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USS pensions: more cuts coming ?

The USS pension scheme is the main scheme for academic and academic related staff in pre-1992 universities.  Three of its 10 directors are appointed by UCU.   UCU opposed the closure of the final salary scheme earlier this year.   We did secure some important changes to the scheme to protect members from the worst effects of the closure of the final salary scheme, but it has now ended.

The closure of the final salary scheme was the result of warnings to the USS Board that the scheme faced a huge deficit.   UCU challenged the way the scheme’s assets were valued and members supported strike action to defend the benefits that would be cut for future scheme members.  University of Sheffield UCU have produced a useful account of the events that led up to the end of the final salary scheme.

Now the scheme’s assets are set to be valued again, and it is possible – perhaps even likely – that another huge deficit will be discovered and members will have to take further cuts to their benefits and/or increases to contributions.

University of Bath VC Glynis Breakwell has ruled herself out of any discussions with the local branch about USS because she is a paid member of the USS Board.  We have therefore set out to the University’s Director of HR the points we want the University to consider in any representations it makes on the future of the scheme.

We will keep you informed of any proposals that come forward.

Events in November & December


Talk: “Yarl’s Wood: Detentions and Deportations”
Tue, 8th Nov, 18:15, CB1.12

Bath UCU and University of Bath Amnesty Society are co-hosting speakers from Movement for Justice, a migrant rights group, to talk about their experience of and campaign against detention centres, mass deportations and racism in the UK. Coach tickets from Bath for the “Shut Down Yard’s Wood” demonstration will be on sale, or can be purchased online. Students and staff from Bath are also joining the ‘Stand Up to Racism’ bloc at the ‘United for Education’ demo – tickets available at this talk and online.


Event: Special Branch Meeting – “Restructures, Redundancies & Resistance – A Warning from London”
Wed, 9th Nov, 13:15, CB3.9

London Met University, one in the country for widening participation, is under threat of privatisation and severe cuts to provision. Staff are engaged in a major fight against 395 redundancies, and their senior UCU branch officer have been sacked. The extraordinary events at ‘London Met’ could set the tone for universities across the country, particularly in the context of the Higher Education Bill. We are pleased to welcome Mark Campbell, lecturer and former London Met UCU Branch Secretary, to speak about his experiences, and what they could mean at universities across the country. All University of Bath staff and students welcome to attend. More information: What’s On.


Demo: Stop Virgin taking over Bath’s Health Services
Thurs, 10th Nov, 17:00, The Guildhall

A large demonstration in Bath on 29th October heard from Ken Loach and other speakers about the imminent privatisation of Bath’s primary NHS services.

The decision is due to be taken at a meeting in Bath Guildhall and there will be a further demonstration from 5pm, calling for the contract not to be awarded to Virgin Care.

http://bathchronicle.co.uk/virgin-care-protest/story-29851322-detail/story.html.


Social Event: Bath Welcomes Refugees Fundraiser – “F**k Racism”
Mon, 14th Nov, 20:00-02:00, The Nest

This expletively titled event, billed as “a night for love and compassion!” will feature live music, talks, games and more, with all proceeds going to Bath Welcomes Refugees. More information: Facebook event.


Talk: “What is Feminism?”
Tue, 15th Nov, 18:30, CB4.16

Hosted by University of Bath Students’ Union Gender Equality Group and Amnesty International Society. More information: Facebook event.


Discussion: Education in Crisis
Thurs, 17th Nov, 18:15, CB3.11

Bath UCU and the Students’ Union have been invited to join a panel discussion on “the government’s plans to radically change Further and Higher Education, how this will affect staff and students and what we can do in response.” The event will be followed by a placard and banner making session for all those who will be attending the National Demo on November 19th. More details: Facebook event.


Demo: United for Education
Sat, 19th Nov, Leaving Bath at 08:30

UCU and the NUS are holding a mass demonstration in defence of free, accessible and quality further and higher education and to demand an end to privatisation and cuts in universities and colleges. Staff, students and supporters from across the education sector and trade union movement will march in London on Saturday 19th November, in what promises to be a huge show of opposition to government policy on post-school education. Bath UCU will be subsidising travel and all members are encouraged to attend. Tickets can be purchased online or at the next branch meeting. More information: Bath UCU Blog.


Day of Action against Casual Contracts in HE
Thurs, 24th Nov.

Our employer the University of Bath continues to stall on the promise it made to reduce the use of casual contracts for teaching and research.   Watch out for details of our next action on this. Contact ucu-sec@bath.ac.uk for details.


Demo: “Shut Down Yarl’s Wood”
Sat, 3rd Dec, Leaving Bath at 09:00

Students, staff and local residents have organised a coach to this, the tenth, demonstration outside the notorious Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre. Bath UCU will be subsidising travel and tickets can be purchased online or from Christopher Roche at the next branch meeting. More information: Facebook event.


