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UUK’s long-term plan?

October 31, 2014

Piccinni_L'AvaroYou will recall that back in 2011 the USS pension scheme was adjusted to introduce a Career Average scheme for new entrants, and we were told that this was necessary to resolve the deficit that then existed. Scheme investments since then have met and surpassed targets and the scheme’s funds have grown faster than the FTSE. So why are we back in the same hole? Are universities blundering from deficit to deficit, or is there a long term plan

The UCU does not agree with the method of calculating the current deficit, and leading financial mathematicians and statisticians last week condemned the manner in which the “predicted salary increases assume a buoyant economy while investment returns assume a recession” (Times Higher) in the calculations, suggesting that the deficit construction is rigged to find the highest possible number. This seems contrary to the Pensions Regulator’s requirement that Trustees do not apply ‘overly prudent’ measures of calculation (Investments and Pensions Europe).

So why would you find the most exaggerated and inflated manner of calculating a deficit?

And let us remember, the pensions benefit cuts that we are being asked to swallow are not directly to address the supposed £8 billion deficit, but are quite clearly put in place to fund an adjusted investment strategy of ‘de-risking’ (see last week’s blog) which will deliberately and knowingly increase the deficit to as much as £13 billion. ‘De-risking’, then, doesn’t mean removing future risk to the scheme. The ‘risk’ that is being removed is the unknowable value of investment return. Of course, over the long term, equities have always out-performed other investment vehicles, but if you need to measure a deficit every three years, you want something more reliable, they argue. ‘De-risking’ is an investment strategy to buy more investments with predictable future income, and sell the equities, stocks and shares, that would have a higher return.

These more reliable investments include government bonds and gilts. The return on these is more predictable than stocks and shares. But also much lower. Because the return is lower, the deficit goes up, not down, but at least they can predict it better (i.e. It is less ‘volatile’). So investment strategy for our USS fund – your and my money – is to be governed by regulatory calculations, not growth planning. This has a number of consequences.

Firstly, the growth of the pension fund will be inhibited. The brakes are applied. The fund has been growing at rates higher than the FTSE in eight out of the last ten years. De-risking will potentially significantly slow down this growth. This in itself  creates risk that the fund might have trouble in meeting future liabilities. Which makes it more likely that in the future they will come back to pare back our benefits further, to make them ‘affordable’ with that smaller pot of cash they have manufactured with de-risking.

Secondly, market forces straightforwardly dictate that the more bonds are bought, the more they cost and the less they yield. So the deficit goes up:

This excess demand for bonds, whether government or corporate, is problematic for pension funds. As the demand for bonds increased, pension funds have been buying these bonds at higher prices. This in turn has pushed down the yields on bonds, thereby increasing the present value of the liabilities that these firms are trying to match; consequently even more bonds have to be purchased to match the liability creating a vicious circle. (Iain Clacher and Peter Moizer, Accounting for Pensions, Leeds University Business School, p. 24)

This is not a sustainable investment strategy, as its short-termism is damaging to the long term health of the scheme. Further, by such big schemes as USS pulling out of the stock market, there is a consequent negative impact on economic growth.

Now, if as an employer your long-term goal was to wind down the scheme or degrade or remove defined benefits, this is exactly what you’d do. Why would the employers want to remove defined benefits from the picture? Because they carry some of the risk embedded in the requirement to pay a defined amount in the future. Much better, surely, to let the employees take all the risk with a defined contributions scheme?

So, if you were an employer that cared more for your burgeoning surpluses than for you staff, not only would you want to inhibit future income from investment growth in order to achieve that long term goal, you would want to further inhibit the growth of the scheme’s investments by also reducing the cash coming in to them. The employers quite clearly have factored this into their proposals. The cap on Additional Voluntary Contributions at 1% of salary is particularly telling in this regard. Why would you restrict people paying voluntarily into a fund that could grow all the faster with more money in it? This is inexplicable unless there is a deliberate plan to reduce income into the investments.

The reduction of employers’ contributions by 4% to 12% on salary over a £50k threshold is another such constriction on funds coming in. Now, back in the 2009 dispute they were trumpeting that our average salary was around this mark. Oddly, today they claim that this £50k threshold will only affect a third of us. Either they were lying then, or they are lying now.

