220601 Twinning Motion: USS and 4Fights. Motion Passed

This Branch

  1. Notes:
  1. The current industrial disputes on USS Pensions and Four Fights,
  2. That some branches have called a marking and assessment boycott as part of the dispute,
  3. That this branch is not participating in the boycott, and
  4. The need for nationwide solidarity across all branches.
  1. Believes that:
  1. To sustain the current action, branches that are not participating in the boycott must support those branches that are.
  1. Resolves to twin with Heriot-Watt UCU and support them in this boycott by:
  1. Donating £500 to the branch’s local hardship fund directly from branch funds
  2. and raise awareness amongst this branch’s members about donating to the boycotting branch’s hardship fund directly as individuals, i.e. this branch will campaign actively to encourage members donating a day’s pay directly to the boycotting branch’s hardship fund
  3. Support the branch’s campaign on social media and other communications, and
  4. Work towards mutual support and mobilisation during future ballots and campaigns.

220330 Brunel UCU Ukraine Solidarity Resolution

Brunel UCU condemns the appalling Russian military invasion of Ukraine that is causing death and destruction to the people of Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for survival and the right to live in peace and decide their own futures. We express our solidarity with all those affected by the conflict, and everyone raising their voices against imperialist war.

The branch notes:

This war does not happen in a vacuum. On the one hand, ‘Western’ governments, through NATO, have for years expanded their position in Central and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, Russia has sought to pursue its economic and military domination in the post-Soviet space, by eg. the annexation of Crimea, its role in suppressing the Kazakhstan protests in January this year, and the recognition of the independence of the so-called “People’s Republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Irrespective of the pretexts used by Russia and the “West”, the military conflict in Ukraine is the result of the sharpening of competition, primarily focused on spheres of influence, market shares, raw materials, energy plans and transport routes. The war in Ukraine risks a dangerous broader escalation in Europe and Central Asia.

The consequences of this competition are felt far and wide through the sharp increases of the cost of energy and resulting cost of living we all experience. The high prices for fuel and the cost of living that we experience here in the UK is not only a consequence of the war in Ukraine, as the government wants us to believe. War and conflict are historically proceeded by economic recession and crises. The everyday people everywhere are the ones that not only bear the worst of the imperialist war, but also foot the bill during times of peace.

The branch believes:

As a trade union and as working people, we unequivocally side with the Ukrainian people. At the same time we cannot afford to side with any of the imperialist powers that are behind and who profit from this war. We know well enough what the cost of ‘democracy promotion’ is, what NATO and the ‘West’ leave behind in their invasions from the Balkans to Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, we note the war and devastation that the Russian invasion and ‘interventions’ bring, from Syria to Kazakhstan and now in Ukraine. We:

  1. Condemn in strongest terms possible the Russian invasion.
  2. Oppose the British government’s restrictions on the right to safety by refugees from Ukraine, as from anywhere else. The British government must show its solidarity in practice to the Ukrainian people and lift all restrictions.
  3. Stand up against war, militarism, and imperialism in all its expressions, whether NATO or CSTO.
  4. Call upon our own government to stop feeding the conflict and instead promote a diplomatic and peaceful solution.
  5. Unite our voices with Ukrainians and Russians who are suffering as a result of this war. Workers in Ukraine and Russia have nothing to gain from this war.

In addition to the actions that have already been taken by national UCU, the Brunel UCU resolves to:

  1. Publicise this statement of support and try to gather more branches, Unions at our university, and student groups to support it. Send it for publication to Brunel-run newspaper, the Hillington Herald. Send this statement to UCU London Region for adoption/support and to the annual UCU congress. The proposed actions will be undertaken by the Brunel UCU Action Committee. Membership of the AC will be open to all UCU members, from whom we’ll ask for volunteers during the EGM. The action committee will report the results of their actions in the next UCU branch meeting.
  2. Participate in protests and actions of solidarity organised with a similar framework, e.g. by the Stop The War coalition.
  3. Encourage members to contribute to Scholars At Risk fund, The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, and to other humanitarian organisations that are accepting donations:  https://reliefweb.int/report/ukraine/ukraine-emergency-resources-refugees

 

220323 Solidarity motion with Queen Mary UCU

 This branch notes:

  • That Queen Mary management intends to implement punitive deductions of 100% pay for each day staff refuse to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action.
  • The UK-wide trend of HE employers threatening punitive deductions, albeit not often as aggressively as Queen Mary.
  • Previous retreats from such threats by HE employers in the face of public and industrial pressure.

