Now is the time to call pensions conference

November 20, 2014

We are dismayed to see that the University and College Union has proposed a career revalued benefits scheme for pensions that, if accepted, would considerably worsen our terms and conditions of service without the endorsement of a democratically convened conference of the union (“UCU accepts end to final salary scheme but row over alternative rumbles on”, News, 13 November).

Among many things, it betrays UCU equality principles since it is women who have most to lose from the union’s accepting a move from a final salary to a career revalued benefits scheme, which doubly discriminates against them by institutionalising past discrimination into a package that adds insult to the injury suffered by women because of the rise in the state pension age.

We are further dismayed at the failure of our negotiators to respond to the threats of 100 per cent pay docking from the universities of York, Liverpool and Bradford for partial performance (and threats of partial pay docking at the University of Leeds and Queen Mary University of London) with escalating industrial action, according to policy passed at the UCU’s annual congress in May. We cannot allow these threats to go unanswered because they will undermine the marking boycott, which is a key industrial weapon for us.

Agreeing to a career revalued benefits pension scheme, coupled with the abandonment of one of our key industrial weapons, would amount to a betrayal by our negotiators of union members. The imposition on the union of such a profound change in policy is undemocratic because it damages pensions and weakens our union. Furthermore, any career revalued benefits scheme likely to be proposed will have serious implications for our members in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, who must be involved in the debate.

We ask all who agree with us to call for a special higher education sector conference on pensions (both the Universities Superannuation Scheme and the TPS) to reaffirm the congress’ decisions on our action.

We support the motion passed at the general meeting of the University of Leeds UCU, which affirmed the belief that negotiators around the USS must not waver from the key principles that pensions must be increased, not cut; that the current career revalued benefits scheme must be merged into a new final salary scheme in which contributions rise for the higher paid; and that the UCU’s higher education committee must follow up on the 78 per cent ballot mandate by calling escalating national strike action until threats of pay docking are withdrawn.

Malcolm Povey
Past president of Leeds UCU, former HEC member and former member of the UCU Superannuation Working Group and USS Joint Negotiating Committee

Andreas Bieler
University of Nottingham UCU and HEC

Lesley McGorrigan
University of Leeds UCU officer and HEC

Dennis Leech
University of Warwick

Craig Brandist
President, University of Sheffield UCU

Tom Hickey
University of Brighton UCU

Rory Fitzgerald
City University London UCU

Tony Brown
University College London UCU

Des Freedman
Secretary, Goldsmiths University of London UCU

Claudia Baldoli
Newcastle University UCU

David Walshaw
Newcastle University UCU

Bruce E. Baker
Newcastle University UCU

Ben Houston
Newcastle University UCU

Geoff Abbott
Newcastle University UCU

Nicola Clarke
Newcastle University UCU

Sara Maioli
Newcastle University UCU

Sarah Campbell
Newcastle University UCU

Felix Robin Schulz
Newcastle University UCU

Gail Edwards
Newcastle University UCU

Roddy Slorach
Equality and diversity representative, Imperial College London UCU

Marion Hersh
UCU Higher Education Committee, USS Superannuation Working Group and USS Joint Negotiating Committee

Les Levidow
The Open University UCU

Saira Weiner
UCU Higher Education Committee

Paul Blackledge
UCU Higher Education Committee, branch secretary, Leeds Beckett University

Richard Bradbury

Rick Saull
Queen Mary University of London UCU

James Eastwood
PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant, department of politics and international studies
GTA representative, UCU Executive Committee, Soas, University of London

Alexis Wearmouth
Soas, University of London UCU Executive FTHP representative

Waseem Yaqoob
Junior research fellow in politics
Pembroke College, University of Cambridge UCU

Alex Callinicos
Professor of European studies
Department of European and international studies
King’s College London

Geoff Williams
University College London UCU Executive Committee (pc)

Peter D. Thomas
Brunel University London

Eleni Michalopoulou
University of Liverpool UCU

Owen Holland
University of Cambridge UCU

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (chair)

Arthur Kaletzky
University of Cambridge UCU

Gavin Reid
Honorary secretary, University of Leeds UCU

Amy Gilligan
Imperial College London UCU

Patricia McManus
Senior lecturer in media and cultural history, University of Brighton, chair of Moulsecoomb branch
UCU University of Brighton, NEC Rep South HE

Joel Dunn
King’s College London UCU committee secretary, London region UCU chair (HE)

Ian Grigg-Spall

Sai Englert
Soas, University of London UCU

John Yandell
Local UCU branch vice-president
Institute of Education, University of London