And, let’s face it, the proposal to reduce net employee contributions adds to that, and is a cynical sweetener. All contributions will be at 6.5%, reducing some from 7.5%.

All this reduced income to the scheme puts pressure on investment growth for any future income to pay liabilities. But the de-risking plan to buy low-yield investments knocks that possibility into the long grass. Are you beginning to join the dots yet?

So, if we fail to get defined contributions off of the employers’ wish list, what do you reckon the chances are of a 2017 valuation being constructed to allow them to complete the possible long term plan to remove all risks from their institutional balance sheets and have us all on defined contributions?

Open letter to the VC of the University of York

October 30, 2014

The following letter was sent today to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, who yesterday threatened to stop paying their staff if they participated in legitimate industrial action. If you agree with the sentiment of the letter, please do sign the petition below the letter text.


The form will show you the total number of respondents when you complete it. Here is the total list as of 4:30pm on Friday 31 October (we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments):

. Timestamp Name Comments (Optional)
. 30/10/2014 06:22:58 Mark Taylor-Batty A shocking means of sending industrial relations back to the dark ages.
. 30/10/2014 06:27:20 Professor Steven French
. 30/10/2014 06:27:32 Lesley McGorrigan
. 30/10/2014 06:27:53 Ben Plumpton
. 30/10/2014 06:28:40 Dr Brendon Nicholls How do expect to recruit talent if you don’t remunerate it fairly?
. 30/10/2014 06:29:31 Dr N.A.Maughan
. 30/10/2014 06:34:54 Dr Nick Efford Please reconsider this hasty and unnecessarily provocative action. The best way forward here is dialogue; 100% pay docking is ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ and will inevitably lead to the much more disruptive consequence of withdrawal of labour. This tactic can only harm the institutions where is it applied, causing serious damage to students’ education, to institutional reputation and to employer-employee relations.
. 30/10/2014 06:35:29 Sean Wallis President, UCL UCU
. 30/10/2014 06:36:46 Saira Weiner
. 30/10/2014 06:39:35 Patricia McManus Not this time. We, our Union, didn’t stand up for those branches which got picked off through the imposition of punitive pay-docking on some branches during the pay campaign of 13/14. Now we need to stand together against the bullies at York and elsewhere. They are reverting to C19th mill-owner methods, so can we: an injury to one is an injury to all. We need a national response.
. 30/10/2014 06:39:45 Professor Laurie Stras, University of Southampton
. 30/10/2014 06:43:24 Sam Morecroft
. 30/10/2014 06:46:25 Ann Blair I do not see in your communication any indication that having refused to accept partial performance, staff who wish to participate in their action continue to perform all of their other activities on a purely voluntary basis. Perhaps this should be clarified and the potential impact on students and colleagues assessed.
. 30/10/2014 06:48:32 Mark Walkley
. 30/10/2014 06:49:50 Craig Brandist
. 30/10/2014 06:50:09 Jo McNeill
. 30/10/2014 06:50:19 Tom Hickey
. 30/10/2014 06:50:44 Rick Saull, Queen Mary University of London
. 30/10/2014 06:52:11 Sue Abbott
. 30/10/2014 06:53:43 Mike Cushman As a York alumnus I am appalled at this threat.
. 30/10/2014 07:00:36 James Newell The arrogance is breathtaking. Strike action is needed to communicate to Prof. Lamberts and others in his position that this sort of thing will not be tolerated.
. 30/10/2014 07:02:47 Dr Daragh O’Reilly
. 30/10/2014 07:09:03 Amanda Williams
. 30/10/2014 07:11:50 James Cussens
