Category Archives: Uncategorized

MEQs, strike action and appraisals 2018

We are aware that members are concerned as to the impact that strike action may have had on MEQ scores, and the subsequent use of these scores within upcoming appraisals. The Surrey UCU Committee advise that it may not be necessary to take action unless you anticipate your manager downgrading your appraisal. You may wish to note on your appraisal form that MEQs may be lower than usual because of legitimate strike action they have taken.
If any punitive scoring or comments arise from the appraisal due to low MEQs from students who were affected by industrial action, we will challenge this on the basis that the member of staff is receiving detrimental treatment as a result of union membership, which is unlawful. We are therefore advising members to keep in touch and keep us informed of any detrimental consequences. We will offer further advice nearer to the appraisal round. Please let us know if you become concerned that your appraisal may suffer because of strike action you have taken this year (i.e. for any role; not just that relating to MEQs). 


Call on the University of Surrey to drop 100% deduction for action short of a strike

UCU calls on University of Surrey senior management to drop 100% deduction for action short of a strike.

As you may know, university staff at 64 institutions are currently engaged in industrial action to defend their pensions against the drastic cuts proposed by UUK. University of Surrey is one of these 64 universities. Unfortunately, as far as UCU is aware, the University of Surrey is one of only a tiny handful of universities planning to deduct 100% for action short of a strike.

The proposed 100% deductions for Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) are unfair. This punitive measure seeks to deduct wages twice for the same thing – once for being on strike, and then again for not subsequently doing the work not done owing to being on strike. Requiring staff to reschedule in this way is unprecedented, highly impractical, and would be a cause of both staff and student work overload, contrary to the principle of duty of care.

The vice-chancellor at a prestigious Scottish University, who has recently changed her mind and adopted a much less punitive stance, has labelled such measures as “unfair and clearly counter-productive” and that such a policy would be “inconsistent with this university’s values and the store we place on our shared sense of community”.

UCU is calling on the University of Surrey senior management to drop their punitive plan to deduct 100% from wages for refusing to reschedule lectures or classes, or to cover the work of absent colleagues as industrial action short of a strike (ASOS).

An additional concern is that the University of Surrey will continue to make pension payments on the understanding that colleagues taking action will respond to the university’s requests for notification in advance of action taking place. This pressure to declare strike action ahead of time is designed to mitigate the effects of industrial action, forcing the rescheduling of work, which in effect makes the the action meaningless. UCU members are already taking a cut in their pay in order to take a stand, they have not made the decision to take strike action lightly.

Within this dispute, University of Surrey is proving to have one of the most punitive management cultures in the country. These punitive measures affect early career staff the most, particularly those on hourly paid contracts, and we urge alumni, students, external examiners and staff working within academia to sign this letter to urge the University of Surrey to reconsider its position.


Please sign now:

UCU announces 14 strike dates at 61 universities in pensions row

Strikes will begin on Thursday 22 February

UCU has written to the 61 universities* to inform them of an escalating wave of strikes over a four-week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend. There will then be four days of strikes from Monday 5 – Thursday 8 March and a full five-day walkout the following week (12 – 16 March). The strike dates are:

Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)

Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)

Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)

Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

Surrey UCU reached the 50% turn out threshold and will be participating in strike action.

USSU President open letter to Surrey Vice-Chancellor, Max Lu re USS

Dear Vice Chancellor,

Following our last Union Executive Committee meeting (9th January 2018), I am writing on behalf of the Students’ Union in relation to the current dispute over USS pensions, which risks a considerable reduction in the retirement benefits staff may receive.

As a union, we believe that all academic staff have a right to job security, and that fair pensions are a part of this security. Whilst we do not wish at this time to take a position in relation to the University or local branch of UCU on this dispute, we strongly feel that it is in the best interests of students at the University to minimise the disruption which would result from sustained strike action.

As the Executive Committee discussed, the current pensions dispute stands to significantly disadvantage current students who may pursue a career in higher education. Furthermore, academic staff at the University are vital to not only the growth and wellbeing of our students, but are fundamental to their time here at Surrey.

With these thoughts in mind, we would like to ask that you, in your position as one of the most prominent Vice Chancellors in the UK, publically outline the position that you have taken within UUK regarding the pensions dispute. Further to this, we call upon you to use your role within UUK to support a swift, mutually-agreeable outcome from the dispute.

Yours sincerely,

Saskia Cochrane

President of USSU

On behalf of the USSU Executive Committee

USSU response to Surrey UCU open letter

Dear Surrey UCU,


On behalf of the University of Surrey Students’ Union, I wanted to thank you for writing to us in relation to the USS pension dispute and to express our gratitude for dialogue on this and other issues over the last few months.

At our last Union Executive Committee meeting (9th January 2018), we discussed the potential for strike action in the near future in relation to Jake Roberts’ motion ‘Standing in Solidarity with UCU and their Fight for Fair Pensions’. I have attached the final version of the motion, which passed following amendments.

In response to the passed motion, we have written to the Vice Chancellor, encouraging him to make his position within UUK on the pensions dispute known, and to help support a swift mutually-agreeable outcome in negotiations. Furthermore, we will be raising awareness of the issue and will encourage PGR members of UCU to engage in the discussion and make use of their voting rights.