This branch believes:

  • That these employer tactics are disproportionate and dangerous, and risk escalating the disputes and further disrupting students’ education.
  • That the threat of punitive deductions of 100% pay for ASOS at one institution threatens the right to strike at all institutions and therefore requires a collective and nationally coordinated response
  • That members at Queen Mary are facing an increased financial burden for participating in industrial action.

This branch resolves:

  • To call on all members at this branch to resign their positions as external examiners at Queen Mary with immediate effect.
  • To send a message of solidarity to members at Queen Mary UCU.
  • To send a solidarity donation of £300 to Queen Mary UCU’s strike/hardship fund.

220324 Brunel UCU Chair Open Letter re EIA-USS

24th March 2022
Dear Vice-Chancellor,

On behalf of the Brunel UCU Branch, I wish to request a copy of the University’s Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) of the UUK proposal that was passed recently via the Joint Negotiation Committee.

The massive (averaged) 35% cut in the USS pension that will be imposed from 1 April 2022 is going to have a significant, adverse impact upon members of our Branch. I am deeply concerned that this cut may result in indirect discrimination on the basis of age. The key issue is the potential discrimination against one group of scheme members (i.e., younger, active members) to pay for deficit recovery contributions for another set of members (i.e., older, retired members). In addition, given that women and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members tend to be younger than men and White members within the USS pension plan, the prospects for indirect discrimination on the basis of gender and race exist as well.

The Brunel UCU Branch would like to understand how the EIA was considered by the University in its decision making process when it decided to support the detrimental UUK proposal. Alternatively, if an EIA was not conducted, then we would like to know on what basis was the decision made to forgo such an assessment, given the potential discriminatory impacts that I have outlined above. In any case, the Brunel UCU Branch would like to know whether the University sought actuarial or legal advice before making the decision to support the UUK proposal – and if not, then why not?

My understanding is that the USS trustee has refused to do an EIA. Amazingly, USS insist that they have no duty to conduct an equality impact assessment. I believe that USS has issued a statement regarding the impact on different groups of members. Nevertheless, I am sure that you can appreciate the difference between an informal statement and a formal equality impact assessment. Furthermore, my understanding is that UUK have not conducted their own Equality Impact Assessment regarding their own proposal. Apparently, UUK have advised employers regarding the need to conduct an EIA but do not know (or have refused to let national UCU know) whether the
employers have carried out EIAs. Rather, UUK simply have taken the position that employers may make their own decisions concerning EIAs, based on local considerations. In other words, even as they issue a misleading commentary regarding their consultation on reasons why the employers should not support the UCU proposal, UUK have conveniently left the EIA for individual institutions to conduct. Appallingly, as far as I know, none of the employers (including Brunel), who responded in support of UUK cuts to staff pensions, even bothered to ask UUK whether had conducted an equality impact assessment.

