This is just a quick summary of the position following the end of the first wave of strikes.
What did the strikes achieve?
It’s important to remember that before the strike action began, we were told that not only were these massive cuts to our pensions inevitable, but that no further negotiations would take place. Defined benefit was dead.
That position has been completely overturned – the employers (via Universities UK) have been forced to return to talks, and to make an offer which retained a defined benefit component.
Furthermore, rather than turning against staff, students have been totally supportive, taking part in demos, pickets, marches and occupations which have hugely helpful in the the campaign.
Role of IWGB members
Your contribution at Senate House has been absolutely crucial – many IWGB members refused to cross the picket line for 14 days and instead stood along their UCU colleagues. Many more took action on some of these days. This included members who are not in USS, acting in solidarity with their colleagues and in recognition that SAUL will be next! Everyone has done what they can – it’s been a really heartwarming experience to be part of the strike and we want to thank everyone who has taken part.
It’s also been a pleasure to support the revitalised Senate House UCU branch – check out their blog here for some really insightful write-ups.
Why was the offer rejected?
This offer would still have left us far worse off – contributions would have risen, the protection against inflation would have been reduced, accruals would be 1/85 rather than 1/75, the ceiling for DB would have fallen to £42K and the direction of travel would have been towards getting rid of DB next time around.
The fact that the deal also seemed to commit staff to rescheduling lectures didn’t go down well either…
However, in addition to this during the strikes something important had happened – staff had started researching the overall pension position, and it had become clear that it was not a question of negotiating over how to plug the deficit, but rather demonstrating that the very idea of a deficit was down to the extremely flawed November 2017 valuation of USS.
It was therefore pointless to start from these false premises – instead, we needed to return to the September 2017 valuation, which showed the scheme to be perfectly healthy, and would save both employers and employees money!
The strike has also thrown up a whole host of questions as too how our universities are run, the excessive role of marketisation, the absurd administrative burdens placed on frontline staff by unaccountable senior management and a general feeling that an entire change of ethos is required.
What will happen next?
UCU have called for 14 more days of strike action in April and May, to be chosen at a local level. As soon as we have those dates we will let you know more – again, your participation will be crucial!
In the meantime, talks between UCU and UUK are likely to resume, and in addition discussions are going on over a new ‘independent’ valuation of USS – we’ll try and keep you posted!
At the same time various actions short of a strike are being carried out, including the resignation of external examiners – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-2elwhGtmSZJI-WA2iIlZr_dmodeiiNMV4pDXrbKhxw/edit
Oh – and thanks to pressure from Senate House UCU strike deductions will now be made over 4 months! If you have any questions about this OR have any issues with HR or management please email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Twitter hashtags: #ussstrike #ussstrikes #ucustrike #NoCapitulation