One of the key concerns discussed at the Executive Committee meeting surrounded the impact of a strike to students. Whilst we appreciate the long-term ramifications of the current proposals, we must be sensitive to the disruption that sustained industrial action could cause for our membership. With this in mind, we are not currently taking a position in relation to the dispute beyond wishing to minimise the disruption which may arise from a strike. However, we would like to emphasise the importance that we remain in close contact as the situation develops and – where it does not significantly conflict with the interests of our membership – support Surrey UCU.


Yours sincerely,


Saskia Cochrane

President of USSU

On behalf of the USSU Executive Committee



Standing in solidarity with UCU and their fight for fair pensions!

Proposed by: Jake Roberts (subsequently amended by the Executive Committee)

USSU notes:

  1. The University and College Union (UCU) is currently balloting its members for strike action over Universities UK’s (UUK’s) plans to scrap guaranteed pension benefits from the sector’s main retirement fund.
    1. This ballot closes on Friday 19th[i]
    2. The action proposed by the national UCU includes a series of strikes by lecturers, as well as refusals to reschedule classes or substitute for sick colleagues, to be held in February next year.[ii] This does not necessarily describe what action Surrey UCU will take, however.
  2. Independent analysis from First Actuarial estimates that UUK’s plans would reduce retirement benefits paid by between 20% and 40%, depending upon grade and length of service.[iii]
  3. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has said the plans would leave academics “facing years of stress about whether their pension investments are returning enough income to live on”[iv]
  4. UCU represents academic staff in the UK, including researchers, postgraduate researchers, teaching staff, and permanent lecturers. It has around 40,000 members.
  5. UUK is an advocacy organisation for all UK universities, whose membership consists of all the vice-chancellors or principals of universities in the UK.
  6. A consultative ballot of UCU members in October 2017 showed that nearly 87% of UCU members were prepared to take industrial action over the issue.[v]
  7. Under the Trade Union Act 2016, industrial action is now only lawful if a ballot turnout is at least 50%.[vi]
  8. USSU represents around 3,600 postgraduate students at Surrey, some of whom are represented by UCU (though not necessarily affected by the pension changes).[vii]

USSU believes:

  1. All academic staff have a right to job security. Fair pensions are a key part of this security.
  2. UCU members should go on strike to protect their pensions, or take action short of a strike.
  3. Lecturers’ working conditions are students’ learning The well-being and job security of students’ teachers and lecturers is not just a staff issue, it is also a student one.
  4. The success of any potential strike action depends on the mobilisation of as many UCU members as possible, across the country. Students’ unions have an important role to play in this mobilisation, as institutions of significant resources and memberships.

USSU resolves:

  1. To encourage PGR UCU members to vote in the ballot for industrial action.
    1. This involves raising awareness of the dispute on the Union’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and other social media, amongst other things.[viii]
  2. To be in close contact with Surrey UCU throughout the period of balloting and potential industrial action, and offer firm support for any of their needs that do not conflict with USSU’s members.
  3. To write a public letter to Surrey’s Vice-Chancellor, Max Lu, asking him to publicly outline the position he has taken within UUK regarding the pensions dispute and to support a swift, mutually-agreed outcome.[ix]








[vii] 3,600 figure applies to 2016/17. Data for 2017/18 are not available. See here:

[viii] Social media resources are available here:

[ix] Vice-Chancellors at Warwick ( and Glasgow ( have publicly voiced opposition to the proposals, for example.

Redressing the balance: Employer stances on UUK proposal re USS

We warmly welcome the public statements made in support of staff pensions by Warwick and Glasgow Universities. It is clear that the very detrimental proposed changes are not supported unanimously within UUK, nor do all employers consider the current proposal to be necessary.


The current UUK proposal is to move USS from a defined benefits scheme (determined and guaranteed by your ‘career average’ earnings) to a defined contribution scheme (where your money is no longer guaranteed, but dependent on the stock market investments at the point at which you retire).
The VC at Warwick states that he is ‘mystified’ at the stance taken by UUK, and that Whatever happens we will not let the current increasingly conservative approach to USS go unchallenged’:


The University of Glasgow has stated that it would prefer to keep a Defined Benefits Scheme and ‘The University believes that its interests are aligned with those of the UCU and that all parties should work together constructively to identify a solution. It is, of course, for members of UCU to decide how they vote in the ballot.’

Your USS vote and TU legislation

You should be receiving your ballot paper later this week.

We understand that there is a large amount of technical language involved with the current UUK offer on USS but at heart this is a very simple dispute: the offer on the table at the moment is detrimental and the only way to change the terms of the offer is if members are prepared to take action.

Due to recent changes in Trade Union legislation we need a 50% turn out at this Branch in order to take any form of action. We are at the point where every vote really does matter.

It is unusual for University managers to communicate with members about potential trade union action during a ballot, as this could be interpreted as trying to influence the vote, but if you receive any communications that you are uncertain of please get in contact.

As we regard changes to pensions as an exceptionally serious issue, members are encouraged to ring the TU office on 01483 68 2323. We will be putting aside an hour every Friday, between 10:30 – 11:30, to discuss the UUK offer with members. More technical queries will be forwarded to our National Pensions Official, and we are currently collecting FAQs for her to answer. Please email these queries to:

Surrey UCU is committed to keeping members informed every step of the way, please do not hesitate to get in contact if you are unsure of anything.

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

3 August 2017

getSURREY reports:

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: