Casualised Staff Information and Support
We have published an FAQ and guidance for casualised staff available here!
How can non-members support the strike?
Please download these slides from our emergency all member meeting on Tuesday ( pensions agreement slides ) 13/03/18. Disclaimer, these were created overnight in haste due to the extremely short time period between the offer being announced and the potential vote to accept them by the HEC.
Student Information and Support
Warwick UCU and the Student Staff Solidarity Committee have produced a number of materials and resources for students.
Download, read and distribute copies of our “Support the strike – Get Us Back To Work!” flyer containing updated information about why all UCU branches rejected the ‘offer’ negotiated by UUK and UCU via ACAS.
See the fantastic Zine for students
Browse the Q&A for students on the Warwick Globalist
Supportive students have also written model letters that students can sent to the Vice Chancellor, Stuart Croft, or their local MPs urging that they bring University management back to the bargaining table!
USS Pension Ballot Dispute Frequently Asked Questions
Vote YES for action in USS Pension Ballot
… Because the proposed changes to your current pension are hugely detrimental;
… Because these changes will affect everyone, especially the next generation of university staff and casualised workers;
… Because the Trade Union Act requires a 50% turnout and your vote makes all the difference.
- Why are we balloting for a strike?
- What is the difference between a Defined Benefit and a Defined Contribution scheme?
- But isn’t the USS unsustainable? Don’t we need to move to a DC scheme to avoid a deficit?
- I’m retiring in next few years. Why does this affect me?
- I’m a PhD student/hourly paid lecturer. Why does this affect me?
- I’m a student. Why should I support the UCU?
- I read our VC, Stuart Croft’s, excellent blog post. If he is on our side, why do I need to vote?
- Will voting “yes” or going on strike negatively affect my career?
- Ok, I’ve voted, but want to do more to help. What else can I do?
Universities UK (UUK) have said that they want to close our Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) defined benefit (DB) pension scheme to future accrual. This means new members will not be allowed to join, and existing members will not be able to contribute any more than they have already built up. Future pensions contributions will all go into a defined contribution (DC) pension pot via the Investment Builder. This would mean the end of our pensions as we know it and, according to initial studies, that our pension would be worth only 20% of the best DB schemes.
Defined Benefit (DB) pensions are much better than Defined Contribution (DC) ones. Whereas DB pensions guarantee a secure ‘wage’ in retirement for life, a DC pension scheme means that pensions are no longer guaranteed, but instead are wholly dependent upon returns from the stock market. Moreover, DC pensions don’t take the form of a ‘wage’ but a single sum of money on retirement which you have to turn into an income. In short, there is way less risk for both the individual and the scheme as a whole with a DB pension.
The UUK have said the scheme must close because it is in deficit and thus unsustainable, but this isn’t exactly true. Not only is the scheme not in deficit in the ordinarily meaning of the term, but all evidence suggests that the scheme is sustainable as long as it remains open and continues into the future along with the universities it serves. It is only if the scheme closes that it will become unsustainable. In other words, the UUK is manufacturing a crisis that doesn’t exist.
UCU’s actuaries (a firm called First Actuarial) have modelled the impact for existing members with different ages, salaries and lengths of past service. Someone who have built up 20 years of past service and plans to retire in ten years’ time could lose £35,000 (or a quarter of their pension) as a result of the employers’ proposals. See Member 16 of the First Actuarial report available here:
If the UUK stops accepting contributions to our current defined-benefit pension scheme, it’s PhD students and those who are just starting their university careers that stand to lose as their entire career will be worked under the vastly inferior pension scheme. Moreover, the UUK’s attack on pensions is part of the large-scale casualisation of academic work. We need to stop the race to the bottom.
The attack on pensions must be seen as part of the same pattern that includes a tripling of student fees, an increasing reliance on casualised employment among teaching staff and the outsourcing of essential university functions. The cutting of pensions is part of a process designed to privatize our universities and make them accessible only for the most-privileged, both students and staff alike. If you want to see more women, BME, and workingclass staff, they need to be able to afford to work here and this include pensions.
This dispute is rather unusual. The University of Warwick’s management have been very critical of the USS reforms, as manifest in Stuart Croft’s recent blogpost where he expressed concern about the “very serious consequences for staff and for employers in the sector”. This shows how outrageous the proposals are. However, a lone public voice will achieve nothing and it is only with a strong strike mandate that we can stand in solidarity with both our managers and those USS members in other institutions who have not been supported by their direct employers. It is essential that all UCU members return a ballot and vote for both strike action and action short of a strike. This is the only means we have to save our pension.
Voting yes for strike action doesn’t mean that you will go on strike and indeed a strong strike mandate itself is often the best strategy to get the employer to come to the bargaining table with a reasonable proposal. Moreover, while strike action can carry short-term personal implications, such as the loss of wages for the day, there are no detrimental long-term consequences. Any discrimination by an employer on the basis of union membership or legitimate activity is illegal. When it comes to the strike, the branch will issue advice on types of action, where pickets will be placed and other practical advice. Third, while striking may carry some short term disruptions, not striking might lead to longer-term, irreversible changes to the terms and conditions of work you were hired under. In other words, the question isn’t really Can you afford to vote yes for industrial action, but rather Can you afford not to?
The most important thing you can do is get out the vote and get involved with your local UCU branch – email Claire Duffy on firstname.lastname@example.org so we know you want to help out. Reaching a 50% turnout is crucial for the results to be taken into consideration in future USS negotiations. Go on social media (#strikeforuss), email, talk, call your colleagues and get them to vote. Every vote counts. Every conversation counts. You count.
Please also see: