Ten Points for the USS Valuation, #UCUTransformed

At the UCU Transformed meeting on 28 April, Dennis Leech (Warwick) posed the following points and questions that the Joint Expert Panel should consider.

  1. How does a scheme that is currently cash flow positive go into deficit?
  2. What do cash flow projections for income and outgo look like?
  3. Why use index linked gilts (currently producing a negative return)?
  4. Consider using the internal rate of return.
  5. Are investment returns really too low?
  6. Investigate the ‘best estimate’ valuation.
  7. Focus on income from investments not asset price.
  8. Question the facile assumption that equities universally riskier than bonds.
  9. Examine in detail projections of key parameters e.g. mortality, growth, inflation, etc. Also the level of prudence.
  10. Distinguish between risk and short-term asset price volatility.

See also

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USS activist guide, #UCUTransformed

A UCU Activist’s Guide to the Next Few Months

Immediate term

  • The terms of reference for the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) were pushed through the Higher Education Committee (HEC) with no amendments permitted by the chair on 27 April. The terms are highly problematic, providing no accountability or transparency.
  •  The last chance to influence the JEP’s terms will be the National Executive Committee, which meets on 4 May. They may consider an emergency motion so long as it affects the whole union, not merely the HE sector. Activists should lobby NEC members to revise the JEP’s terms to ensure UCU nominees are elected, have to account regularly to the membership throughout the JEP process, and are fully transparent. See JEP Manifesto below.
  •  On 16 May, the UCU Superannuation Working Group (SWG) will appoint JEP members based on applications from interested parties. Activists should lobby the SWG to ensure they appoint (a) people who are not just technical expert but who are prepared to challenge the actuarial and regulatory orthodoxy that has led us to this point, i.e. who understand that the choice of assumptions behind a valuation is political, not neutral; (b) someone from UCU’s own actuaries, First Actuarial, who have done good work in the past.
  • Branches can also still usefully:
    • Submit amendments to motions for UCU Sector Conference (or Congress) – deadline 4 May. One on a pay dispute would be useful (see below).
    • Submit late motions to Sector Conference / Congress (deadline is eve of Congress).
    • Submit motions of no confidence in Sally Hunt’s leadership (as at Kent, Exeter and Queen Mary).
    • Submit motions for an emergency special sector conference under rule 16.11 (as passed at over 15 institutions now – required threshold is 20).

Short term

UCU Congress and the HE Sector Conference will be held from 30 May to 1 June in Manchester. Branches need to send their full complement of delegates and support important motions submitted by other branches, including calls to:

  • Establish a review of democratic mechanisms in the union to strengthen internal democracy and the accountability of the leadership;
  • Hold a special HE Sector Conference in September to review the JEP’s report and, if necessary, initiate industrial action in response;
  • Create a national strike committee to ensure democratic control of industrial action.

Medium term (but can start now)

See also Re-mobilising for industrial action, below.

  • Need to re-start strike committees and re-engage branch members, understand why people voted in the ballot as they did, and rebuild the mobilisation seen through March, around the #WeAreTheUniversity slogan, which captures a broad range of issues stemming from marketization. UCU needs to be positioned as the main defender of education against destructive neoliberal policies.
  • A dispute on pay can address many of these issues in a way the pensions dispute could not. We can claim for cost-of-living increases and the impact of any imposed cost-sharing in USS, but we can also tackle equalities, workload, precarity, casualisation, etc. An activist network needs to ensure the dispute is framed in this broad way. A pay campaign can also unite the pre- and post-92 sectors, and also build solidarity with FE, where 21 branches are already in dispute with another 150 claims underway (1/3 of institutions).
  • Branches need to gear up for possible renewed strike action in the autumn after the JEP reports, if this is seriously detrimental to members’ interests.
  • Branches also need to:
    • Lobby employers to commit to “No Detriment” in pensions, as Oxford has.
    • Lobby employers to commit to not reporting strikes as unauthorised absences to the Home Office for staff on Tier 4 visas, as this imperils their right to take action.
    • Keep an eye on serious disputes emerging around redundancies at local FE colleges, the Open University, Liverpool, etc. This is linked to union-busting at London South Bank, a problem also faced at Coventry University College. Pre-92 branches are asked to “twin” with local post-92s, and HE branches with FE ones. Messages of solidarity are highly valued. Coventry also asks members to support their march on 17 May and write to MPs to support Early Day Motion 1178.

