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Assessment boycott suspended until 16th January – but more action likely to follow

UCU HE Committee decided yesterday that as the employers are prepared to talk about their proposals to change the USS pension scheme, the assessment boycott will be suspended until January 16th.

Harriet Bradley, who attended yesterday’s HE  Committee meeting , will speak to a meeting of members in Bath on Monday 24th November 1.15 pm in 6E2.1.  Read Harriet’s report here.

Thanks to all members who have supported this action since 6th November.  It is only through your action that we have prevented the employers from forcing through the changes they want to make to the USS pension scheme.

Another report from yesterday’s meeting  suggests that while our negotiators may be prepared to hear what the employers have to say over the next six weeks, the employers have so far made no significant concessions on their proposals to change the USS pension scheme.

“The dispute is not over.    Indeed it was emphasised by everyone that we needed to be prepared to take hard-hitting action in January.  The employers have not retreated from their deficit estimates and ‘de-risking’ strategy.  We have a substantial political job to do in Senates, Academic Boards etc to put pressure on our own employers to challenge the proposals.”  (Sean Wallis UCL).

Monday’s branch meeting will consider a call for a special HE Sector Conference in January for delegates from ALL 69 pre-1992 universities involved in the USS dispute

Pay docking

HR have informed us that

“in accordance with the agreement reached nationally, we will not be withholding pay for breach of contract in respect of any individuals who participated in the action short of a strike between 6 and 19 November 2014 on the condition that those individuals make up all work missed in a reasonable period of time.”

The University has been informed of the suspension of the boycott so you do not need to contact HR.

Bath UCU calls for pressure to be maintained as employers move on pensions

Our action to defend pensions has already produced results.  Members received a message from UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt last Thursday with details of latest developments in the USS dispute.   She reports that

  • the employers have agreed not to press their proposals to a vote
  • there will be a series of formal and informal negotiating meetings  between now and the next joint negotiating committee meeting on 15 January 2015
  • actuaries representing UCU, UUK and USS will meet to discuss the funding position.

UCU HE Committee will meet on Wednesday to consider whether this movement is enough to suspend the assessment boycott.

Bath UCU met today and after a long discussion at a well attended meeting agreed a resolution calling on the HE Committee  to suspend the boycott only at those institutions that both publically question the need for the proposed changes to pensions being pushed by UUK’s negotiators and also announce that they will not be docking the pay of UCU members participating in the assessment boycott. The boycott would continue at all other institutions, including Bath.



Bath students support action over pensions

Following last Friday’s meeting about the assessment boycott between UCU and Bath SU President Jordan Kenny,  students have voted in support of the boycott in a poll organised by the Students’ Union:  57.7% for, 40.7% against and 1.6% abstaining.  We have written to the SU thanking them for their support and asking for a further meeting to look at ways this support can be translated into action by students.  See Bath Impact article linking the pensions dispute to the pay dispute of 2013/14.

What to say to HR

The letter we have all had from the Director of HR asks us to tell him by 12th November if you are or will be taking part in the assessment boycott, and to say which forms of action you are or will be taking.   The simple guidance from UCU is to respond as follows:

I intend to support the UCU assessment and marking boycott but will not be doing so until x date when I have scheduled work to do which is included in the boycott. I will not be engaged in marking every day after that date. Please note that I would have expected all the work I can currently anticipate and which is covered by the boycott to have been completed by x date. (more…)

Assessment boycott starts to bite

We are receiving reports from members about the impact of the assessment boycott which started today. Let us know what you are boycotting and its impact ? Please send reports to

Letting students know why we are taking action

Our action has already had some coverage in the student paper Impact.  Students are showing their support for our action where they have been given the information they need to understand why we are taking the action.

Replying to HR

Yesterday’s message from HR asking us to let them know if we are taking part in the boycott asks us to reply by November 12th. There is guidance on this at the FAQs but we are asking members not to respond before the date requested, so that we can discuss at the branch meeting on Monday.

Progress of negotiations

Our national Head of Bargaining and Negotiations Michael MacNeil has written to employers about the announcement of pay docking, and with details of a set of negotiating proposals from UCU.

There is a significant amount of complex information in this document which members will clearly want to consider. We have organised an

Emergency Branch Meeting for Monday 10th November 1.15 pm in 3E2.1

to discuss

1 The impact of the assessment boycott
2 Our response to the letter from HR about docking 25% of the pay of those who participate in the assessment boycott
3 Our views of the negotiating proposals from UCU

Let’s NOT Talk ! VC hides University response to pension changes

UCU has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the University of Bath’s official response to Universities UK about the proposed changes to USS but the Vice Chancellor has refused to disclose it.  The University’s response to the FOI request claims that  “the likely harm to the University’s ability to exchange views and provide advice for the purposes of deliberation and consultation in a free and frank fashion and the likely resulting prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs would not be in the public interest and outweighs public interest factors militating in favour of disclosure. This information is therefore exempt from disclosure.”

UCU will call for a review of this unwarranted secrecy on the grounds that members of USS have the right to know what representations have been made in their name.

Assessment boycott set to start on November 6th


Following the record vote in favour of action to defend the USS pension scheme, UCU members will start a boycott of all assessment related work from Thursday 6th November. There will be a weekly meeting of the local USS action committee, with the first meeting on Wednesday 5th November 1.30 in 1E2.4.

UCU has produced guidance and FAQ for members, and a briefing note that you can pass on to students .   If you need help setting up a departmental meeting or with any other aspect of the assessment boycott, please contact one of the branch officers or reps.

Employers are divided on the proposals to wreck USS.  Some such as Oxford and Warwick have either expressed opposition or say they need more information.  Others such as York have taken an aggressive stance by threatening to dock 100% of pay from anyone who takes part in the assessment boycott.  You can support our York members by signing this open letter to the York VC.



Record turnout in massive vote for action to defend pensions

UCU members will start a national assessment boycott on Thursday 6th November following a massive vote for action to defend pensions. 78% of members who voted, voted for strike action and 87% voted for action short of a strike. The turnout of 45% was the highest in a national higher education ballot since UCU was formed in 2006.

Bath UCU members will meet on THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER 1.15 pm in 3E2.4 to hear more about what we are being asked to do as part of an assessment boycott and to make sure it has maximum impact in the hope of bringing the dispute to an early conclusion. If members are in any doubt about the threat to pensions represented by the proposed changes, please note the following extract from the paper submitted by the employers to last week’s meeting of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee:

“It will be noted that in looking at their Tests, the Trustees take no account of any Defined Contribution benefits that are introduced. These pose no obligation risk on the employers – in effect, risk is borne fully by members. As such, the Trustees exhibit a marked preference for DC benefits over DB benefits.”

Keep up to date with developments at the national UCU pages

USS – biggest branch meeting for years signs up for action to defend pensions

Standing room only in Tuesday’s branch meeting as members heard the latest information we have on employers’ proposals to cut the benefits and increase the costs of the USS pension scheme.   Pensions rep James Davenport presented information on a set of slides(more…)

What has Bath said to UUK about USS ?

All pre-1992 universities have been consulted by USS and employers’ body Universities UK (UUK) about the future of the USS pension scheme. We know what Oxford has said, but what about Bath ?   As a member of the USS Board, Bath VC Glynis Breakwell is a key player on the employers’ side.   She sits on both the Investment and Remuneration Committees of the USS Board.  The recently published USS Annual Report shows a 24% (to £36,000) increase in her remuneration for this work.   Has she consulted USS members in her own university about the University’s response to the UUK/USS consultation ?