According to Brunel University London’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2021-24, “This strategy… aims to adopt a whole university approach to making Brunel a fairer and more inclusive University, with social justice at its heart. We are proud of our diversity – on campus, online and as part of our global reach and influence. We are committed to providing an inclusive culture and to
removing any barriers or institutional or structural social inequalities to success. We want this strategy to be bold, innovative and agile and aim to embed it into all aspects of the university’s operations, and into the daily life and experiences of the University community. We are determined to exceed our legal duty to eliminate discrimination however it occurs and to advance equality of opportunity and outcomes for all. . . .” (p. 2) Given the hugely detrimental decision for staff by Brunel University London, to support the UUK proposal, which potentially and unfairly discriminates against one or more groups of members or former members with protected characteristics when
compared with other groups, the Brunel UCU Branch look forward to your response to this urgent matter, at your earliest convenience

Brunel UCU Open Letter re USS

15th February 2022

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

You would have seen that the University and College Union (UCU) issued a set of new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on 26 January 2022:
https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11997/UCU-submits-new-pension-proposals-to-avert-UK-widestrike-action ]

These new proposals would see retirement benefits protected in return for a small increase in contributions for both members and employers ahead of a new evidence-based valuation of the scheme. A USS consultation of scheme members concluded on 17 January 2022, and UCU understands that a significant majority preferred increasing contributions of members and employers in order to protect benefits over the alternatives, including benefit cuts. Moreover, USS confirmed on Thursday 20 January that its assets have jumped to over £92bn, more than £25bn higher than the previous valuation.

Last year UCU tabled proposals that would have protected benefits, but Universities UK (UUK) refused to provide the same level of covenant support to underwrite UCU’s proposals as they provided for their own.
UCU’s proposals are as follows:

-that UUK call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation of the
financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June (at the latest)
-that employers agree to provide the same level of covenant support as for their own
proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme
year, starting 1 April 2022 at 11% member/23.7% employer until 1 October 2022, and
11.8%/25.2% thereafter
-that employers agree to pay a maximum of 25.2% and members a maximum of 9.8% from 1 April 2023 so as to secure current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation.

On the 10th February, the USS trustee confirmed that UCU proposals can be implemented: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/12094/USS-trustee-confirms-UCU-proposals-can-be-implemented

However, there has been subsequent concern that UUK have misrepresented the UCU proposals to Vice Chancellors:
UUK’s serious misrepresentations of UCU’s proposals (Pt I) | by Michael Otsuka | Feb, 2022 | Medium

UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II) | by Michael Otsuka | Feb, 2022 | Medium

We are writing to ask whether you would support UCU’s proposals instead of UUK’s plan. Under UUK’s plan university staff would see an approximate 35% cut to their guaranteed retirement income based on a flawed USS valuation conducted in March 2020.

Yours sincerely

Brunel UCU branch committe

BRUNEL UCU: LEADING THE WAY IN JOINT TRADE UNION DISPUTE OVER PAY STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (CHAIR, BRUNEL UCU BRANCH) 15 DECEMBER 2021

In March 2020, five trade unions within the UK (UCU, UNISON, UNITE, GMB, and EIS) issued a Higher Education Joint Unions Pay Claim to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA).  This dispute, which national UCU have labelled as Four Fights (due to its consideration of pay, equality, workload and casualisation as interrelated issues), is ongoing.  Here is a key passage from the letter that the trade unions collectively have submitted:

The joint unions are seeking:

  • a national, time specific, agreement detailing how action will be achieved by each HEI working with their trade unions to close the gender, race and disability pay gap,
  • An implementation agreement agreed by HEI management and their trade unions which is then progressed and reported back to new JNCHES.
  • a commitment by all UCEA affiliates to encourage their staff to declare their protected characteristics with their employers to help address discrimination; then the completion of a full Equal Pay Audit covering all protected characteristics by a specific date, and all the data to be shared with the campus unions. UCEA to collate and share with the unions nationally copies of all the Gender Pay actions plans drawn up by UCEA affiliates. (p. 14)

As you may know, four of the five trade unions in question (UCU, UNISON, UNITE, and GMB) are recognised by Brunel University London.  I am pleased to report that the Brunel UCU Branch are leading the way concerning the pay dispute at the local level, currently pursuing a re-ballot on industrial action (and action short of strike, or ASOS).  Even though well over 70% of our members who voted in November did support industrial action and ASAS, current UK government restrictions place a unique burden upon trade unions:  Not only do most of the voters need to support industrial action and ASOS; but most of our membership need to cast a ballot in the first instance.  Thus, the Brunel UCU Branch Committee ask – once again – that you cast ballots in favour of industrial action and ASOS concerning the pay dispute with UCEA.

