Latest Update 16/4/18
UCU and UUK have agreed to establish a Joint Expert Panel to examine the USS 2017 valuation and UCU has suspended industrial action, as set out in the UUK announcement.
Latest Update 13/04/18
With regards to what is happening nationally with the industrial action, we are waiting on the outcome of the UCU ballot on Friday which will inform whether or not there will be another round of strikes this semester.
Within the University, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching has asked Heads of Department to inform him of all units affected and how they have been affected, as well as what has been done in each unit to combat the effects of the strike, and whether or not the learning outcomes have been affected. They are required to give him this information by mid-April.
We believe that all assessments and exams will be going ahead. However, no academic wants to see students do poorly or fail unnecessarily, and so lecturers, Boards of Examiners and Boards of Studies will be looking to ensure fairness and consistency in results. If students feel that their dissertation supervisors have not offered an appropriate level of support, students are encouraged to write to their Heads of Department and inform them of this.
In terms of whether or not students will receive compensation, the University have told us that this will be a sector decision as opposed to an individual university decision, as the process of working this out would need national guidance. As such, they are waiting for a steer from the sector.
Joint statement from Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath and Ben Davies, President of The SU, University of Bath.
“The Vice-Chancellor and the President of the University’s Students’ Union have agreed to work together to ensure that money not paid to striking staff will be allocated for student welfare, including mental health support.
“In the best interests of all students and staff, they also jointly urged an early resumption of negotiations between Universities UK (UUK) and the University and Colleges Union (UCU) to find a resolution of their dispute surrounding USS Pensions benefits and a swift end to the industrial action.”
The University of Bath is waiting to see the impact the strike will have on students before taking any action to mitigate this. The strikes will end on Friday 16th March with lectures resuming as normal from Monday 19th March. Once the strikes end we will be working with the University to assess which modules have been affected and what we can do in order to reduce this impact on students' degrees. Once we know any information we will communicate this out to students as soon as possible. The University have produced an FAQ with an answer to every question students have asked them.
A lot of students have been asking about financial compensation due to the strikes. At the present time, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation. The University is working to mitigate the impact of the strike on students to try and ensure there is no reduced service to serve as grounds for compensation, and will continue to monitor the situation. Tuition fees also relate to your education as a whole, including the other services and facilities that you receive as a student, and not to individual teaching sessions.
Legally, the Regulations for Students 2017/18, item 3.8 state that neither students nor the University shall be liable for inability or delay in performing any of their obligations if caused by circumstances beyond their reasonable control. This explicitly includes industrial action.
However, Sam Gyimah the universities minister has said that “students whose courses have been disrupted by the university strike should receive compensation for lost classes.”
Once the strikes are over we will be talking to the University about the possibility of compensation and where the money from docked wages will go.
Latest Update 14/03/2018
The University of Bath released a statement expressing disappointment that the agreement reached on Monday 12 the March was rejected by UCU’s Higher Education Committee and that UCU have stated that they will not take part in the next JNC meeting.
Latest Update 13/03/2018
UCU branches all across the country voted to reject the deal the central leadership of UCU had agreed to with UUK.
The UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Branches made it clear today that they wanted to reject the proposal. UCU’s greatest strength is that we are run by and for our members and it is right that members always have the final say.
'The strike action for this week remains on and we will now make detailed preparations for strikes over the assessment and exam period. We want urgent talks with the universities' representatives to try and find a way to get this dispute resolved.'
Last week UCU said Universities face 14 further days of strikes during the exam period if the pension dispute isn't resolved.
Reasons University of Bath UCU members have rejected the proposal are highlighted below:
Latest Update 12/03/2018
Today talks between UCU and UUK nationally came to an agreement about an interim solution to the pension changes under the facilitation of ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) this is subject to it being approved by UCU’s higher education committee. Details of the agreement can be found here.
The proposed deal is a three-year interim arrangement which would require employers and members to pay higher contributions for that period, with total employer contributions up to 19.3% of salary, and members’ contributions rising to 8.7%. The two sides have also agreed to explore risk-sharing alternatives for the future from 2020, in particular collective-defined contributions.
Latest Update 8/03/2018
The University of Bath and its Students’ Union urge UUK and UCU to use their current negotiations to find a fair solution to their dispute and a swift end to the ongoing industrial action.
We are making this call – alongside many other universities – in the best interests of our students and staff.
A significant number of vice chancellors have offered support recently for the renegotiation of the USS proposal. Talks began on 27th February, with both sides agreeing to ACAS arbitrated talks which will start on 5th March. However, strikes are still planned to continue whilst talks are ongoing.
Reversion to an earlier proposal, or the development of a new one, are options that have been put on the table – but whatever happens, there is a hard deadline of 30th June for the submission of proposals to the Pensions Regulator. And anything substantially new needs to be consulted on.