Gender Equality Film: Made in Dagenham
Mon, 5th December, 18:15, CB1.10

We are joining up with the Students’ Union Gender Equality group to screen “Made in Dagenham”, an inspirational feel-good film about a group of women factory workers who launched an incredible fight against sexism in the work place, and ended up making history. All staff and students welcome. Free entry. No ticket required.

Bath UCU AGM

Wed, 14th Dec, 13:15, 8W2.30.

Nominations for branch officer and committee posts will be circulated next week. If you want to get more involved in the work of your union, contact me for further information at ucu-sec@bath.ac.uk.


 

United for Education Demo #Nov19

No to Fees, No to Cuts, No to Debt

The National Union of Students (NUS) and University and College Union (UCU) are holding a mass demonstration in defence of free, accessible and quality further and higher education and to demand an end to privatisation and cuts in universities and colleges. Staff, students and supporters from across the education sector and trade union movement will march in London on Saturday 19th November, in what promises to be a huge show of opposition to government policy on post-school education.

University of Bath Students’ Union are running coaches for students, staff and supporters. Bath UCU are proud to be providing financial support.

Join the Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/708038252677972/

Reserve your coach ticket today (£5 return):

Events before the demonstration:

  • Demo Information Session – Thursday 10th November, 18:15 in 8 West 2.5.
    Hosted by University of Bath Students’ Union.
  • Education in Crisis Tour – Thursday 17th November, 18:15 in TBC.
    Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/579719922236019/
    Open to all students & staff.
    ‘The agenda of this government is clear – they want an education system where our institutions operate in the interests of profit and business. But there are thousands of students, staff and education activists up and down the country who reject this vision. We want a system which is free, democratic and accessible to all, which values education as a social good. Come along to what will be a truly informative event, discuss the state of Further & Higher Education, and plan for the future. With speakers from Bath UCU, Bath Students’ Union and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts.’

Report: Event on Syria, Calais & Refugee Solidarity

Last Tuesday, Bath UCU co-hosted a film screening of “The White Helmets” (Trailer) with the Bath SU Amnesty International Society.

Alaa opens the session

Alaa opens the session

The session was opened by Alaa Al Khourdajie, a Postgraduate UCU member and UCU Contact in the Department of Economics, who spoke about some of the actions we can take in response to the ‘refugee crisis’ and introduced two speakers:

  • Bernie Howley, Founder and Chair of Bath Welcomes Refugees, outlined the work that the group are doing to help settle and support refugees in Bath;
  • Christopher Roche, Bath UCU Vice President, spoke about a recent trip to deliver donations to and work in the refugee camp in Calais, the urgent need to allow refugees into the UK ahead of the impending razing of the camp by the French government and asked for people to support the “Phone Credit for Refugees Project“.
Chris talks about a recent trip to the refugee camp in Calais

Chris talks about a recent trip to the refugee camp in Calais

Alaa introduced the film, which tells the story of “The White Helmets“, volunteer rescue workers in Syria, responding to military attacks in civilian areas. The film is available now to watch online through Netflix.

Students and staff keen to understand and take action on the 'refugee crisis'

Students and staff keen to understand and take action on the ‘refugee crisis’

The sessions was very well attended, and the staff and students present donated over £200 in cash, plus more online and by phone, to three organisations:

If you were unable to attend the event, please take a look at the links above and consider making a donation.

The Bath UCU branch will continue to campaign for the rights of refugees, and all migrants in the UK. We continue to support calls for the creation of university scholarships for refugees and are making plans for future deliveries of donations and volunteer to workers to Calais and elsewhere. If you would like to become more involved in these initiatives, please email ucu-sec@bath.ac.uk.

 

Announcements on ‘Foreign Workers’, Support & Action

The follow has been sent to all members of University of Bath UCU:

Dear Bath UCU colleague,

We were disturbed by recent announcements about workers from countries other than the UK, and concerned about the effect of those announcements on the climate of racism, xenophobia and bigotry that has worsened since the European referendum. A summary of the support available to our international members can be found below, along with actions that all members are encouraged to take.

Recent Developments

Last Tuesday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that UK firms would be required to state the proportion of ‘foreign’ staff that they employ in order to encourage the employment of ‘domestic’ ones. Widespread condemnation and growing pressure appear to have resulted in a partial scaling back of the proposals, such that employers will be required to provide but not openly publish the information.

Nevertheless, the logic of the proposal is to imply blame for the unemployment of ‘British’ workers on the employment of ‘foreign’ ones. This can only legitimate a xenophobic and racist discourse directed against workers from other countries, and the companies and sectors of the economy that employ them, including in Higher Education.

The Conservative Party conference also heard plans to reduce the number of international students in the UK through further restrictions to study and work visas. UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, has publicly condemned the proposals.

