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