. 30/10/2014 07:12:05 Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL)
. 30/10/2014 07:15:16 Dr D P Steenson
. 30/10/2014 07:16:58 Dr Sharon Kivland
. 30/10/2014 07:18:27 Paul Blackledge
. 30/10/2014 07:22:25 Luke Yates
. 30/10/2014 07:23:59 Denis A Nicole
. 30/10/2014 07:25:19 Dr David Stewart As I York Uni Alumni I am disgusted by this move.
. 30/10/2014 07:25:29 Beth Curtis As a current undergraduate student at the University of York I am appalled that the University has decided to penalise its unionised staff by docking 100% of pay. Academics at University of York – which include UCU members – work exceedingly hard under pressing conditions, and this move not only is a snub to the idea of organised action, but also punishes those workers who are already struggling. I offer my complete solidarity to staff planning to strike or take action short of strike. Academic work, like any other form of work, deserves to be paid properly and fairly – and academics, like other workers, have the right to organise, unionise, and demand better working conditions.
. 30/10/2014 07:26:48 James Harland This type of action is blackmail. Though I am fortunate enough not to be one of them, many postgraduates who teach are dependent on earnings from teaching to live and continue their studies, and this sort of action is tantamount to destroying any possibility of these sorts of students participating in the organisation of labour – a clear violation of human rights.
. 30/10/2014 07:27:00 Fabienne Emmerich
. 30/10/2014 07:27:30 Susan hunt Terrible reaction by York VC. Please urgently rethink this action.
. 30/10/2014 07:27:35 Stephen Bates
. 30/10/2014 07:29:11 James Eaden
. 30/10/2014 07:32:37 Jeremy Toner
. 30/10/2014 07:33:01 Mike Holmes
. 30/10/2014 07:35:32 Geoff Williams I think the letter says it all. This tactic and the reasons given for it are appalling and should be condemned as completely out of line with industrial relations in the 21st century.
. 30/10/2014 07:35:51 Ioana Cerasella Chis – University of Birmingham student
. 30/10/2014 07:35:57 Stephen Lax
. 30/10/2014 07:38:03 Nicola Ginsburgh
. 30/10/2014 07:39:16 Grant Buttars
. 30/10/2014 07:41:18 Tim Chown Shameful.
. 30/10/2014 07:44:15 Richard McEwan UCU Vice Chair FEC
. 30/10/2014 07:45:26 Dr Jamie Melrose
. 30/10/2014 07:45:32 David Milne
. 30/10/2014 07:46:35 simon middleton
. 30/10/2014 07:49:42 Victoria Blake
. 30/10/2014 07:49:57 Dr David Lyddon
. 30/10/2014 07:51:10 Ulrike Heuer
. 30/10/2014 07:51:20 John Langley This can be resolved through open and transparent negotiation and recognition of the flaws in the argument for change. Enter meaningful negotiations and avoid this.
. 30/10/2014 07:52:11 Alex Lancaster Disgraceful attempt to undermine legitimate industrial action by the University of York. Another example of how out of touch these institutions are with their employees – so much for creating a sense of belonging and self worth – what a sick joke.
. 30/10/2014 07:53:48 Dr Julie Hearn
. 30/10/2014 07:58:18 Professor Malcolm J W Povey
. 30/10/2014 07:59:58 Sarah Staniland
. 30/10/2014 08:00:32 Xanthe Whittaker
. 30/10/2014 08:01:06 Helen MacCarthy
. 30/10/2014 08:01:06 Professor Catherine Pope
. 30/10/2014 08:01:10 Ioanna Ioannou
. 30/10/2014 08:03:42 Jean Kellie It is shameful that such an intimidating position has been taken by the VC at York when UCU members are initiating action not only in defence of their deferred pay but also in defence of higher education sector standards of staff recruitment and retention.

These actions should be applauded not punished. Why is it the case that defending the sector so often falls to ordinary front-line staff, while senior managers, who also have much to lose personally and strategically, take dogmatic positions to undermine such actions?

