Special HE sector conference - USS dispute, June 2018

Following requests from at least 20 HE branch quorate general meetings* a special meeting of the HE sector conference was held on 21 June 2018. The convening notice, circular UCU/879, can be found here.

The business of this HE special sector conference discussed the USS dispute only (rule 16.11).

The agenda and first report of the Congress Business Committee is available here.


Motions

1  Scrutiny of the Joint Expert Panel - University of Liverpool

Conference notes that a clear mechanism of reporting to the membership will strengthen the power of our representatives on the JEP.

Conference demands that the national union establishes a standing meeting of HE delegates to scrutinise the work of the JEP.

  1. this meeting should take place in October 2018, at the annual conference in May 2019, and should follow the same bi-annual pattern until the membership (through a consultative ballot) agree that a satisfactory resolution to the dispute has been agreed
  2. following each HE meeting, a consultative ballot should be held within 2 weeks of the meeting to establish if the membership is satisfied with progress
  3. the wording of the consultative ballot should be agreed by emergency motion at the HESC meeting
  4. should the consultative ballot indicate that members are not happy with progress, the union will reopen its dispute with UUK. 

CARRIED AS AMENDED BY MOVER

Substantive motion

Conference notes that a clear mechanism of reporting to the membership will strengthen the power of our representatives on the JEP.

Conference demands that the national union establishes a standing meeting of HE delegates to scrutinise the work of the JEP.

  1. This meeting should follow the same bi-annual pattern until the membership (through a consultative ballot) agree that a satisfactory resolution to the dispute has been agreed. 
  2. Following each HE meeting, a consultative ballot should be held within 2 weeks of the meeting to establish if the membership is satisfied with progress.
  3. The wording of the consultative ballot should be agreed by emergency motion at the HESC meeting.
  4. Should the consultative ballot indicate that members are not happy with progress, the union will reopen its dispute with UUK.

2  JEP and USS campaign - University of Leicester

This HESC believes:

Our ability to protect our pensions ultimately relies upon our willingness to restart our strike action.

If, following receipt of the JEP report, UUK/USS agrees to increase members' contributions or to cuts in benefits then this is unacceptable to UCU.

This HESC resolves:

  1. to continue campaigning for no cuts in benefits or increases in our contributions in our pensions
  2. if UUK/USS, on receipt of the JEP report, threaten cuts in benefits or increases in our contributions, UCU will organise an industrial action ballot, timed to ensure we can strike before the end of the second semester of the academic year and to    continue into the summer exam and graduation period.

CARRIED


3  JEP and national dispute committee - University College London

Conference notes HE13 calling for a national dispute committee for the USS dispute which will have inter alia the task of scrutinising the work of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP).

Conference therefore agrees that UCU contact with the JEP and its chair must include reports to the national dispute committee.

Conference calls on the JEP to require new valuations of the 2017 round which:

  1. abandon Test 1, Test 2, Test 3 and combinations of these
  2. assume no de-risking of any kind.

Conference further calls on the JEP to:

  1. explain the valuation assumptions that have been used, and their sources
  2. produce illustrative calculations showing what happens when those assumptions are varied.

CARRIED


4  Transparency and the USS Joint Expert Panel - University of Cambridge

Conference notes:

  1. that satisfactory recommendations from the UCU-UUK Joint Expert Panel (JEP) are crucial to acceptable resolution of the USS dispute
  2. that the lack of transparency severely undermined confidence in the 2017 USS valuation process
  3. that the current terms of reference make both submitted evidence and discussions among the JEP confidential.

Conference resolves:

That UCU will accept any JEP recommendations as authoritative only if accessible and convincing explanations of the following are provided:

  1. the evidence and reasoning by which any scheme deficit or surplus is calculated by the JEP, in light of the high level of actual investment returns;
  2. the evidence and reasoning used by the JEP to estimate of the strength of the employer covenant;
  3. the evidence and reasoning underlying the JEP's calculation of the contribution rates needed to fund various levels and types of future defined benefits.

CARRIED AS AMENDED

4A.1   Transparency and the USS Joint Expert Panel, University of Cambridge,     Newcastle University

Add to Conference notes:

4. the use of non-disclosure agreements in the JEP.

Add to Conference resolves:

d. to call for the withdrawal of non-disclosure agreements and instruct our USS negotiators to refuse to agree to confidentiality agreements.