The University have produced some information about the industrial action as well as an FAQ with an answer to every question students have asked them.
WONKHE have produced an a beginner's guide to the USS dispute
Latest Update 13/02/2018
The University and College Union (UCU) announced recently that strike action will take place at 61 universities, including Bath, after talks between UCU and the employers' representative Universities UK (UUK) ended without agreement.
The dispute concerns plans to end the defined benefit portion of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension, which the union argues would leave most lecturers almost £10,000 a year out of pocket than it would be currently.
The strike action planned by UCU has been described as the largest ever to affect UK campuses, and will involve 14 days of escalating strike action over four weeks starting on Thursday 22 February 2018.
Last week The SU held an indicative poll to decide what The SU stance would be on this situation. Students voted on the motion: “Should The SU support the UCU strike?”
• 41% of students voted for the motion
• 54% of students voted against the motion
• 5% of students abstained
As a result The SU will not be supporting the UCU’s strike action.
SU President, Ben Davies, said: “We fully understand and respect UCU’s decision to strike and it is vitally important for UCU’s voice to be heard and for negotiations to resume nationally.
“However, students have told us that they want The SU to represent their immediate interests first and foremost, which is why, due to the impact strike action of this scale could have on their education, we cannot support UCU’s strike action.
“We will continue to work with UCU and the University to make sure students’ voices are heard and that the University is communicating any actions that may impact students. We will also ensure any impacts of the strike action are being properly mitigated against.
“We also appreciate that some of our postgraduate research students are also members of UCU and will ensure we offer them our support where we can.”
For students who wish to individually support the strike action, more information is available below.
UCU has also produced a handy tool for those students who wish to complain to the University.
What is happening?
University and College Union (UCU) are taking strike action in response to decisions to change the way their pension scheme, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) works.
Strikes will be taking place on Thurs 22, Fri 23, Mon 26, Tuesday 27 and Wed 28 February; Mon 5, Tues 6, Wed 7, Thurs 8, Mon 12, Tues 13, Wed 14, Thurs 15 and Fri 16 March.
UCU represents 525 members of staff at the University of Bath, of that number 319 members voted on the motion to strike with 288 (91.1%) voting to support the strike. This means there could be several hundred members of staff going on strike.
What does this mean for you?
The likelihood is that some lectures will be cancelled and more often than not you won’t be informed they are being cancelled until you turn up to the lecture.
Any support you are hoping to get from members of staff who are members of UCU may also be limited.
UCU also voted to support action short of a strike which means:
working to contract;
not covering for absent colleagues;
not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action;
not undertaking any voluntary activities.
How have we got here?
Universities UK, who represent more than 350 higher education employers in the scheme, tabled proposals for reform of the USS at the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) involving employers (through UUK) and members (through UCU) together with an independent chair.
USS is governed by a clear set of scheme rules. Any changes to these rules need to be decided on through the JNC. The JNC brings together an equal number of representatives from Universities UK and the University and College Union. The JNC has an independent chair who oversees discussions between employer and member representatives, and can choose to cast a deciding vote if agreement between both parties cannot be reached.
Strikes at 61 universities are now happening after talks over the future of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) ended without an agreement between representatives from UCU and Universities UK (UUK).
The chair sided with the employers' representatives and their plans to transform the scheme from one with a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme where pension income is subject to changes in the stock market and how well these ‘investments’ do.
UCU have said the new scheme would result in:
A reduction in retirement benefits by between 20% and 40% depending on grade and length of service. A typical lecturer stands to lose around £10,000 a year.
The worst pensions in the education sector, far worse than those available to both school teachers and staff in ‘new’ universities.
A recruitment and retention crisis as staff seek better financial security elsewhere
If you support the strike what can you do?
There are a number of things you can do to support the members of UCU in their industrial action:
- Tell all your lecturers you support their fight
- Complain to the University about the changes to pensions and how the strike has impacted you
- Don’t attend lectures on strike days – go and join UCU picket lines instead
- Postgraduates can join UCU for free as student members - www.ucu.org.uk/free
- Email the local UCU branch expressing your support - UCU-Sec@bath.ac.uk
- UCU has produced a handy tool for those students who wish to complain to the University
If you don’t support the strike what can you do?
There are also a couple of things you can do if you don’t support the strikes.
Complain to the University how these strikes have impacted you
Complain to UCU about how these strikes have impacted you - UCU-Sec@bath.ac.uk
UCU has produced a handy tool for those students who wish to complain to the University
What can the University of Bath do?
The University have assured The SU that they will work with us to mitigate the effects this strike will have on students at the University. Once we have a better idea of what effect the strike has had, The SU and the University will be working together to make sure students’ degrees aren’t affected too much as a result of this action.