. 30/10/2014 08:05:52 Dr Eric Tyrer
. 30/10/2014 08:07:55 John Warden
. 30/10/2014 08:07:58 Ewan Margrave
. 30/10/2014 08:08:11 Ian Manborde
. 30/10/2014 08:08:49 Lee Humber
. 30/10/2014 08:09:37 Allan Potofsky
. 30/10/2014 08:10:41 Elwyn Outrageous behaviour by York University.
. 30/10/2014 08:10:47 professor Paul Stewart
. 30/10/2014 08:11:54 Lynn Hyams
. 30/10/2014 08:12:03 Paul Brook
. 30/10/2014 08:12:39 Dr Jelena Timotijevic
. 30/10/2014 08:12:44 Elane heffernan Solidarity
. 30/10/2014 08:13:29 David Holly
. 30/10/2014 08:15:05 Mollie Staples
. 30/10/2014 08:15:50 Mark Cresswell Durham University
. 30/10/2014 08:24:29 Julian Goodare
. 30/10/2014 08:26:09 Anna Paraskevopoulou
. 30/10/2014 08:26:19 Mark Campbell London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
. 30/10/2014 08:28:02 Steve Davies
. 30/10/2014 08:29:07 Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh
. 30/10/2014 08:33:53 Say Burgin
. 30/10/2014 08:38:39 Mike Lammiman
. 30/10/2014 08:41:53 Dr Talat Ahmed
. 30/10/2014 08:43:00 Steve French
. 30/10/2014 08:48:55 Alan Roe
. 30/10/2014 08:52:03 Josh Bowker
. 30/10/2014 08:52:06 Sydney Calkin
. 30/10/2014 08:52:55 Andrew Smith
. 30/10/2014 08:53:44 Melanie Simms
. 30/10/2014 09:00:40 Professor Sian Moore
. 30/10/2014 16:08:34 Nadia El Yacoubi
. 30/10/2014 16:08:54 Claudia Hopkins
. 30/10/2014 16:10:56 Edmund Schluessel, NUS National Executive Council
. 30/10/2014 16:13:38 Prof Mark Stuart
. 30/10/2014 16:29:02 James Richards Disgraceful behaviour and complete and utter double-standards.
. 30/10/2014 16:32:04 sean vernell
. 30/10/2014 16:35:19 Ceri Owen
. 30/10/2014 16:37:54 Andreas Bieler
. 30/10/2014 16:38:25 Thomas Swann
. 30/10/2014 16:44:15 Catriona Kennedy
. 30/10/2014 17:00:38 Dr. Matthew Malek Agree completely! This sort of union busting should have gone the way of other 19th and early-20th century dinosaurs.
. 30/10/2014 17:02:27 JDA Brown
. 30/10/2014 17:04:49 Simon Higgins
. 30/10/2014 17:06:31 Lynne Chamberlain If this threat is carried out we trade unionists will display our own ethics. You can be sure that we won’t be “friendly” but will certainly promote our own sense of belonging and worth. It’s called solidarity with lecturers at the University of Leeds.

Lynne Chamberlain, Secretary, Greenwich & Bexley TUC.

