Exeter UCU News – July 2015

  • National UCU news
    • Ballot on pay offer
    • UCU seeking applications for USS pension scheme director post
    • Getting involved in UCU – a course for black members new to trade unions
  • Positions available on the EUCU Committee
  • PDP – seeking your feedback
  • Drop-in sessions
  • EUCU gatherings

  • National UCU news & events
    • Ballot on pay offer

Thank you to everyone who voted in the consultative e-ballot on the employer’s final pay offer for this year.

The results are available here. In summary the outcome was to reject the pay offer, with support for action short of a strike but not supporting strike action. The response rate was 31.7 – 31.9%.

UCU’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) decided:

As members have rejected the final offer, UCU will write to the Universities and Colleges Employers Associate and invoke the dispute resolution procedure. However, given the results of the consultative ballot, there are major risks in proceeding to a statutory ballot at this time. UCU head office will organise four national/regional consultation meetings towards the end of September and report back to HEC on 9 October.

    • UCU seeking applications for USS pension scheme director post

UCU is seeking applications for the position of director in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). If you are interested in this 4-year position, the full application pack is available online, including criteria and person specification. The closing date for applications is 26 August.

    • Getting involved in UCU – a course for black members new to trade unions

UCU invites all black members who would like to know more about getting involved with the union to this training event taking place on 18 September in London which will look at campaigning, professional development and tackling discrimination.

  • Positions available on the EUCU Committee

We are pleased to announce that Samantha Briggs has joined the EUCU Committee as St. Luke’s Rep, and we are in discussion with several other members regarding some of the other vacant positions.

However we do still need more people to help represent particular groups of members and/or support the branch organisation in particular roles. Without a fully recruited committee, it is difficult to organise effectively so, if you think there is something we could be doing better, please get involved and make it happen.

We would love to have a chat with anyone who is interested in helping to support the following important areas, or is generally interested in helping with branch activities.

    • Health and Safety Officer
      • A really rewarding and useful role
      • Make a difference to a whole range of issues that affect our  working conditions … from work related stress, bullying… to preventing workplace hazards, injuries and accidents
      • “safety reps have statutory powers to investigate, inspect, represent and be consulted” … this is a much stronger role than almost any other type of rep
      • Reps are also entitled to a) time off with pay and b) training (which takes place in Exeter), to carry out the role
      • There is excellent support from both the national and regional UCU
      • At Exeter we work very closely with both the other campus unions, Unite and UNISON, so you always have others to share concerns and talk with about specific issues
    • Communications Officer
      • Essential for an effective branch
      • Primarily responsible for co-ordinating communications to members (such as this newsletter) with the support of the rest of the committee.
    • Business School Rep
      • Bringing issues arising in the Business School to the Committee’s attention
      • A point of contact for colleagues in the Business School
    • Cornwall Campuses Rep
      • Working with relevant College reps to bring issues arising on the Cornwall Campuses to the Committee’s attention
      • A point of contact for colleagues based in Penryn and Truro

Please do get in touch with Barrie Cooper (President) if you would like more information.

  • PDP – seeking your feedback

Exeter UCU would like to hear about the experiences and views of staff (UCU members and non-members) regarding their recent experience with the Professional Development Programme (PDP) system.  Ensuring the PDP promotion system is fit for purpose is vital in maintaining high standards of teaching and research, providing a respectful and nurturing environment for staff, and enhancing the overall standing of the university.

We would like to hear your experiences and any questions.  In the first instance you can contact Brian Rappert.  All communications will be treated in confidence.

  • Drop-in sessions

Drop-in sessions at Streatham campus will continue over the summer, but with a reduced schedule. The next session is THIS week on Wednesday 15th July, 12.30-1.30pm as usual in the Union Room (Laver Building, to the left of the very first flight of steps). There will be another session in July on Wednesday 22nd July – please check the drop-in session page for updates. We look forward to seeing you.

  • EUCU gatherings
    • It was wonderful to meet those of you who were able to visit our stand at the Staff Festival at Streatham campus on 18th June, and at the friendly gathering at the Imperial on 25th June.
    • We are planning to start a rolling series of informal social lunchtime gatherings to be held at Streatham, St. Luke’s and Penryn campuses. Watch this space…
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Anti austerity march, June 2015

This gallery contains 3 photos.

