January Branch News – NSS boycott, anti-casualisation and more on university finances

  • Come to our USS-themed Action Group meeting, Wed 1 Feb, 1-2pm, to plan how to raise the profile of the upcoming valuation.
  • Save the date! Tuesday 21st February (tbc): Sally Hunt and Jo McNeill have been invited to Sheffield for a General Secretary Hustings.

January Branch News

Students campaign to boycott the NSS, our anti-casualisation drive continues, and we find the university’s accounts of its accounts unconvincing.

The National Union of Students has just begun a campaign to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS). This boycott is designed to disrupt the metric-based Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF), which is tied to the raising of student fees. The boycott is supported by UCU nationally and locally, and we have produced a joint statement with our students’ union on why this is an important issue. There is guidance from UCU on how individual members can support the boycott and a poster you can display. Our branch advice is to draw students’ attentions to the NUS campaign, and that it has the support of UCU, but to stop short of advocating that students take part in the boycott. If you encounter any problems with this approach, contact us.

Our big push to bring the spotlight on the university’s casually-employed workforce got significant attention in the run up to Christmas, with local MPs offering their support. We are in the middle of a series of meetings with the university on this issue, and are hopeful we can make some progress. You can follow the status of the negotiations on the website we made for the campaign.

You will have seen our immediate response to last week’s post from the Deputy Vice Chancellor on the university’s finances. We wrote to Shearer West to express our displeasure with the way the university is writing about its accounts to staff. Given a recent branch motion calling for transparency on such matters, we were particularly upset at the selective reporting and, in some cases, factually incorrect information. We urge staff to look for themselves directly at the key points in the annual report, including the treasurer’s statement, to verify that the picture is not as black and white as you may have been led to believe.

Members who were here in 2014-15 will remember the outrage at the downgrading of the USS pension scheme in response to the last statutory valuation. This March it will all happen again and, despite excellent growth in the fund’s assets, the methodology which crippled the fund last time points to an even bigger, looming deficit. There are signs, however, that the actuarial profession is waking up to the fact that the modelling seems inadequate, and we hope that USS, the biggest funded defined-benefit scheme in the country, might be bold enough to break with tradition. This university has agreed to form a working group to look closely at the matter; if you have relevant expertise and would like to help, please get in touch.

Finally, you will soon receive a ballot to vote in the election of UCU’s new General Secretary for the next 5 years. The University of Liverpool’s Jo McNeill will be running against Sally Hunt, who has held the position for the past decade. The Sheffield UCU Committee strongly recommends you use your vote, and endorses Jo McNeill’s candidacy. We have invited both Sally and Jo to appear at a hustings in February (Tuesday 21, tbc). We will keep you informed.

Sheffield UCU Committee

USS Action Group, 1 February

We want to raise awareness of the USS pension fund and brainstorm what we can do, locally and nationally, to make headway on this important issue. No knowledge of pensions necessary! Please do come and help if you can.

  • Action Group, Wed 1 February, 13:00-14:00, Bartolome House Room DLG06

Local/National Events

  • Education Conference With Angela Rayner MP and Russell Hobby, Sat 4 Feb, 10:00-16:00, Matlock (details)
  • ❤UNIONS Week, 8-14 Feb, nationwide (details)
  • “It’s Our NHS” march, London, Sat 4 March (details)
  • Matewan film screening, Wed 22 March, with Sheffield Hallam UCU (details to follow)

Dates for the Diary

  • Wed 1 February, 13:00-14:00, Action Group (USS special), Bartolome House Room DLG06
  • Thu 2 March, 13:00-14:00, Departmental Contacts Meeting, Chancellors Room, Firth Court
  • Wed 8 March, 13:00-14:00, General Meeting, Council Room, Firth Court

Interesting reading