CARRIED

Substantive motion

Conference notes:

  1. that satisfactory recommendations from the UCU-UUK Joint Expert Panel (JEP) are crucial to acceptable resolution of the USS dispute
  2. that the lack of transparency severely undermined confidence in the 2017 USS valuation process
  3. that the current terms of reference make both submitted evidence and discussions among the JEP confidential
  4. the use of non-disclosure agreements in the JEP.

Conference resolves:

That UCU will accept any JEP recommendations as authoritative only if accessible and convincing explanations of the following are provided:

  1. the evidence and reasoning by which any scheme deficit or surplus is calculated by the JEP, in light of the high level of actual investment returns
  2. the evidence and reasoning used by the JEP to estimate of the strength of the employer covenant
  3. the evidence and reasoning underlying the JEP's calculation of the contribution rates needed to fund various levels and types of future defined benefits
  4. to call for the withdrawal of non-disclosure agreements and instruct our USS negotiators to refuse to agree to confidentiality agreements.

5  JEP (Joint Expert Panel): regular reporting and submissions from members - University of Oxford

Conference notes the very welcome first statement from Joanne Segars OBE, chair of the Joint Expert Panel, in particular, that the JEP will:

  1. provide regular reports about the JEP's progress and the issues discussed
  2. explain clearly the evidence serving as the basis for recommendations
  3. accept submissions from USS members on all relevant issues.

Conference reaffirms the importance of these undertakings.

Conference also notes motion HE47 carried at HESC 2018 which mandates Superannuation Working Group members to agree regular reporting and feedback mechanisms with UCU appointed members of JEP.

Building on these, conference mandates the SWG to negotiate that the JEP will report to members following each meeting of the JEP.

CARRIED


6  Joint Expert Panel (JEP) - University College London

Conference welcomes the setting up of the JEP and the motions of the recent HE sector conference about its work.

Conference agrees that UCU contact with the JEP and its chair should involve all the elected lay negotiators and not just the general secretary.

Conference instructs the negotiators to:

  1. investigate the use of any surplus to improve pensions for members on casualised contracts, at the start of their careers and in equality strands. One approach would be a reduction in contributions while maintaining benefits
  2. publicise any refusal, delay or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to  JEP
  3. encourage members to make submissions to JEP
  4. arrange for a dedicated area of UCU website to be set up for JEP information and reports.

CARRIED


7  USS JEP - University of Leeds

Conference notes the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) could recommend a Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) scheme to replace the current USS Defined Benefit (DB) scheme.

Conference believes CDC schemes are considerably inferior to established DB schemes, even superior to individual DC plans.

Conference agrees UCU contact with the JEP and its chair should involve all our elected lay negotiators.

Conference instructs our negotiators to:

  1. publicise any refusal, delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP;
  2. encourage members to make submissions to JEP;
  3. arrange a dedicated UCU website section for JEP information and reports;
  4. oppose replacing the USS DB scheme with a CDC scheme, although a CDC scheme might form part of a top-up scheme for those earning over the cap in the current capped DB scheme;
  5. pursue measures for improving pension arrangements for members on lower incomes, in the early career stage, on casualised contracts, and in equality strands.

CARRIED AS AMENDED FROM THE FLOOR

Substantive motion

Conference notes the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) could recommend a Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) scheme to replace the current USS Defined Benefit (DB) scheme.

Conference believes CDC schemes are considerably inferior to established DB schemes, even if superior to individual DC plans.

Conference agrees UCU contact with the JEP and its chair should involve all our elected lay negotiators.

Conference instructs our negotiators to:

  1. publicise any refusal, delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP;
  2. encourage members to make submissions to JEP
  3. arrange a dedicated UCU website section for JEP information and reports;
  4. oppose replacing the USS DB scheme with a CDC scheme
  5. pursue measures for improving pension arrangements for members on lower incomes, in the early career stage, on casualised contracts, and in equality strands.

8  Joint Expert Panel - University of Glasgow

Conference welcomes the setting up of the JEP and the motions of the recent HE sector conference about its work.

Conference agrees that UCU contact with the JEP should follow the agreed processes and that all outcomes should be publicised to members.

Conference instructs HEC to:

  1. publicise any refusal, unreasonable delays or conditionality by USS upon releasing information to JEP
  2. encourage members to make submissions to JEP
  3. arrange for a dedicated area of UCU website to be set up for JEP information and reports.