. 30/10/2014 17:10:59 Heidi Baseler
. 30/10/2014 17:12:55 Hazel Conley
. 30/10/2014 17:13:41 Jez Wells
. 30/10/2014 17:18:59 Dr Anna Fenemore
. 30/10/2014 17:21:04 Joe Street
. 30/10/2014 17:23:53 Fergus Nicol
. 30/10/2014 17:28:03 Jony Hudson Lecturer, physics, Imperial College London
. 30/10/2014 17:29:57 Steve Mckenzie If your outrageous and provocative action escalates the action then you have brought it on yourself
. 30/10/2014 17:37:44 Alex Bamji
. 30/10/2014 17:38:27 Dr Michael Brown
. 30/10/2014 17:40:44 carl kulka This is necessary to sign as it sends a message to dictators that we will not stand for being treated like crap anymore
. 30/10/2014 17:42:08 Kirsty Priestley
. 30/10/2014 17:54:29 Pam Clarke
. 30/10/2014 18:03:04 Steve Jefferys
. 30/10/2014 18:03:45 Prof. Ulrik Egede
. 30/10/2014 18:06:20 peter thompson
. 30/10/2014 18:07:42 Robin Macdonald
. 30/10/2014 18:08:21 Dr Charles Umney
. 30/10/2014 18:12:32 harkirit boparai
. 30/10/2014 18:17:44 Adam Kelly
. 30/10/2014 18:22:25 Kevin McManus
. 30/10/2014 18:24:24 Josh Allen As a usually proud alumni I’m not impressed.
. 30/10/2014 18:30:20 Patrick Lally Michelson
. 30/10/2014 18:32:24 Simon Daniels
. 30/10/2014 18:33:27 Fiona Brown
. 30/10/2014 18:37:12 Horen Voskeritsian
. 30/10/2014 18:43:30 Carole Haines
. 30/10/2014 18:44:40 Claire Jones
. 30/10/2014 18:46:07 Timothy Perera
. 30/10/2014 18:47:00 William Gould
. 30/10/2014 18:58:43 Stephen Clark Disgraceful bullying from York’s Vice Chancellor.
. 30/10/2014 19:01:02 Nadia Edmond
. 30/10/2014 19:01:56 David Hopkins
. 30/10/2014 19:03:14 Nadia Edmond
. 30/10/2014 19:03:30 Ivan Moody
. 30/10/2014 19:05:30 S Noor
. 30/10/2014 19:08:11 Toby Lincoln
. 30/10/2014 19:11:41 Jane Henderson
. 30/10/2014 19:22:21 Matthew Foulkes I am an external examiner for the University of York’s Physics Department. If York University implements this threat I shall resign immediately. It will be difficult for the University to hold its New Year examinations without external examiners to vet the examination papers and approve the results.
. 30/10/2014 19:22:32 Briony Thomas
. 30/10/2014 19:23:11 paul bradley
. 30/10/2014 19:33:17 Colin Hendrie
. 30/10/2014 19:37:37 Moritz Föllmer
. 30/10/2014 19:47:27 Daniel Katz
. 30/10/2014 19:52:06 Leah Watt
. 30/10/2014 19:55:45 Dakxin Chhara It’s totally colonial approach…
. 30/10/2014 19:55:53 peter woodward here here !!
. 30/10/2014 20:01:49 Peter Rankin Former University of York student
. 30/10/2014 20:13:59 Jo Ingold
. 30/10/2014 20:17:12 Katharine Aylett
. 30/10/2014 20:25:43 Dr John Wills
. 30/10/2014 20:44:01 Steve Fleetwood
. 30/10/2014 20:50:47 Eliza Alderdice
. 30/10/2014 20:53:10 Sasha Handley
. 30/10/2014 20:58:38 Dr Yasemin J. Erden
. 30/10/2014 21:22:50 Jayne mugglestone
. 30/10/2014 21:26:24 Daniel Scroop
. 30/10/2014 21:41:35 Fanis Missirlis I am reminded of this letter from last year’s dispute between the academic body and those presently in charge of University governance…

We are writing to ask Queen Mary University of London to withdraw its threat to deduct a whole day’s pay for strike action of two hours, which, if implemented, we believe would be unlawful, unjust and likely to seriously damage employment relations at Queen Mary.

As University and College Union members we are engaged in lawfully conducted industrial action as called by our union nationally, following a democratically mandated ballot in favour of action in pursuit of our pay campaign; the case for which has been fully put to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association.

We feel justified in pursuit of our pay claim, for current and future staff, and for ensuring that universities remain places that attract and retain the best qualified staff. It includes important demands about addressing gender pay inequality and low pay, and therefore is about fairness for all university staff. As such, we believe the strikes are a legitimate action to progress our claims, following the refusal of employers to negotiate further in response to the two days of action last year. Instead, the employers have imposed a below-inflation pay increase of 1 per cent, when we understand that the university sector is in good enough financial shape to be able to meet UCU demands for a fair resolution to the dispute after the falls in staff pay over the past four years.

We believe Queen Mary’s threat to deduct a day’s pay for two hours of work stoppage is an unreasonable and disproportionate response which does more harm to students than would our strike action. A reasonable response would be to seek to minimise disruption.

In addition to risking further damage to our students’ education, we believe Queen Mary’s disproportionate response – which we understand to be unique among Russell Group universities – damages the goodwill of staff, on which Queen Mary as a community relies.

Members are engaging in industrial action in good faith, following a democratically agreed instruction from the union. Queen Mary management, on the other hand, is using heavy-handed tactics at odds with our aims of supporting social justice and that risk bringing the institution into legal conflict with the UCU, potentially costing the institution large amounts of money and seriously damaging employee relations and the institution’s reputation.

