From the Vice-Chancellor: USS and Industrial Action
The Vice-Chancellor has written to all staff about the reform of USS and the current industrial action:
I had a long and constructive meeting with officers of the local branch of the UCU and the regional officer earlier this week, and, whilst it has not proved possible to agree a joint statement, as I had hoped, there are a few points I should like to make about the reform of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and the current industrial action.
First, I want to make it clear that, in the interests of students and of staff, the University would have supported the package of measures agreed at ACAS on 12 March by the negotiators representing the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK). The package was imaginative, and would have maintained a meaningful level of defined benefits (DB) until 2022 for all scheme members while discussions continued about the longer term development of USS. At the very least, I had hoped that it would have provided a platform for future negotiations. A crucial component of the package and one of the reasons I supported it was that it would have enabled the establishment of an independent expert valuation group. I know that this would have been welcomed by many people given that concerns about the USS valuation methodology lie at the heart of the current dispute. It was disappointing that, after consulting local branches, UCU rejected the package.
I also want to return to the question of pay deduction. It was clear from my recent discussions with the local UCU that there might still be some misconceptions about the Universitys position on action short of a strike (ASOS). This issue has also been discussed with the pro-deans for student education and members of the Leadership Forum, and I thought that it would be helpful to set out the current position.
I am confident that, whether or not you are taking industrial action, you and your colleagues share the common goal of promoting and protecting the interests of all of our students; that you are concerned about the impact of the dispute on students; and that you want to ensure that students are well prepared for their assessments and examinations. I do not believe that a commitment to prioritising student education is necessarily incompatible with a commitment to UCUs industrial action; and, as time passes, I recognise that it might not be feasible or pedagogically desirable now to reschedule all lectures and classes. I am pleased that constructive and purposeful discussions about the practicalities of this are taking place between colleagues in every part of the University. Whilst I stand fast on the principle that the University cannot condone breach of contract, I do not expect and certainly do not wish to deduct any pay for participation in action short of a strike.
I will update you further before the Easter break, and in the meantime assure you that I will continue to do everything I can to protect and promote the interests of staff and students across every part of the University community.
Finally, please accept my thanks for all that you are doing at this very difficult time in the higher education sector it is greatly appreciated.