Conference instructs the negotiators to:

  1. investigate the use of any surplus to improve pensions for members on casualised contracts, at the start of their careers and in equality strands. One approach would be a reduction in contributions while maintaining benefits.

CARRIED


9  Questions we require the Joint Experts Panel to answer - University of Warwick

We ask the JEP to:

  1. explain in simple terms by what process exactly does it go from being cash flow positive, with an annual surplus of £1bn, to deficit
  2. provide projections of future income and benefit payments, updating the indicative ones made for UCU by First Actuarial, that suggest it may be perfectly sustainable indefinitely without changes
  3. conduct a new analysis of the employer covenant, treating HE as a key ongoing economic sector, providing vital services that are always needed, and not merely in terms of the solvency of already-existing institutions
  4. do new tests of the reliance on covenant using consistent assumptions for the liabilities, including that the scheme remains open indefinitely (permitting long-term investment in high-income assets giving lower liabilities)
  5. provide detailed estimates of liabilities/deficit on a 'best estimate' basis, assuming it remains open and no 'derisking'.

CARRIED


A  JEP must operate transparently - Newcastle University

Conference notes:

  1. the membership has had no role yet in shaping the structure or operation of the  Joint Expert Panel

Conference believes:

  1. the JEP is not a negotiation but a fact-finding exercise and should operate from a  presumption of transparency rather than confidentiality

Conference resolves:

to insist that

  1. all materials submitted to or produced by the JEP be put into the public domain immediately
  2. any such material deemed to require confidentiality shall be put into the public domain in redacted form with an explanation for the redaction.

REINSTATED; CARRIED AS AMENDED FROM THE FLOOR


C  JEP abstention from discussions of scheme design options including CDC - University of Sussex

Conference notes that the UUK offer of 23 March of a JEP, which UCU members voted to accept, stated that the remit of the JEP was to agree principles to underpin the valuation of the USS fund. It proposed that UUK and UCU would continue discussion on 'alternative scheme design options' but that this would happen 'alongside the work of the panel'.

In line with this stated remit, conference calls on the UCU-nominated members of the JEP to limit themselves to discussions on the methodology of the valuation of the USS fund, and to abstain from all discussions of alternative scheme design options, including Collective Defined Contribution designs.

We call on the SWG to request the same abstention of the UCU-nominated members of the JEP.

REINSTATED; CARRIED


Transparency and Reporting of Joint Expert Panel - University of Strathclyde

Conference notes that ordinary UCU members have not yet had input into the terms of reference for, or reporting mechanisms of, the Joint expert panel (JEP).

Conference resolves that:

  1. terms of reference for JEP are revised to insist on transparency as a default for the panel, and that a clear indication and explanation of where this transparency is not afforded, delayed or obstructed by any member is required
  2. a clear mechanism is established for JEP reporting to the membership via the USS dispute committee established from the Higher Education Sector Conference, with a first report made available to members no later than October 2018 and a substantial indicative report by the end of the year.

REINSTATED; CARRIED


E  Member feedback to JEP - University of Newcastle

Conference notes

  1. the membership has had no role yet in shaping the structure or operation of the Joint Expert Panel.

Conference believes

  1. that the JEP must have a formal mechanism to accept feedback on its operations as it is working.

Conference resolves

  1. that UCU members be provided immediately with a mechanism for submitting their views on the work of the JEP and the objects of the JEP's discussion
  2. that the JEP formally acknowledge receipt of, discuss, and formally respond to all such submissions in a timely manner.

REINSTATED; CARRIED


10  Democracy and transparency in ongoing industrial action - University of Liverpool

Conference notes:

  1. the decision not to give representatives a vote on the UUK proposal at the 28 March USS meeting held at Carlow Street exposed our union's democratic deficit
  2. the subsequent claim made by the general secretary (GS) that the majority of branch representatives wanted an immediate ballot of members

Conference believes:

  1. a member-led union requires a democratic and transparent decision-making process, both in the USS and any future disputes

Conference resolves:

  1. that results of the April 2018 consultative ballot to suspend action be published and broken down branch by branch
  2. that the rules around calling notices for branch meetings be suspended during industrial action
  3. that all key decisions in representative meetings end with a show of hands vote, the result of which should inform the vote of the Higher Education Committee to provide greater representation of the views of the wider membership.

CARRIED


11  Handling of employer offers during disputes - University of Oxford

Conference notes:

  1. difficulties arising during the USS dispute due to limited time for discussion and consultation.
  2. the improvements to our union's handling of disputes mandated by Congress 2018's motion 9.