Mr Jeremy Acland

Mr Nandaraja Obafemi Adewumi

Dr Paul Anderson

Mr Stuart Anderson

Mr David Andrew

Dr Rachel Ashworth

Dr Nadia Atia

Dr Elena Baglioni

Dr Judith Bara

Dr Mark Baxendale

Professor Hagit Borer

Dr Andrea Brady

Dr Caroline Brennan

Ms. Lynne Campell

Dr Liam Campling

Dr Hazel Conley

Ms. Katherine Connelly

Ms. Joanne Cooper

Ms. Laura Cox

Dr Brendan Curran

Dr Harriet Curtis

Dr Rowland Curtis

Dr Madeleine Davis

Dr Patrick Diamond

Dr Elena Doldor

Mr Martin Donkin

Mr Greg Dow

Dr Alan Drew

Professor (Emeritus) Jeff Duckett

Dr Bridget Escolme

Professor Denise Ferreira da Silva

Mr Mark Ferris

Ms. Siobhan Finney

Dr Jamie Forth

Professor Stephen Fox

Dr Clive Gabay

Mr Jack Gain

Dr Rachael Gilmour

Professor Brigitte Granville

Professor Gerald Hanlon

Professor Jen Harvie

Dr Rhodri Hayward

Professor Geraldine Healy

Dr Alfred Hiatt

Ms. Louise Holloway

Ms. Alecca Honein

Mr Tom Horner

Dr Nick Hostettler

Dr Peter Howarth

Ms Roisin Hurst

Mr William Hutton

Dr Yasmin Ibrahim

Mr Julian Ingle

Professor Bill Jackson

Professor Sukhdev Johal

Dr Domini Johnson

Dr Lee Jones

Professor Shirley Jordan

Dr Moira Kelly

Ms. Phillipa Kennedy

Professor Ray Kiely

Mr Jim Kinchesh

Dr Graham Kirkwood

Professor Gill Kirton

Dr Elias Kondilis

Dr Norbert Krauss

Dr Theo Kreouzis

Ms. Karen Kruzycka

Professor Raymond Kuhn

Dr Stella Ladi

Dr Murrough Landon

Ms. Rosemary Langridge

Mr David Lawunmi

Ms. Rashné Limki

Mr Andrew Loveland

Ms. Lynne Magorrian

Dr Giuliano Maielli

Dr Yioryos Makedonis

Dr Matteo Mandarini

Ms. Athena Mandis

Mr Chris Mansfield

Ms. Sally Mitchell

Dr Jens-Dominik Mueller

Professor Thomas Mueller

Dr Rainbow Murray

Ms. Eileen Nazha

Professor Richard Nobles

Ms. Hazel Norbury

Dr Bernard North

Mr Anselm Nye

Mr David Nye

Professor Miles Ogborn

Dr Paulo Oliva

Mr Edward Oliver

Mr Simon Pate

Dr Manuela Perrotta

Dr Elsa Petit

Dr Chris Phillips

Mr David Pick

Dr David Pinder

Dr Katy Price

Dr John Puddefoot

Dr Matthew Purver

Dr Amitabh Rai

Professor (Emeritus) Edward Randall

Dr Yossef Rapoport

Dr Christopher Reid

Dr Nicholas Ridout

Ms. Gill Ritchie

Ms. Eleanor Roberts

Professor Jacqueline Rose

Professor Mike Rowlinson

Dr Jill Russell

Dr Rodolfo Russo

Dr Richard Saull

Professor Andreas Schonle

Professor Bill Schwarz

Ms. Rebekah Shaw

Dr Robbie Shilliam

Ms. Mira Shapur

Mr Paul Sims

Dr Fabrizio Smeraldi

Dr Kelvin Smith

Dr Kimberly Soga

Dr Dan Stowell

Dr. Ahu Tatli

Professor Barbara Taylor

Dr Lasse Thomassen

Mr Harold Toms

Mr Alen Toplisek

Dr Nadia Valman

Dr Roberto Veneziani

Ms. Kirsty Wadsley

Ms. Nancy Wallace

Mr Robert Waters

Dr Jeffrey Webber

Dr Brian Wecht

Dr Martin Welton

Dr Guy Westwell

Dr Graham White

Ms. Sherrin White

Dr Tessa Whitehouse

Professor Geraint Wiggins

Professor Robert Wilson

Ms. Stacie Withers

Mr Andrew Wright

Dr Francis Wright

Dr Tessa Wright

. 30/10/2014 21:42:34 Lynn Blake
. 30/10/2014 22:01:32 Alex Byron
. 30/10/2014 22:09:14 Janos Szuhanszki
. 30/10/2014 22:12:24 Dr Ben Schiller As a former employee of the University of York with fond memories of my time there I am aghast by this threat to the right of workers to act in defence of their rights. It also demonstrates a profound challenge to and rejection of a history of trade unionism within the university system which has normally been typified by a mutual recognition of the goodwill of both sides in any confrontation. I hope that you will therefore reconsider this rash and destructive policy.
. 30/10/2014 22:16:24 Nadje Al-Ali
. 30/10/2014 22:21:19 Dr DL Clements There is no place for macho management in a modern ‘friendly… informal’ and ‘flat management structure’ university.

Decide what you are – a university principle or a bully. You can’t have it both ways.


