.

To date we have appreciated the positive and proactive nature of the discussions between the University and colleagues from UCU and other trade unions. I very much hope you will continue to work with us in a positive way that would stabilise the sentiments of staff and let staff get on with the tasks at hand, as we go forward.

Yours sincerely


Professor G.Q. Max Lu AO DL FAA FTSE
President and Vice-Chancellor


Formal Communication from the Vice-Chancellor with UNISON Branch Chair:

Regarding outsourcing, the University currently outsources a number of functions and activities where this is deemed to be in the interests of the University and our various stakeholders, but this represents a small proportion of our activities, and I do not envisage any significant changes here in the foreseeable future. We value and recognise the qualities of our staff and the loyalty that in-house staff bring to our operations.

Letter to VC from Campus Trade Unions re Vote of No Confidence

Dear Max,

Staff at the University of Surrey continue to work under extremely stressful conditions at a concerning time. The spectre of job insecurity and the prospect of increasing workloads are ever present.

Trust in the Senior Management is clearly at breaking point.

Whilst we appreciate the extension of the EVS protection period to 31 December 2019, we are concerned that, despite our continuing requests, compulsory redundancies are not ruled out .

Therefore, we request that you rule out compulsory redundancies of staff until at least 31st July 2020 to allow time for a period of reflection and to take the stress off our staff.

If this assurance cannot be provided by 12pm on Friday 3rd May, we will take action by facilitating an all-staff vote of no confidence.

I look forward to a positive response.

Michael Moran

UCU Regional Official

Prof Michael Kearney – Provost and Executive VP
Paul Stephenson – Vice President HR
Neil Jones – UNISON
Gary Strudwick – UNITE
Alison Cottell – UCU
Ade Phillips – Regional Support Official