JEP MANIFESTO

  • Membership – who to include/ exclude (e.g. consultants w/ pecuniary conflict of interest (not simply having previously expressed a view)) [current criteria: no commitment to equalities (will be added)] Should be elected. Lobby for particular candidates?
  • Guided by whose interests? Beneficiaries not UUK/ UCU
  • Issues to tackle? Methodology AND data
  • Transparency/ Procedure?
    • Who will chair? Who will take minutes?
    • How will deliberations be recorded?
    • How will inputs and outputs be recorded? (e.g. UUK may channel consultants who have driven DC) Transparency on external advisors; governance; decision-making if disagreement exists [“expected to reach consensus” – what happens if they don’t?]
    • Should be regular reports to elected bodies.
  • USS must commit to accepting JEP recommendations and stop defending its flawed valuation.
  • Can they get extra time if they need added data/time?
  • First Actuarial must be included and not suppressed by UCU leadership

HOW?

  • Emergency motion to NEC next Friday
  • Lobby USS Working Group (meets 16 May) which will appoint JEP by 21 May
  • Amendments and late motions to Congress/Sector Conference in May: amendment deadline = 4 May

See also Ten points for the USS valuation

Re-mobilising for industrial action

  •  #WeAreTheUniversity: keep the focus on transforming HE and addressing broad issues raised during strike: reversing marketization as the root of all evils we face; UCU needs to become the defender of education in Britain
  • Need to transcend the yes/no divide arising from controversial ballot. Emphasise dispute is still live, more fighting required in future around shared agenda of defending our pensions (and other issues!)
  •  Re-energise strike committees around new activity: discuss how to build pay+ campaign & start doing it.
  •  Need to broaden to/ bring in post-92s (TPS will follow USS) & keep people engage – through campaign over pay (to meet cost-sharing challenge + address casualization + equalities + workload issues specifically)
    • form network to ensure dispute gets framed in this way
    • emergency motion to Congress on this
  • Prepare for dispute!
    • Try to get individual universities to commit to No Detriment, as Oxford has. Employers are on back-foot now because of risk of imposition of cost-sharing by USS.
    • Demand detailed breakdown of consultative ballot results by branch to help activists understand where members are at local scale.
    • Alternative: survey your own branch members about how they feel about the ballot, UCU democracy, future disputes etc. But need to bear in mind that “yes” and “no” contain many overlapping views.

Notes by Lee Jones, QMUL, 28 April 2018

See also

 

Post-ballot Strike Co-ordinating Meeting, Monday 16 April, 6pm

What next after the e-ballot?

  • Date: Monday 16 April, 6pm
  • Location: UCL Cruciform Lecture Theatre 2

London Region UCU is organising an open meeting to discuss what next after the e-ballot, where reps and activists can come to discuss the next stage in the dispute. 

The USS ballot will close on Friday 13th and some branches are due to strike on Monday 16th. The result will be public, one way or another, by Saturday, and most likely by mid Friday afternoon.

If the vote is NO, several London branches will take a week of strike action from 23 April. We will need solidarity from branches that are not striking!

The larger the turnout and the greater the vote NO the easier it will be to put the action on.

Outside of London, some branches are set to strike from Monday 16th.

If the vote is YES, then industrial action will be stood down, and reps will want to discuss what we do next!

Facebook event

UCU – A union transformed

 

A UK-wide activists’ assembly and organising school#UCUTransformed

Saturday 28 April, 10.30-5pm

Statement from final session

The 14 days of strike action against the attack on USS and the thousands of new members who have joined UCU show the massive potential for action to transform our union. The same process of transformation seen in USS HE branches is under way in FE, which have had a wave of strikes over pay and conditions, and in post 92 universities, illustrated by the recent disputes at Brighton University and LMU. However, we are deeply concerned about the opaque and undemocratic behaviour of the UCU leadership.