Building on this, conference resolves that:

  1. during pensions, pay and other disputes, ballot text will be circulated to branch officers at least 3 working days in advance of the ballot going live
  2. in order to provide flexibility to our national negotiators, this timeframe may exceptionally be reduced to 1 working day, if a majority of our national negotiators so vote.

CARRIED


12  Dispute committee terms of reference - Goldsmiths University of London

This special HESC notes the passing of HE13 on 31 May 2018 that resolved to establish a national USS dispute committee (USSDC) composed of HESC delegates from USS branches in order to empower members in strategic discussions.

HESC believes that membership of the USS dispute committee should be based upon the membership criteria used for the recent Industrial Action Commission (but for USS institutions) and reflect the diversity of perspectives taken by branches in relation to employer offers in the dispute thus far.

HESC further believes that any proposed ballot text on a future employer offer concerning USS has to be approved by the dispute committee before it is put to members.

HESC mandates the HEC when it meets on 29 June 2018 to agree a provisional timetable of meetings commensurate with the meetings of the JEP and communicate this, and the election procedure, to USSDC branches within 14 days.

CARRIED AS AMENDED FROM THE FLOOR

Substantive motion

This special HESC notes the passing of HE13 on 31 May 2018 that resolved to establish a national USS dispute committee (USSDC) composed of HESC delegates from USS branches in order to empower members in strategic discussions.

HESC further believes that any proposed ballot text on a future employer offer concerning USS has to be approved by the dispute committee before it is put to members.

HESC mandates the HEC when it meets on 29 June 2018 to agree a provisional timetable of meetings commensurate with the meetings of the JEP and communicate this, and the election procedure, to USSDC branches within 14 days.


13  USS voting rights of post-92 members and representatives - University of Sunderland

HESC notes:

  1. UCU currently has USS collective bargaining rights only in pre-1992 institutions
  2. post-1992 UCU members in USS have been denied a voice in the USS pension dispute and are disenfranchised from voting on USS decision-making, including  industrial action
  3. UCU still has a job to do in the ongoing USS dispute and we believe that continued exclusion of post-1992 USS members from UCU decision-making is unfair, and is contrary to the ethos of a Union that believes in equality
  4. voting on USS matters has been restricted to scheme members

HESC resolves to:

  1. call on the NEC to investigate necessary legal processes that would need to be effected to enable post-1992 USS members to have an individual vote on USS matters
  2. enable branch delegates and other elected representatives to vote on USS matters where their branch or constituency has USS members, regardless of whether they themselves are in USS.

FELL


14  USS members in post-92 Universities - University of Brighton (Falmer), University of Brighton (Mouslecoomb)

HESC notes that some staff in post 92 universities are members of USS.  While these staff have not been involved in industrial action in the USS dispute, UCU needs to find means of informing them regularly of developments in USS pensions issues and, where feasible, involving them in the campaign to defend USS pensions.

Furthermore UCU recognises the need to identify and quantify the extent of USS membership in post 92 universities and TPS membership in pre-92 universities.

HESC calls upon HEC:

  1. to take active measures to identify USS members in post 92, e.g. through adding pension scheme membership to UCU membership records
  2. contact USS members in post 92 about developments in USS pensions
  3. give them opportunities to be engaged in campaigning work to defend USS pensions
  4. give them a consultative voice in matters related to USS pensions.

CARRIED


15  Call for resignation of USS CEO - University of Glasgow

Conference deplores the role of the USS chief executive officer in encouraging the undermining of our pensions and provoking the most sustained and disruptive industrial action in higher education history, including by:

  1. insisting on an inappropriate valuation approach and recklessly prudent assumptions
  2. moving from the September to November technical provisions,   
  3. a lack of flexibility in the implementation of the valuation deadlines and imposition of rule 74.6, thereby undermining the work of the Joint Expert Panel.

Conference calls for the resignation of the CEO of USS.

CARRIED


16  COMPOSITE Casualised staff pensions - Goldsmiths University of London, University of Dundee

Conference notes casualised staff:

  1. are often barred from the right to join USS by their employer
  2. have poor pension prospects due to lack of alternative pension provision.

Conference resolves:

  1. to demand in our pay campaigns equal access to pensions for casualised staff.
  2. to ensure all grades of academic related, teaching and research staff have access to the USS pension scheme.
  3. to put a rule change through the JNC to ensure that casualised staff retain existing pension rights during periods of a break in service without needing to make contributions.