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Drop-in Sessions

Our drop-in sessions take place every Wednesday, except during July and August when we have an alternative schedule (see below). From 1pm – 2pm you can find one or more of our elected Reps in the Union room on the ground floor by the entrance to the Laver Building, Streatham campus.

  • St Luke’s Campus drop-in: 30th September 1pm – 2pm; College House, Ground floor room 09 (Samantha Briggs). You can find this room by going up the stairs from the main car park into College House Student Centre reception, and walk straight down the corridor to room 09.

Members are welcome to pop in to have a chat about any employment-related issues, ask about the work the branch is doing or just meet one of the branch reps.

Please note that the drop-in sessions are not meant to replace individual case-work, which remains available as usual.

If you can’t make it to a drop-in and have something to discuss, please contact us.

We are currently building a stronger presence across the University and hope to be able to offer regular drop-in sessions at other campuses in the future.

If you would like to help out with this, please contact us.

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Exeter UCU News – June 2015

Exeter UCU News – June 2015

  1. Ballot on pay offer

All members are due to receive a separate email by the end of this week (12 June), containing instructions on how to vote in a consultative e-ballot on the employer’s final pay offer for this year. The offer (in summary) is 1% on all pay spine points, save for points 1 to 8 which have larger increases in order to bring point 1 up to the current Living Wage.

UCUHE250 contains links to further information including full details of the offer.

This ballot is asking whether you accept or reject the offer. Please note that if the result of this e-ballot is to reject the offer, it is expected that another ballot will follow to call for industrial action.

  1. Staff who are leaving

We would like to say thank you and best wishes for the future to any members who are leaving the University of Exeter. Some members are departing under the Voluntary Severance Scheme (VSS), others are retiring or moving on to pastures new.

In particular we would like to thank our committee members Jonathan Gosling (UEBS Rep), Paul Sandy (Pensions Officer), Carolyn Jarvis (Communications Officer) and Jo Melling (Shadow Communications Officer) who are all departing at the end of the month.

Any UCU members who are leaving the University though VSS or fast-track schemes are reminded that they should amend their contact email address by logging into members.ucu.org.uk, as their University account will in most cases be terminated immediately upon leaving. Members who are retiring can usually retain their email address. http://as.exeter.ac.uk/it/account/joiningorleaving/

What happens to my Union membership when I leave?

Most changes you might need to make to your membership can be submitted online in UCU eServices at members.ucu.org.uk.

  • You can amend your contact details in the My Personal Details, My Home Address and My Workplace Details sections
  • If you move to another institution, you can update this in the My Workplace Details section and your membership will automatically be transferred to your new workplace. Please also remember to check that you are paying the correct subscription amount in My Subscription Details.
  • If you have a gap in your employment, you may be eligible for Unemployed membership which provides up to a year’s subscription-free membership. This can be selected in the My Other Details section.
  • Those who are retiring can check their options at http://www.ucu.org.uk/retirementoptions – note there is a low-cost ‘retired’ membership category that can be selected in the My Other Details section of eServices. There are many UCU regional retired members’ branches around the country, including one for the South West which is based in Exeter.

If you have any other questions about your membership please either contact our branch Membership Secretary, Juliette Stephenson, or email the UCU Membership team.

  1. EUCU Committee vacancies – can you help?

We have some committee positions that have not yet been filled this year and some becoming vacant due to the departure of colleagues. We would love to have a chat with anyone who is interested in helping to support the following important areas:

  • Health and Safety
  • Pensions
  • Communications
  • Business School
  • Cornwall Campuses
  • Luke’s Campus
  • Environment

Please do get in touch with Sophie Swainger (Secretary) if you would like more information.

  1. Branch activity update

The branch has been hard at work raising issues, contributing to consultations and attending meetings on your behalf. Here are some updates on the current activities:

  • Positive discussions have taken place with the University with the aim of improving the way the disciplinary procedure is implemented. We are hoping that this will more consistent application of the procedure across the University and improved training for relevant HR colleagues and Union caseworkers.
  • Thank you to all the members who contributed to the Exeter Academic consultation. The branch submitted a response informed by the contributions you copied to us, and we will provide further updates in due course.
  • The majority of suggestions put forward by EUCU regarding the professorial salaries proposals have been accepted and will form part of the new scheme. This includes requests to improve feedback on professorial performance and progression.
  • Branch representatives have been contributing to meetings regarding how SWARM is used, and more generally regarding issues of workload and stress for both academic and professional services members.
  • Alongside other organisations, our branch is helping to subsidise coaches going from Exeter to the End Austerity Now demonstration in London on Saturday 20 June. There are some seats still available at a discounted rate of £12 (return!) for Exeter UCU members – please contact Richard Bradbury on smolny57@btinternet.com for details by lunchtime this Sunday (14 June), making sure you mention that you are one of our members for the discounted price. Richard will also be at the Devon People’s Assembly rally tomorrow (Saturday 13 June) in Northernhay Gardens in Exeter, and members can buy tickets from him in person there.
  1. EUCU gatherings
    • Come and say hello to us at the staff festival in Exeter on 18th June, where we will have a stand in the Forum. We do also hope to see Cornwall members at the staff festival in Penryn on 24 June.
    • We are meeting up in The Imperial (New North Road) from 5.30pm on Thursday 25 June; any members or other colleagues are welcome to join us for an end-of-term celebration and to thank members who are leaving. We hope to see you there!
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REMINDER: Consultation on 2015 proposed changes to USS pension scheme

Please ensure that you make your views heard about the proposed changes to your pension! 

You can respond up until 22 May.  The consultation website is here: www.ussconsultation.co.uk/members

The website includes other resources:

  • modeller
  • detailed consultation document
  • videos on changes
  • Q & As

Please respond to the consultation.

UCU guidance on ideas for how to respond: www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4598

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Ballot on proposed changes to USS

There will be a UCU Branch General Meeting on

*** Monday 19th January in Laver 320 ***

*** (Cornwall and other campuses to join by Skype – see email from Barrie Cooper b.cooper@exeter.ac.uk) ***

The primary issue to be discussed is the USS Pension Scheme. We have invited Simon Renton, former National President of the UCU, to speak to the meeting.

The full statement from the negotiators is at


We are being asked to vote on whether to accept this revised proposal, which includes the following improvements on the original UUK offer:

  • an improvement in the accrual rate from 1/80th to 1/75th
  • an increase in the earnings cap to £55,000 (above which defined benefit career average benefits will not build up). This means that 100% of salary is now within the defined benefit scheme for more than 75% of USS members, up from 39% of members covered by the originally proposed £40,000 threshold.
  • a guarantee that the employers will maintain an increased contribution (from 16% to 18% of salary) for two further valuations for at least the next five years (to 2020)
  • an agreement with the employers that any improvement in the USS funding position should be used to improve benefits rather than be used by USS for further de-risking
  • an agreement to continue a review of the contested funding methodology adopted by USS.

The results will almost certainly be a worse pension for each of us; but it may well be the best we can hope for without sustained and concerted industrial action. Hence the ballot.

You can get a pretty good estimate of the likely outcomes for you on the modeller at http://defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk/whats-my-pension/

Please come to the meeting if you can, and comment here if you have view on the matter.


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UCU’s proposals for reforming the USS pension scheme

The UCU proposals for the reform of USS (responding to the UUK’s position) are attached UCUHE236, and we urge you to take the time to read them. In essence UCU are proposing to abolish the two-tier scheme by moving everyone onto a career average scheme with a defined benefit at the improved rate of 1/70th compared to the 2011 career average scheme (which kept 1/80th). They are proposing a possible cap of the pensionable salary at the 85th percentile of members earnings so 85% of staff would have all earnings pensionable. There would be no defined contribution element. The employer contribution would go up to 18% and the employee to 9%. (This means a 1.5% increase in your contributions – let us know what you think about this). If scheme valuations fluctuate, both sides would guarantee to invest any possible improvements in finances into a stability fund (i.e. back into the scheme) rather than trying to reduce their contribution level. The document also contains a very full discussion of various technical (but crucial!) aspects of the methodologies, including a justification using financial advice for a different model of calculating the ‘affordability’ of the scheme.

The Branch Committee believe this
is a very reasonable approach, clearly addressing real concerns for the long term sustainability of the USS, responding to legitimate concerns about employers’ ability to pay and the protection of members’ benefits. It is hard to imagine any reasonable employer disregarding this, and so we on your Exeter branch committee are hopeful that forthcoming national negotiations on Thursday this week will move the situation forwards. We expect an update by the end of the week.

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