Where’s the Money Going?

Those of us who are perhaps a little longer in the tooth, or at the very least have a few years of service under their belts, will possibly recall that the previous Vice Chancellor Professor Mark Cleary was readily sympathetic to the UCU branch view that deductions made to pay would most usefully be redirected to student use. Accordingly, he agreed to make sure that savings in staff pay made as a result of strike action would be deposited in the Student Hardship Fund.

Despite the passage of time your LA Committee agrees that this approach is as relevant now as it was then, and hopes that the present administration is equally sympathetic to this point of view.


University appears to rectify past strike deductions

Reports are beginning to come in of members being notified of repayment of strike deductions to rectify the error of deducting at the rate of 1/260th rather than 1/365th after previous action.

If this is the case then it would appear that finally the University has conceded that the Supreme Court is the superior authority on these matters, and not as it previously appeared to suggest, our own HR department – a victory for common sense as well as UCU Bradford LA!

DEADLINE FOR RE-BALLOT – 16 February 2018

UCU recently announced that there would be a further ballot of the seven branches whose members voted YES to action but failed to meet a 50% participation threshold, of which the University of Bradford was one.

Your LA Committee did uncover significant errors within the database held at HQ, and calculate that those errors contributed significantly (and almost certainly critically) to our failure to meet the participation threshold, which is important to recognise as we enter the second ballot.

Put simply, your vote counted last time, and there was a clear majority of participants voting YES to strike action (84.3%).

The ballot opens on Friday 2nd February, and is open for just two weeks, so it is important that you look out for your ballot paper and return it promptly using the enclosed pre-paid envelope.

As before, we stress that how you vote is a matter for you and your conscience; it is perhaps even more important in this second ballot nevertheless, that participation levels meet the required threshold to make the vote legal and valid. Voting ensures that the democratic rights of you and your colleagues are preserved and their voices are heard. Failure to do so is more than just personal choice; it has the potential to remove that choice from union colleagues by rendering the ballot invalid.

Please cast your vote and take any opportunity to encourage those around you to do so as well.

Bradford’s Ballot – Don’t be Diverted

By now members will have been advised of the outcome of the national ballot and also the detail of the local outcome here at Bradford University.

At the national level it is clear that there is overwhelming support from members for action to address the shockingly draconian and damaging posturing of our employers in respect of pensions and benefits, however the local picture appears at least on the face of it to be less conclusive.

There are a couple of facts that one might like to consider:                                                   

Firstly, the membership list used in the Bradford ballot included 33 former members of staff, some of whom will have moved to other institutions, others out of the sector altogether.   Bradford LA did advise HQ before the opening of the ballot but it appears too late for the data to be fed through to the Electoral Reform Service.

If one assumes that those individuals did not receive a ballot paper (sent to Bradford in error) or were ineligible (not in HE employment), the maths indicates a participation rate of 53%, and not the 48.5% officially reported.   It is unfortunate therefore that there appears to be no mechanism to rectify this error.

Secondly, and despite the marginal shortfall in participation, the fact remains that amongst those that DID vote, support for a robust stance on this issue compares well with the rest of the sector.

Bradford UCU Local Association Committee are disappointed that the outcome of this ballot means that Bradford will be legally barred from participating in a national programme of action aimed at defending the pensions of ALL academic and related staff.   What is clear however is that the mood at Bradford closely mirrors that of the rest of the sector.


It is regrettable that we have to report that despite a resounding ballot outcome, our employer remains wholly and completely opposed to any compromise, instead insisting that the only solution is a defined contribution scheme and the closure of the defined benefit scheme.   Their position was confirmed at a meeting of the Joint Committee this week, where the Chair used the casting vote in support of UUK representatives.

The inevitable consequence of this outcome is that UCU will be exercising its strike mandate.

BALLOT DEADLINE 19th January 2018 – Now is the Time to Act

As the ballot deadline approaches all members may want to take a moment to consider the importance of exercising their vote.

The Trade Union Bill challenges unions to achieve a 50% turn-out in any ballot for industrial action, and moreover requires that this threshold is achieved AT EVERY WORKPLACE. This means that the failure to meet the threshold at ANY INDIVIDUAL INSTITUTION will lead to that institutions members being banned in law from striking or taking other forms of action.

Your vote is a matter for you and your conscience; it does matter however that participation levels meet the required threshold to make the vote legal and valid.

For that reason and that reason alone we should all exercise our democratic right and cast our vote. Failure to do so is more than just personal choice; it has the potential to remove that choice from union colleagues by rendering the ballot invalid.

Please cast your vote and encourage those around you to do so.

UCU LA Response to VC Briefing

The VC Briefing that was issued in the week before the Christmas Break made for interesting reading as the festive period loomed.

The VC refers to ambitious recruitment targets for 2017/18, as well as a subsequent failure to meet those targets. The briefing goes on to equate that shortfall to a “substantial reduction in income” that will be covered by calling upon financial reserves.

This poses a number of questions:

· Did the targets represent an increase in recruitment over previous years or do we continue to plan for decline?

  • How far off target were we?
  • What does this mean in cash terms?
  • What is the impact in percentage terms on the University’s reserves
  • Does this equate to an operating loss, and of what magnitude?
  • What are the risks to the University of HEFCE intervention due to poor financial performance?

The briefing then turns to the strategy to address what is clearly a worrying development at the end of a period where worrying developments appear to have become rather commonplace.

The assembly of an executive team to look at future student recruitment is announced, a team (I paraphrase) that will “build on our recent student recruitment experiences, learn from these and identify opportunities which we can leverage and exploit so that we are in the best possible position to recruit the numbers of students we need in the future” is proposed.

More questions arise from this announcement:

  • Shouldn’t this already be embedded practice?
  • If it wasn’t, why not?
  • Who is responsible for the University not being sufficiently focussed on recruitment strategy over a sustained period of poor recruitment performance?
  • What next if sustainable levels of recruitment continue to be elusive next year? Subsequent years?

Finally, the briefing makes a commitment to updating us all in recruitment planning in the New Year. I am sure we are all eager to hear that update.

USS Pension – How Does Your VC Vote?

UUK is now consulting USS employers on a UCU proposal to retain the status quo of a Defined Benefit (DB) scheme up to £55,550, but with the accrual rate reduced from 1/75 to 1/80. (DC would remain as is, except that the unpopular voluntary 1% DC match would be eliminated.) This could be funded by a modest increase in contributions — a little more than 2% for employers and 1% for members — but only if USS reverts to the valuation they originally proposed in September. If, however, USS sticks to their revised, more pessimistic November valuation, this proposal will be unaffordable.

Even though 53% of employers accepted the level of investment risk of the September valuation, the opposition of 42% prompted USS to revise their valuation in November by speeding up the shift of the portfolio from growth assets to bonds during the next twenty years.

UCU Bradford LA Committee contacted Prof. Cantor in the week prior to the most recent University Assembly, suggesting that he might like to indicate his and the University’s position regarding USS pensions and proposed changes; regrettably the VC failed to do so and has yet to respond to our request for a statement.

One can perhaps surmise that this deafening silence speaks volumes, and that our employer Is indeed amongst the 42% who UCU urges to revise their position to make this proposal possible. Otherwise, it’s likely that the UUK proposal of 100% DC accrual going forward will be imposed on us come the 23rd January.

UCU Bradford LA Committee will be making yet another request for clarity from the VC, making it clear that an opposition stance and support for the shift to 100% DC is simply incoherent: namely that low risk is intolerable when shared by 350 institutions but high risk is fine when borne by workers individually.