REMITTED


17  Victimisation of striking members in the USS dispute - University of Salford

HE sector conference congratulates members in the successful strike action in the USS pensions' dispute and notes that members have been victimised during and subsequent to the strike. Members have been disproportionately sanctioned for minor breaches of policies or disproportionately selected for redundancy.

HE sector conference demands that agreements negotiated by UCU's negotiators include a clause whereby:

  1. during talks and up to and including agreement there shall be no victimisation in any form against those who have engaged in lawful strike action on behalf of their trade union
  2. UCU will engage in an intensive campaign against any employer that victimises UCU members in any form or attempts to impose rescheduling of work upon members.
  3. any employer that victimises UCU members in any form or attempts to impose rescheduling of work will also be subject to academic boycott and censure (greylisting) 

REMITTED


18  Possible future withdrawal from USS pension scheme by employers - University of Salford

Possible future withdrawal from USS pension scheme by employers.

Northwest Regional UCU are aware of at least one pre 92 employer considering leaving the USS pension scheme, citing the possible increased costs of the scheme.

HE sector conference demands that UCU engages in the strongest way possible against any employer, who withdraws from USS.

HE sector conference believes that a National response from UCU should include the following:

  1. national campaign against the offending Institution
  2. immediate academic boycott and censure/greylisting of the offending institution.

HE sector conference demands that this response should be made clear to USS negotiating team in negotiations.

REMITTED


19  No assumption of pensions deficit or detriment - University of Strathclyde

Conference notes that a deficit in the USS pension scheme cannot be assumed, that the previous reduced contributions made into the pension scheme by employers relative to employees amount to some £7billion.

Conference resolves:

  1. that UCU insists on maintaining the defined benefit status quo for as long as the JEP requires to complete its review 
  2. should the result of JEP indicate a deficit there should be no detriment to current pensions before the employers have recognised, accounted for, and addressed the impact of reduced contributions.

REMITTED


20  Campaigning for DB pensions as the best social pension provision - University of Leeds

Conference notes:

  1. our successful industrial action defended the principle of Defined Benefit (DB) pensions, challenging political orthodoxy to accept DB pensions were "unaffordable"
  2. the current government is weak
  3. widespread criticism of university leaders for their enrichment
  4. pensions are deferred wages, thus increased employee pension contributions are a de facto pay cut.
  5. Labour Party policy has shifted from solely promoting Defined Contribution (DC) Pensions towards support for Defined Benefit pensions.

Conference believes:

  1. the best social pension provision is DB

Conference resolves:

  1. to campaign for DB pensions within and without the labour movement, launching via a national trade union conference on the future of pension provision in Britain, together with advocates of DB pension schemes.
  2. to work with all relevant political parties, calling them to advocate for collective provision of DB pensions
  3. any increase in employee pension payments should be compensated for in future pay settlements.

REMITTED


21  Windfall from employers' USS contribution holiday - University of Sussex

Conference notes that between January 1997 and October 2009, while employees' USS contributions remained at 6.35% of salaries, the employer contribution was reduced from 18.55 to 14%. In 1999, USS actuarial estimates indicated this decrease in employer contributions would result in a shortfall of £561m that would be made up from the USS fund's surplus. In October 2009 contributions were raised back to 16% and in April 2016 to 18%. It has been calculated that the total savings to employers, relative to what they would have paid if they had continued to contribute in proportion to employees, amounts to some £7bn.

Conference calls on UCU members of the USS JNC to demand that in the event of further requirement for increased contributions needed to eliminate any USS deficit, said contributions should be met entirely from employers, up to the total amount of savings mentioned above, plus accrued interest.

REMITTED


A vote to reinstate motion G from the Congress Business Committee's report was LOST.


*Under rule 16.11, the following UCU branches/local associations have passed motions at quorate general meetings requisitioning a special Higher Education Sector Conference to discuss the USS dispute (20 required): Queen's University Belfast; University of Liverpool; Keele University; University of Sheffield;  Newcastle University; University of Exeter; University of Warwick;  University College London;  Dundee University;  University of Leeds; University of Edinburgh; Goldsmiths, University of London; University of Bath; University of Oxford; University of Cambridge; King's College London; Birkbeck, University of London; SOAS University of London; University of Strathclyde; University of York

Last updated: 1 November 2018