March Branch News – REF, TEF and pay

March Branch News

A dispute is brewing over pay, the sector unites to oppose the government’s Green Paper and we keep a close eye on the university’s activities.

The first negotiating meeting has taken place between UCU and the employers’ representatives, UCEA. In response to UCU’s claim of 5% on the pay spine and demands for action to reduce the gender pay gap and use of casual contracts, UCEA have started at 1%, with potential for discussions over some of the other points. This discrepancy in starting positions is unlikely to be resolved easily, and may well be heading for a dispute. With the HE sector reducing spending on staff as a proportion of income over the last decade while building cash reserves, splurging on ‘the student experience’ and rewarding executive management handsomely, it’s hard to be sympathetic to claims that 1% on the pay spine and weak action on pay inequality and casualisation is the best they can do. We will keep you posted on developments.

At the end of February, Sheffield UCU sent three delegates to the Second Convention for Higher Education in London to discuss the implications of the government’s Green Paper. A full report from one of our delegates will appear in an upcoming printed bulletin, to be distributed soon. Among the themes emerging were strong opposition to the Teaching Excellence Framework and plans for the creation by the sector of a ‘Gold Paper’ to not just oppose the government’s plans, but instead outline an alternative vision.

As we have mentioned in previous monthly emails, the university’s Occupational Health service has been outsourced. We are concerned of the effects that this will have on staff who rely on the service, and would be very grateful to hear from users of this service as to their experiences; please contact us at with any information you have. We are involved in discussions with the university over what we see as creeping privatisation and outsourcing of university functions, and have prepared a list of questions with the hope of determining whether they have the interests of the university and its staff firmly at the heart of their decisions.

Discussions are ongoing regarding the university’s approach to the Research Excellence Framework. We are already hearing about variations in practice across different departments, and would be very pleased to receive information from members, either by email or through your departmental contact. We want to ensure that staff are treated fairly throughout the REF, and need to hear about cases where members are being put under undue pressure as part of the process.

Today is the day the final salary section of the USS pension scheme closes. From tomorrow, contribution rates will go up for all (keep a close eye on your April pay-slip!) and everyone will be moved to an inferior hybrid scheme. Those who were in the final salary section will see pension benefits based not on their future career final salary, but instead on their salary as at today’s date (or possibly an RPI-uprated salary from some point in the last 13 years). UCU continue to maintain that the attack on the scheme was based on flawed valuation methodology – assumed pay settlements of 4.5% every year, ongoing played a big part – and are continuing to press for a change to the way the health of the scheme is assessed.

Finally, the occupation of the Richard Roberts Auditorium by the Free University of Sheffield group ended, but not before our well-attended March Branch Meeting voted unanimously to sign in support of the group’s aims (

Voice Care for Educators – Free UCU course at the Octagon Centre

There are places available on this practical and interactive workshop designed to help you find, use, enjoy and maintain your voice. The one-day workshop looks at ways to keep your voice healthy as well as use it to best advantage in a teaching environment. To register, visit

Voice Care for Educators
Thursday 21 April, 10am-4pm
Octagon Centre, Sheffield
Free, but registration needed

Could you be involved in our Action Group?

Following the good practice of Leeds University UCU, we are planning to start up an ‘action group’, which would meet once a month to brainstorm ideas which could help raise the profile of local and national campaigns. Keep an eye out for details of the first meeting, which we expect to happen in May. More at the April Branch Meeting on this.

Sheffield UCU Annual General Meeting, 8 June, 1pm

Please note the date of our AGM. All members are very welcome and an agenda will follow in due course. Part of the business of the AGM is to elect members to the Sheffield UCU Committee. We welcome expressions of interest in standing for a committee positions. To do so, please get in touch before 10 May at Current committee members would be happy to discuss the roles and what being on the committee would mean.

The roles which currently make up the committee are: President, Senior Vice President, Vice President, Branch Secretary, Education Officer, Equalities & Diversity Officer, Health & Safety Officer, Treasurer, Pensions Officer, Membership Secretary, Communications Officer, and Anti-casualisation Officer.

Junior doctors’ strike

You are probably aware that the Junior Hospital Doctors are striking for 48 hours from 8am on 6th April, with emergency cover, followed by a full withdrawal of labour on April 26th and 27th from 8am to 5pm. On previous strike days they have picketed outside the Hallamshire Hospital and have welcomed support. The BMA’s webpage has more information on the dispute:

Dates for the Diary

Tue 19 April, 1-2pm, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber
Tue 26 April, 1-2pm, General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber
Wed 8 June, 1-2pm, Annual General Meeting, Octagon Council Chamber


Northern Powerhouse – or Northern Poorhouse? Sheffield march and rally against job losses in the region. Assemble Devonshire Green at 12pm, for march and rally outside City Hall at 1pm.

Interesting Reading

28 Years of Stock Market Data Shows a Link Between Employee Satisfaction and Long-Term Value, Alex Edmans, Harvard Business Review:
Students have a right to know if lecturers are on casual contracts, Sally Hunt, Times Higher Education: