SUCU Branch News 5th Feb 2015

USS Pensions – A Lost Opportunity

The SUCU General Meeting last week saw many members expressing anger at the USS pensions deal which has just been agreed by UCU nationally.  The final salary scheme will end and a ‘defined contribution’ element start, probably in April 2016. This is a very bad deal for us, particularly given what a good position we were in to stop this blitzkrieg on our pensions:

  • Last summer we had the biggest vote for action since UCU was founded
  • The supposed deficit was demonstrably phoney, and independent accountants backed us on this.  It was fabricated to justify attacking our pensions and shifting towards the sort of pensions the City of London love – ‘defined contribution’.
  • The employers were divided, with some publicly opposing UUK’s position.
  • The employers have plenty of money, and indeed spending on staff as a proportion of income has steadily declined over the years.

Unfortunately this was all frittered away, and last month members gave up and accepted the deal in an e-ballot.

What can we do now?
In December our branch along with many others demanded a recall ‘Special Conference’ to get the branches and membership back into control of the dispute.  Apparently there were not enough branches (20) to make this happen by January, so our negotiators have signed the deal off, but the Special Conference is happening on 24  February.  It will give us an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the future.  We are continuing to lobby the University of Sheffield to ask why they haven’t joined Imperial College, Warwick University, Oxford, LSE and Cambridge and others in speaking out against the changes.

We know many members feel very let down, and justifiably so, and some have even talked of leaving the union.  But that would be giving the aggressive employers exactly what they want.  This is our union, we must reclaim it.

  • You can vote in the current NEC elections for people you feel will lead the union effectively.
  • You can become active locally: the strength of our union is here.

We have a very active and effective local branch, and we have negotiated some sector-leading agreements here, and we do a huge amount of individual support work.  Please continue to support us, however you feel about the national leadership.
Standing together we can continue to make life better for staff here in Sheffield.

Reward & Recognition: Good Progress

We have told you about our local ‘Reward and Recognition’ negotiations in previous Branch News emails. We had made some very good progress but there was one key area where we were in deadlock with management, the issue of normal incremental progression.

We are pleased to say that we had a very constructive meeting with management yesterday and are now hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement.  We will keep you informed, and you will of course have the final say on whether to accept the eventual set of proposed changes.

Pensions surgery for members

SUCU Committee are organising a surgery for Branch Members to receive individual advice from a UCU national pensions official.  We will keep you updated about arrangements for this.

Industrial action at Barnsley and Sheffield Colleges

Sheffield College and Barnsley College UCU members took strike action on Thursday 29th January. At Sheffield the threat of 75 redundancies and downgrading of lecturing staff to trainer, assessor facilitator roles amongst other attacks on lecturers conditions has led to the dispute there.  Barnsley College UCU members were on strike for three consecutive days  from Thursday 29th January to Monday 2nd February. They have already taken 3 days of strike action since October over the forcing through of a new contract in the summer on the back of a major restructure.  Both branches plan more action in the near future.

It is really  important to members in dispute to know they have support from UCU members in the Region so please:

Public meeting: Stand Up to Racism and Fascism Tuesday 3 March 7pm

No to scapegoating immigrants – No to Islamophobia – No to anti-Semitism – Yes to diversity.  This event is organised by Sheffield Unite Against Fascism.  Venue:  Central United Reform Church, corner of Chapel Walk opposite the Crucible Theatre.  Read more..