On Friday, reports emerged that ‘foreign’ academics had been barred from government advisory roles. The implication of the decision is that non-UK nationals are not to be trusted on matters of national policy, and has the further implication that UK nationals are to be expected to act in the interests of the state at all times. This is a dangerous precedent for all academic staff.

UCU Branch Activity & Support Available

It is now particularly important that our colleagues and students who have moved to the UK from other countries know that they are appreciated and welcome. We all have a part to play in ensuring that this message is heard.

Bath UCU branch committee has co-opted two new ‘International Members Reps’. Palash Kamruzzaman and Alex Masardo will be working with your existing committee and department contacts to ensure that the branch is as proactive and responsive as possible to the needs of our international members.

Branch Officers have had discussions with managers about the University’s response to the national political situation, and will continue to push for greater support for international staff. It was agreed at our last branch meeting that our negotiators on the JACNC would again ask that the University pay the cost of Permanent Residence Cards for staff. Information on support currently available from the University has been published online by Human Resources.

In addition to support from the Bath UCU branch, members can also seek counselling and support through the UCU-backed Education Support Partnership and there are also plans to extend the legal scheme available to UCU members to include immigration issues.

Take Action

Your branch committee is encouraging colleagues to use and circulate this online tool to demand that our Members of Parliament stand up for EU staff and students.

We also ask members to read and promote the booklet, jointly produced by UCU and Class, “Why immigration is good for all of us” and the South West TUC guide to population and migration. The branch has ordered hundreds of hardcopies of both publications to help members challenge the common toxic myths and divisive rhetoric around migration to the UK. If you would like copies for your department, or for distribution to students or colleagues, these can be reserved and collected from the Trade Union Office (1 East 2.1) on Wednesdays, 10:00-16:00.

If you have further suggestions for how the branch can best support our international colleagues, any general or specific concerns about the treatment of international staff members or an initiative that you would like the branch to support, please let us know.

Bath UCU Branch Committee

P.S. Bath UCU continues to support calls for the creation of university scholarships for refugees and is currently working with Bath Welcomes Refugees to provide donations and volunteer workers to the refugee camp in Calais. Two of our members will be talking more about this on Tuesday 18th October at 18:15, before a film screening of The White Helmets in 5 West 2.3.

Branch meeting for all members WEDNESDAY 5th OCTOBER 1.15 pm 1E2.4

The meeting (agenda) will hear reports on:

19novdemo_fb_1_3

 

 

 

 

 

UCU secures improved deal for FLC staff facing dismissal, but cuts still go ahead

University managers have implemented cuts to the Foreign Languages Centre proposed during the summer. The Centre has lost three (possibly four) languages, seven staff on fractional posts and a further ten staff on zero hours contracts. UCU called for a one year freeze on the proposals to allow wider consultation with staff, students and the local community, but this call was rejected despite a 2600 name petition to the University’s governing body, Council.

UCU secured an improved offer from the University for the seven staff on fractional contracts, together with a promise to review the University’s redundancy avoidance strategy. This offer was made after branch members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action if there were any compulsory redundancies. There were no compulsory redundancies.

On the plus side the UCU branch managed to win an improved offer (redundancy payments enhanced by 50% for people accepting voluntary redundancy) for those staff on fractional contracts (including non members) who were facing dismissal. The downside is that the enhancement was only 50% and that some people lost their jobs. The other serious problem is that the ten staff on zero hours contracts who lost their jobs were offered NOTHING.

This small gain shows that UCU members have more bargaining power than we might think. Faced with the threat of local action against cuts and job losses, there was some movement from University managers.

For a full review of the dispute and the issues raised see report from UCU Branch Secretary.

Donations for Convoy to Calais: Drop off times

Bath Welcomes Refugees are running a convoy for its members to help in Calais “Jungle” refugee camp and some of our Bath UCU members are going to volunteer with Help Refugees. (more…)

Action to defend FLC jobs and courses – have your say here

At a well attended branch meeting on July 6, there was clear concern expressed over both the threat to dismiss 18 staff in the Foreign Languages Centre. The dismissals arise from a proposal to cut 20% of FLC provision, including 3 languages and all the higher level courses more information (more…)

Non-UK EU citizens left in limbo after referendum vote

15% of the University staff are non-UK EU citizens, and the University has a target of increasing that proportion as part of its international strategy. Yet many were left feeling confused and let down by the University’s attitude of leaving their future in the hands of the Government and national bodies such as UUK. We think the University’s senior managers should be more openly proactive in defending the right of the 3 million non-UK EU citizens to indefinitely stay in the UK.

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt warns in this week’s THE  that if people from the EU no longer feel welcome in UK universities, the damage to our international academic reputation will be near fatal.

Here in Bath UCU and Unite have invited the Vice Chancellor to make a joint call on the Government to grant Indefinite Leave to Remain to all non-UK EU citizens, removing uncertainty and insecurity over this from all our minds.  We will update this post with any reply we receive.