There is very limited influence the University has over the pension dispute. This is a National strike and a National issue that UCU have with UUK, USS and the Government over changes to their pensions.
Universities Superannuation Scheme is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK and is the principal scheme for academic and comparable staff in UK universities and other higher education and research institutions with over 350 employers participating in it.
The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.
Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. It has formed its pensions benefit proposal following consultation with employers, drawing together the views of employers responsible for 92% of USS active scheme members.M/p>
NUS and UCU are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff and in challenging the marketisation of education.
We believe that fairly rewarded staff are the cornerstone of the university experience and that the proposal by Universities UK to substantially cut the pensions of members of the USS pension scheme will be hugely damaging if implemented.
As representatives of students, NUS is worried that the imposition of these cuts in the face of sector wide opposition will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and consequent recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere.
As representatives of staff, UCU is concerned that alongside recent cuts in the real terms value of pay and the very high rates of casualisation, these proposals are seen as yet another kick in the teeth for hard working staff.
We believe that the current policy of paying ever higher salaries for VCs and Principals while cutting pensions for those who do the work sends a hugely damaging signal to both students and staff.
In sending its full solidarity to UCU, NUS asks its members to:
- continue to call for the university employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and agree to meaningful negotiations either directly with the union or via ACAS;
- write to their institution head to complain about the impact the strike will have on their learning;
- participate in local demonstrative solidarity action during the strikes in support of UCU members.
In response, UCU agrees to:
- work closely with NUS to explain to students why action is taking place;
- commit to meaningful negotiations in order to settle the dispute if possible;
- continue to support NUS in our wider struggle for a fair and just education system.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Staff will feel utterly betrayed by their leaders. We are disappointed at how talks ended today, particularly after UUK suggested [on the 22/1/18] that it wanted more talks to avoid strikes. Universities must be on notice that unless there are dramatic changes in their negotiators' position then strike action will be arriving on campus next month.
'There is much talk of a crisis of leadership in higher education at the moment, especially after the recent vice-chancellor pay and perks scandals. Now is the time for university leaders to recognise the scale of this problem, how angry their staff are and to work with us to avoid widespread disruption in universities.'
The union said it was disappointed that the talks ended with the changes being imposed on USS members. It added it was surprised that more talks had also been dismissed after UUK said it hoped to avoid industrial action through further talks with UCU.
No education professional wants to strike but we also deserve long-term security and our students deserve staff who are able to focus fully on the job. We have called for extended negotiations with the employers but, disappointingly, talks ended with the changes being imposed.
Staff feel angry and betrayed but even now we call on university leaders to work with us to find a solution and avoid widespread disruption for our students.
The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) has agreed a proposal to put the USS pension scheme on a secure and sustainable footing while offering the best pensions that can be afforded by both employers and employees.
The JNC is the formal and legally established forum for deciding changes to USS, which provides pensions for academic and other university staff. Difficult economic circumstances have resulted in the scheme having an increased deficit and a significant increase in the cost of future defined pension benefits of more than a third since 2014.?
The proposal agreed today was put forward by Universities UK, on behalf of more than 350 higher education employers. It offers market leading defined contribution pension benefits on all salaries from 1 April 2019 with a commitment to consider in three years' time if defined benefits can be re-introduced should the scheme's funding conditions improve.
"The reform proposal will tackle the scheme's deficit and the significant rise in the cost of future pensions so that universities can continue to offer attractive pensions to staff, now and in the future. It will also ensure that contributions remain affordable to both staff members and employers.
"Today's decision is a necessary step to put the scheme on a sustainable footing for the long-term. Our focus now is to work with USS and UCU to shape the details of the new benefit structure so that it offers flexibility, choice and market-leading defined contributions pensions."
UUK has designed a lower-cost saving option to ensure that USS remains a suitable scheme for all. In this option, members can pay contributions of 4% rather than 8% of salary while still benefitting from the 18% employer contribution. USS would continue to offer very valuable life assurance and substantial benefits in the event of ill-health.
Pension benefits already built up are protected by law and cannot be changed retrospectively.
Following a series of over 30 meetings to discuss USS reform with UCU a negotiated settlement could not be found. The UCU proposal which was tabled today would have increased financial contributions to unmanageable levels for employers and many employees – UCU proposed an increase of 35% in member contributions to get lower pensions benefits and increasing employers' contributions by c£500 million a year. Employer contributions have already risen by 30% over the last decade and further increases are not affordable.
Employers will now hold a consultation with all members - expected to run for 60 days from mid-late March - on the possible impact of these changes on individuals. Any changes would not come into force until 1 April 2019.