The imagination and enthusiasm shown by UCU members has been inspiring. We have seen expansion and participation at branch level. But this process has been uneven. We face an urgent task to maintain our numbers and develop the democratic control of our union, and our disputes, by our members.

We need to use the energy of recent disputes to continue the fight on pensions, but also to open up new fronts on equal pay, and put equality, disability, discrimination and casualisation – in its different forms – at the heart of the union.

The USS dispute has shown that a new generation of activists, including student activists, can be won to our union. It is vital we maintain the momentum and ensure it truly represents our members. The union must support members in developing alternative proposals to set against destructive management agendas of cuts, redundancies and punitive performance management.

We need to develop a genuine network of solidarity amongst branches. No UCU branch should fight alone. We support the establishment of a UCU solidarity network, and agree to meet again as a national group in the autumn term.

Resources

Event details
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The USS ballot is over, but the dispute isn’t. We need to recognise the solidarities our dispute created and cemented, rise to the challenge of building on these solidarities, fighting for collective interests, and build the alternative university many of us got a chance to experience or envisage during the dispute. Come join us and be part of that conversation. – Jo Grady, University of Sheffield

Hosted by London Region UCU. Supported by UCU branches at Liverpool University, Dundee University, Goldsmiths College, Newcastle University, King’s College London, University College London, University of Brighton, Sandwell College, City and Islington College and Lambeth College… and more.

 

Timetable

10.30am-11.00am Registration
11.00am-12.15pm Workshops
i) Moving into Action: Campaigning to GTVO and organising strikes
Jim Wolfreys (King’s), Westminster Kingsway speaker
ii) #NoCapitulation: Using social media
Jana Bacevic (Cambridge), Rhiannon Lockley (Halesowen)
iii) Democratising the union: putting members at the centre of change
Jo Grady (Sheffield), Carlo Morelli (Dundee)
iv) Reclaiming our Colleges: Students and workers organising together
Sean Wallis (UCL), Feyzi Ismail (SOAS)
12.30pm-2.00pm HE open session: The USS pension dispute – reclaiming our Universities – (fighting to win) * Activist Guide * Ten points
Marion Hersh (Glasgow), Dennis Leech (Warwick), Sam Marsh (Sheffield), Carlo Morelli (Dundee)
FE open session: Pay and conditions in FE: Coordinating to win
Nita Sanghera (Bournville), Sean Vernell (City & Islington)
2.00pm-2.30pm Lunch
2.30pm-3.45pm Workshops
i) Building solidarity across the labour and trade union movement
Hull, Bradford and Liverpool speakers
ii) Equality Through and Through: Integrating equality demands in our industrial campaigns
Manali Desai (Cambridge), Dave Muritu (Sandwell)
iii) At the Heart of the Union: casualised workers in industrial action
Amy Jowett (Hackney ACE), Sai Englert (SOAS)
iv) An Injury to One… Defending international workers and students (fighting racism on campus)
Ioanna Ioannou (UCL)
3:45pm-5.00pm Closing session: Organising to win – building a democratic, campaigning union
Mandy Brown (Lambeth), Nita Sanghera (Bournville) and others tbc

UCU – A union transformed
– building a fighting union

A UK-wide activists’ assembly and organising school with practical sessions and discussion

The strike action taken by UCU members in HE in defence of USS pensions has been inspirational. Some 40,000 lecturers, academic related staff, researchers and support staff have struck across 64 institutions. In the first week of the strike 3,200 people joined UCU. Many of these new members are BAME, women and young members starting out their careers.

In FE 15 colleges are involved in a campaign of escalating strike action in defence of their pay and conditions. There are another 146 branches that have submitted 168 claims to their employers that could form a second wave of action. This is 50% of all FE bargaining units across the UK. The claims range from, pay, casualisation, equal pay and workloads.

UCU is in transformation.

