Action, not threats required: UCU response to University briefing to staff on action to defend USS

Not content allowing detrimental, unnecessary and unfair changes to the USS pension scheme to be forced through, the University of Bradford management’s Staff Briefing regarding UCU industrial action to defend USS (circulated 7th October) further inflames the dispute with explicit threats to members taking part. Further, their briefing seeks to play on members’ undoubted dedication to students and makes a special appeal to members to consider students with caring responsibilities or special travel needs. Frankly this is bizarre scaremongering and misunderstands the nature of the action members are being asked to take.

Please note, the University of Bradford Staff Briefing is factually incorrect: any UCU member can participate in the action, including those who did not take part in the ballot. This includes staff who have recently joined (or any staff who join now – if you wish to do so, click here).

UCU’s response is detailed below.

We note that there is one positive statement: University management wishes “to reiterate the  University’s desire to play a full part in seeking to resolve the current difficulties in a constructive and positive fashion as speedily as possible”.  They can do this very easily – by playing a “full part” in getting the employers’ side back into negotiation over changes to USS pensions. We will be writing to request that the management do this without delay – and we’ll let you know the response.

UCU response to University Staff Briefing on Industrial Action:

  1. Impact on students: our action is designed to avoid, as far as possible, an impact on students. Your union is asking members to work to contract, not to breach contract. The call is effectively to withdraw the considerable goodwill in our relations with University management, not students. Only in the event that the University responds aggressively (e.g. unwarranted pay deductions) is there a prospect of escalating action in the short term (and again, it will be designed to minimise impact on students). See our blog item on advice to students and
  2.  Attendance at meetings: the UCU is asking you not to attend meetings where your presence is voluntary. You should continue to attend those meetings that are requirements of your role or administrative/academic responsibility. Voluntary meetings might include invitations to join new working groups etc. More detailed advice is available here:
  3. Notification: do I have to notify my manager if participating in working to contract? Working to contract action begins on 10 October.  You are NOT required to tell your employer about your participation unless you are asked in writing by an appropriate person (line manager, HR etc). In that case you should answer truthfully that you are participating as follows:

“I confirm that I am participating in current industrial action organised by UCU, in the form of ‘working to contract’.  UCU advises me that because I am fulfilling all reasonable contractual duties, the employer should not make any unauthorised deductions from my salary.”

Finally, if you are wondering what working to contract means for you as we discussed at the recent LA General Meeting there are lots of things you can do in relation to:

To help you, quick links to relevant University policies to help you with the above responses can be found here

If you need some advice about a response you are intending to take, or if you are worried about a reaction by your manager, please contact the LA immediately (


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