Lee Jones
Queen Mary University of London

Ioanna Ioannou
University College London UCU and Higher Education Committee

Sean Wallis
President and UCU National Executive Committee (ex-national pay negotiator)

Saladin Meckled-Garcia
University College London UCU vice-president

Martin Fry
Lecturer in medical electronics
Department of medical physics and biomedical engineering
University College London UCU Executive

Jo McNeill
President, University of Liverpool UCU, National Executive Committee

Mandy Brown
UCU National Executive Committee, secretary (FE) London region UCU, Lambeth College

Lesley Whitworth
SRF, Grand Parade UCU branch, University of Brighton

Lucy Robinson
University of Sussex

Ray Bush
Professor in African studies and development politics
School of Politics and International Studies
University of Leeds

Bob Brecher
University of Brighton

Nadia Edmond
Principal lecturer in education
University of Brighton UCU

Pura Ariza
Branch secretary, Manchester Metropolitan University, NW regional secretary
Mark O’Brien
Membership secretary, University of Liverpool UCU

Gale Dawson
University of Birmingham UCU branch committee

Mark Abel
Chair, University of Brighton UCU

Jenny Sutton
Branch chair, College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

Adrian Budd
Secretary, London South Bank University UCU

Anne Alexander
University of Cambridge

Jon Berry
Professional doctorate in education (EdD) programme tutor
University of Hertfordshire

Jim Wolfreys
UCU committee president King’s College London

Rob Murthwaite
London Metropolitan University, UCU equalities officer, London region equalities officer

Owen Miller
Soas, University of London UCU

Abdul-Raouf Garoub
Soas, University of London UCU Executive Committee, language centre rep

Mike Humphrey
Senior developer, corporate systems (academic services), Soas, University of London

Subir Sinha
Development studies
Soas, University of London

Martin Moloney
Soas, University of London

Andrew Kennedy
Soas, University of London UCU Executive (pers cap)

Chris Gutkind
Soas, University of London UCU

Kristin Surak
Soas, University of London UCU

Johnny Darlington
Secretary, Soas, University of London UCU

Samer Bagaeen
School of Environment and Technology
University of Brighton

Sarah S Staniland
Senior lecturer of bionanoscience
Department of chemistry
University of Sheffield

Jörg Wiegratz
Lecturer in political economy of global development
School of Politics and International Studies
University of Leeds

Jane Hardy
University of Hertfordshire

Bahadur Najak
Durham University

Enze Han
Senior lecturer
Department of politics and international studies
Soas, University of London

Thomas Marois
Senior lecturer
Department of development studies
Soas, University of London

Carlo Morelli
University of Dundee

John Parrington
University of Oxford

Celia Hollingworth
University of Bristol UCU and Executive member

Steve Cannon
University of Sunderland UCU

James Cussens
Secretary, University of York UCU

Colin Hendrie
University of Leeds UCU committee

Phil Taylor
University of Strathclyde

Sian Moore
Professor of work and employment relations and co-director of Centre for Employment Studies Research at Bristol Business School
University of the West of England


The University of Sheffield has a problem with inequality. Undergraduate tuition fees have leapt threefold since 2012, with students graduating with an average debt of about £44,000. The vice-chancellor took home £370,000 last year, while the university benefits from the use of zero-hours and short-term contracts for many staff. In the middle, academics with open-ended contracts, of whom I am one, have suffered years of below-inflation pay rises.

This is the context for the UCU boycott on assessment, voted for by the largest turnout in the union’s history, in support of protecting pensions – another area in which unjustified cuts are planned. These proposals will cut pensions for staff and will also affect students, who will get less from demoralised lecturers.

Staff taking part in the action will have 25 per cent of their pay docked. I would like to request that the savings made from cutting my pay are redistributed to my students. The university should not profit from the action that staff are taking in the name of a fair reward for working at Sheffield, and students deserve some compensation.

Tom Stafford
Lecturer in psychology and cognitive science
University of Sheffield


I see that the Employers Pension Forum has finally responded to my queries about the life expectancies it gave in a Q&A attempting to explain the reasons for proposed changes to the USS (“Pensions puzzle”, Letters, 16 October).

The EPF claim – that it intended “simply to describe general improvements in longevity in the UK, however due to a drafting error the Q&A read as if it was describing improvements in life expectancy specifically for USS members” – is false. No group in the UK had life expectancies at 65 as low as eight years in 1974, and even by 2062, projected life expectancies at 65 do not reach 30 years.

I cannot trust any statement by the EPF, and would advise everyone to check them.

The most recent actuarial report from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (Continuous Mortality Investigation, working paper 63) states that “cohort life expectancies have…decreased”.

Jane Hutton
Department of statistics
University of Warwick

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