Of course, as you know, the separate dispute between UCU and Universities UK (UUK) over Universities Superannuated Scheme (USS) pensions is ongoing as well.  Unlike the pay dispute (which is a joint union dispute), the pensions dispute is limited to UCU (because our members will be disproportionately and adversely affected by proposed changes to the scheme).  In any event, please be sure to cast your separate ballots (i.e., pay and pensions) in favour of industrial action and ASOS.  Thanks so much, in advance, for your support!

STUDENT SUPPORT FOR UCU’S INDUSTRIAL ACTION STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (CHAIR, BRUNEL UCU BRANCH) 8 DECEMBER 2021

Recently, the immediate Past President of Universities UK (who, not coincidentally, is the current Vice Chancellor and President of Brunel University London) has made public statements that falsely imply a lack of student support for national UCU’s industrial action.  However, a look at the National Union of Students (NUS) Web site (Student views on UCU strikes revealed by NUS @ NUS) reveals overwhelming student support for UCU’s industrial action.  In fact, NUS have launched a petition in support of UCU (emphasis in the original text):

Dear UUK and UCEA executives, We are writing on behalf of students, the vast majority of whom support the UCU strikes, and all of whom are negatively impacted by an unsustainable HE system.  Research undertaken by NUS has found that 73% of students support the UCU strikes, and 69% have said that they would be willing to take action to campaign for a fully-funded, accessible, lifelong and democratised education system.  The shocking truth is that senior management pay and benefits has increased in recent years, with Vice Chancellors average total pay reaching £269,000. Meanwhile academic staff on the ground have only seen more work for less reward. Many have reached their breaking point.  Students know that staff don’t want to have to go on strike, and have worked tirelessly before and during the pandemic to do the jobs they love in universities and colleges across the UK.  Against the backdrop that staff have had to stand up against, it is not only unsustainable, but it is cruel to watch them continue to be undervalued and underpaid in Higher Education.  The same education system that leaves 1 in 10 students needing to access food banks in the pandemic is the same system that leaves 75,000 of postgraduate students and other university staff on casualised contracts.  The same system pursuing the policing and securitisation of students of colour is producing a 17% race pay gap for staff.  The system is as exploitative and unfair to students as it is to staff – these cannot be divorced from each other.  This is distinctly true for postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts, and many are given no choice but to strike given what a dire situation this has become.  The way that staff have been forced to work under the current circumstances impacts how they can teach us, and the communities we can build on campus. Staff working conditions are our learning conditions, and we must stand together if we are to realise a new vision for education that is truly democratised: run by and for the students, staff and communities that education exists to serve.  Staff deserve to be paid fairly for their work. They deserve contracts that guarantee them a stable job, and workloads that are manageable. Women, disabled staff and staff of colour deserve pay parity with their counterparts.  We, the undersigned, are asking that you return to the negotiating table and meet UCU’s demands.

211124 BRUNEL UCU PASSES UNANIMOUS RESOLUTION AT OGM: GUCU STRIKE FUND MOTION

GUCU STRIKE FUND MOTION GUCU Strike Fund Motion | Goldsmiths University and College Union (goldsmithsucu.org)

This branch notes:

  1. That Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU) is in dispute with the Senior Management Team (SMT) at Goldsmiths, University of London over 20 FTE planned redundancies as part of SMT’s Academic Portfolio Review (APR) aimed at reducing staff costs.
  2. That a further 32 redundancies are planned in professional services, directly affecting the working conditions of academic staff and students.
  3. That this restructuring undermines the autonomy of departments, lecturers and researchers, increasingly centralising power over budgets, decision-making, academic portfolios and procedures with SMT.
  4. That moves towards restructuring at Goldsmiths are already having a seriously detrimental effect on the functioning of the university, such that basic services for staff and students are collapsing.
  5. That SMT has spent over £2.5m in consultants and untold costs on change managers related to the restructuring.
  6. That SMT has employed union-busting tactics in the past, and is currently delaying payment to key GUCU branch officials for carrying out trade union activities.
  7. The determination of GUCU members to fight for decent working conditions for all staff at Goldsmiths.