This UCU UK–wide activist assembly, hosted by London Region UCU, invites all branches that want to be a part of developing a new campaigning UCU to come to the school. Each session will be led off by UCU members who have been on the front-line of this transformation; building the strike votes and picket lines, developing imaginative social media campaigns and creative campaigning strategies. Each workshop will be looking at ways that women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled members can ensure that their concerns are central in shaping the union.

Equality issues have to be at the heart of a fighting UCU.

If you are in a branch that is about to enter into a dispute or in a branch that hasn’t yet been energised by the recent campaigning activity around USS and FE pay come along and be a part of the event.

**There will be a collection for a hardship fund on the day to help towards the cost of the fare for those who have travelled from outside London to get the meeting**

It is very likely that we have not seen the end of industrial action in this dispute over the future of the USS. While we must ensure that the terms of reference and appointments to the Joint Expert Panel are agreed transparently and without mission-creep, it is also precisely the right time to discuss the democratic structures of UCU to ensure that we are in the strongest possible position to robustly defend our pension in six months’ time, should we need to do so. – Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield.

Education Demo #2, 14 March

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Rally and Strike Meeting in Westminster Central Hall from 2pm

Confirmed speakers to include:

  • Joanna De Groot, UCU President
  • John McDonnell MP
  • Catherine West MP
  • Sean Wallis, UCU NEC and HE Convention
  • Chair: Rachel Cohen, UCU NEC

Following a very successful demonstration on February 28th, when 5,000 staff and students in Further and Higher Education marched, London Region UCU has called a second demonstration to Parliament within the fourth week of USS strikes.

Education is under a massive attack. Tuition fees for university have gone through the roof and colleges are in frantic competition with each other to recruit students.

Now the employers want to wreck the pensions of Higher Education staff. Workers ranging from senior academics to postgraduate teaching assistants have begun a programme of an initial 14 days of strike action, closing 65 universities across the UK. We have seen massive pickets on our campuses, and the overwhelming support of students.

16 colleges of Further Education are also in dispute in defence of their pay and conditions. Further Education has lost 15,000 jobs, and one million adult education places, and lecturers have seen their wages cut by 21% since 2009.

We welcome delegations and support from outside London and from across the student and trade union movement. You can get in touch by email or by leaving a comment on our website.
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Demo route

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FE Delivers Stunning Response! How can we build the USS and FE strikes?

LR-demo-280218UCU FE branches have delivered an equally stunning response in their campaign for decent pay as USS branches did over pensions.

Education Demonstration, 28 February

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Rally in Westminster Central Hall from 2pm

Speakers included

  • Sally Hunt UCU General Secretary
  • John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)
  • Angela Rayner MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Education)
  • Gordon Marsden MP (Shadow Minister for HE, FE and Skills)
  • Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary
  • Sean Wallis UCU NEC and convenor of HE Convention
  • Shakira Martin NUS President
  • Elisa Benn Grenfell College campaign
  • Jo Galloway UNISON Head of HE, London
  • Chris Williamson MP
  • Ian Hodson BFAWU President
  • Kevin Courtney NEU General Secretary
  • Khadeja Ali City & Islington HPL
  • Nadia Sayed QMW student, Stand Up to Racism
  • Sean Vernell UCU NEC, FE national negotiator
  • …and many striking workers from across the union

marchEducation is under a massive attack. Tuition fees for university have gone through the roof and colleges are in frantic competition with each other to recruit students.

Now the employers want to wreck the pensions of Higher Education staff. Workers ranging from senior academics to postgraduate teaching assistants have begun a programme of an initial 14 days of strike action, closing 61 universities across the UK. We have seen massive pickets on our campuses, and the overwhelming support of students.

This demonstration and rally took place on the last day in the first wave of the university pension strikes.

16 colleges of Further Education were on strike in London on the same day in defence of their pay and conditions. This was their first day of a two days of strike as part of an escalating strike campaign. Further Education has lost 15,000 jobs, one million adult education places and lecturers have seen their wages cut by 21% since 2009.

We welcome delegations and support from outside London and from across the student and trade union movement. You can get in touch by email or by leaving a comment on our website.

A delegation from UCU’s sister trade union in Germany are coming over especially to join us. If you care about the future of education and scientific research in the UK, join us too.

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Demo route

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