. 30/10/2014 22:25:36 Elinor Rooks As an alumnus of the University of York who has recently submitted her PhD at the University of Leeds, I’m shocked and furious to hear about Professor Lamberts’ plans to dock the pay for staff taking part in legitimate industrial action. As a PGTA at Leeds, I took part in a strike, and even though I knew how important the strike was for my future and for the lives of all my colleagues, it still made me sad to deprive my students of their seminar on the novel Potiki. Staff undertake action short of a strike because they are so committed to their students and to their academic work. It probably radically undermines their ability to take effective industrial action, but it speaks to their love of their vocation. To punish staff for taking even this limited action is draconian and unconscionable. This is not what the University of York is about. This is not what any institution that even pretends to value academic freedom is about. This is shameful and obscene.
. 30/10/2014 22:32:44 Anna Boermel
. 30/10/2014 22:58:12 Waqas Tufail
. 30/10/2014 22:59:34 Stuart White
. 30/10/2014 23:00:45 Tom Webster This is straightforward bullying. The threat to define work undertaken as ‘voluntary’ is surely dubious in legal terms and definitely dubious in moral terms.
. 30/10/2014 23:02:08 Thomas Wroblewski
. 30/10/2014 23:16:36 Rob Wotherspoon
. 30/10/2014 23:20:10 holger afflerbach
. 30/10/2014 23:21:43 Dr Geoff Waddington You should be ashamed of this draconian threat. What good do you think you are doing your own or the University of York’s reputation? Shame on you.
. 30/10/2014 23:23:12 Alex
. 30/10/2014 23:32:26 Rafe Hallett
. 30/10/2014 23:38:59 Katy Cheeswright
. 30/10/2014 23:57:56 Peter Birkinshaw
. 31/10/2014 00:26:41 Gemma Betros
. 31/10/2014 00:47:00 Mark Wilson
. 31/10/2014 00:54:52 Jessica Batty
. 31/10/2014 02:50:30 Dr Karen Evans
. 31/10/2014 03:23:24 Tim Holmes
. 31/10/2014 04:03:02 Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee
. 31/10/2014 07:01:49 Byron McGinley It is an utter disgrace that any institutional body will behave in such a damning way to try and cow staff to roll over and accept conditions that are detrimental to their futures.
. 31/10/2014 07:32:27 Mark Baxendale Soilidarity
. 31/10/2014 07:32:27 Juliet Tofield
. 31/10/2014 07:43:45 Rachel Feury
. 31/10/2014 07:48:26 Dr. Nicholas Grant
. 31/10/2014 07:59:03 Rachel Henderson
. 31/10/2014 08:00:28 Mirka Virtanen
. 31/10/2014 08:01:31 Sola Adeyemi
. 31/10/2014 08:01:40 Gill
. 31/10/2014 08:02:02 Tom Miller
. 31/10/2014 08:06:18 Ashli Mullen
. 31/10/2014 08:10:18 Lewis Bingle
. 31/10/2014 08:22:42 Richard Walshaw
. 31/10/2014 08:28:25 Ian Wood
. 31/10/2014 08:28:53 Belinda Washington I have never been prouder than I am now that I rejected the place offered at your University. Your dishonourable conduct taints everything associated with your University.
. 31/10/2014 08:28:58 Akira O’Connor
. 31/10/2014 08:37:12 Andrew Hobbs
. 31/10/2014 08:38:00 Laura King
. 31/10/2014 08:49:53 Gabriella Alberti
. 31/10/2014 09:13:18 Kristin Bourassa
. 31/10/2014 09:14:56 Elton Barker
. 31/10/2014 09:17:41 Eleanor Kirk
. 31/10/2014 09:30:32 Natasha Greenwood
. 31/10/2014 09:31:22 John Armstrong
. 31/10/2014 09:34:30 Dr Matthew Frank
. 31/10/2014 09:35:06 Barbara Samaluk
. 31/10/2014 09:36:50 Melanie Brunner
. 31/10/2014 09:47:21 Dr Ann-Marie Einhaus
. 31/10/2014 09:51:51 John Williamson This is not an acceptable way to deal with the grievances of employees. My daughter is currently making her University applications and, like many others, is likely to be put off York by such a draconian and high-handed approach to industrial relations.
. 31/10/2014 10:00:17 Richard Beresford
. 31/10/2014 10:00:56 John Dawson
. 31/10/2014 10:05:11 Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson
. 31/10/2014 10:07:36 Peter O’Connor
. 31/10/2014 10:16:24 mario nain
. 31/10/2014 10:16:39 Dr Fiona Shaw
. 31/10/2014 10:17:44 Ben Marsh
. 31/10/2014 10:25:18 John Westmoreland
. 31/10/2014 10:41:31 Andrew Heath (Sheffield)
. 31/10/2014 10:42:55 Chris Phillips
. 31/10/2014 10:43:26 Lena Wånggren
. 31/10/2014 10:43:43 Monika Smialkowska
. 31/10/2014 10:44:23 Len Bottaci
. 31/10/2014 10:45:48 Owen Green
. 31/10/2014 10:47:12 George Bickers
. 31/10/2014 10:48:38 Fiona Stewart Completely disproportionate response, making the University of York look like a dreadful place to work.
. 31/10/2014 10:48:49 Rose Veitch Branch Secretary, UCU Hackney Community College