This branch believes: 

  1. That SMT has not explored alternatives to cuts, including stopping the use of expensive consultants and managers; fundraising; applying for government funds in Arts and Humanities; developing a vision for growth etc.
  2. That the planned cuts at Goldsmiths follow a pattern of financialisation increasingly seen across UK Higher Education Institutions, whereby financial pressures from banking partners are used to justify restructures that prioritise the cutting of frontline staff while increasing managerial costs.
  3. That the battle against redundancies and the financialisation of Goldsmiths make GUCU’s dispute one of national significance.

This branch resolves:

  1. To issue a public statement of solidarity with GUCU’s dispute.
  2. To make a contribution to GUCU’s strike fund.
  3. To invite a GUCU striker to a branch meeting.
  4. To write to Frances Corner (Warden) at f.corner@gold.ac.uk and wardensoffice@gold.ac.uk and Dinah Caine (Chair of Council) at d.caine@gold.ac.uk expressing opposition to the redundancies and restructuring.
  5. To actively support and publicise GUCU’s dispute, strike days and campaign events through social media, trade union contacts and beyond.

SECOND OPEN LETTER TO PROFESSOR JULIA BUCKINGHAM (BRUNEL VICE CHANCELLOR AND PRESIDENT) FROM STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (BRUNEL UCU BRANCH CHAIR)

1st November 2021

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

Thank you for your letter that I received on 29 October 2021, in response to my earlier letter to you (dated 25 October 2021). On the one hand, I am disappointed that you will allow your comments on the Professional Pensions Web site (8 October 2021) to stand. On the other hand, I am heartened by your apparent acknowledgement that Brunel UCU members can safely:

(1) Vote during the current pensions and pay ballot,

(2) Vote for industrial action (and action short of strike), and

(3) Engage in industrial action (and action short of strike) without fear of retaliation from members of Brunel senior management.

Accordingly, I shall communicate your acknowledgement to Brunel UCU members as a whole.

Thank you

Yours Sincerely

STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (BRUNEL UCU BRANCH CHAIR)

RESPONSE FROM PROFESSOR JULIA BUCKINGHAM (BRUNEL VICE CHANCELLOR AND PRESIDENT) TO STANLEY O. GAINES, JR. (BRUNEL UCU BRANCH CHAIR)

28 October 2021

Dear Dr Gaines,

I write further to UCU’s open letter dated 25th October 2021 regarding my statement to
Professional Pensions concerning the USS pensions dispute.

While I appreciate that UCU may not agree with my statement, as a university leader and a spokesperson for UUK, it remains my view that changes to the scheme are unfortunately necessary if we are to avoid unaffordable contribution increases for both employees and employers. Without reforms to the scheme, the USS Trustee has confirmed it will impose contribution rises from April 2022, rising to 18.8% for members and 38.2% for employers by 2023, to address the scheme deficit.

I am sure we can all agree on the importance of a good pension provision and I am concerned that we will see an even greater number of staff leave or not join USS because the contribution rates are unaffordable.

My statement, while not specific to Brunel, recognises the impact of further pension contribution rises for universities at a time of already great financial challenge and university leaders are indeed concerned about the impact of such increases on the financial sustainability of their institution. My comments are not meant in any way to cause alarm or voter suppression but instead reflect the uncomfortable reality that some employers will face if we are unable to shore up USS by making changes that guarantee good benefits without significant additional costs.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Julia Buckingham
Vice-Chancellor and President