. 31/10/2014 10:48:54 Andy Coles
. 31/10/2014 10:49:50 Professor David Pattie
. 31/10/2014 10:50:15 Matteo Mandarini
. 31/10/2014 10:52:34 Karen Throsby
. 31/10/2014 10:53:12 Professor Brian Ward
. 31/10/2014 10:54:06 Carlo Morelli Vice President Dundee UCU
. 31/10/2014 10:55:56 Jens-Dominik Mueller
. 31/10/2014 10:56:33 Ruth Wo;lomspm
. 31/10/2014 10:58:29 Gareth Tyson
. 31/10/2014 10:59:30 Dr Les Levidow
. 31/10/2014 11:01:19 Harry Ziegler
. 31/10/2014 11:04:08 Brian Harding
. 31/10/2014 11:04:51 Paul Adams One out-ALL OUT!!!!
. 31/10/2014 11:05:42 Dr Steven Le Comber
. 31/10/2014 11:05:50 Alec McAllister As a York alumnus, I am deeply disappointed and ashamed to see this absurd and unjust decision. Workers join unions for protection against bad management, and this sort of behaviour illustrates precisely why they need to do so. This action will obviously deter good staff from working at York; what effect will it have on applications to study at York?
. 31/10/2014 11:06:49 Anthony Ince This is a move to intimidate and bully wokers, plain and simple.
. 31/10/2014 11:08:22 Alecca Honein ‘might be expected of a nineteenth century mill owner, but it has absolutely no place in a university system”
. 31/10/2014 11:17:47 John Puddefoot
. 31/10/2014 11:18:15 Sam Halliday
. 31/10/2014 11:18:36 Joshua Skoczylis
. 31/10/2014 11:18:45 Peter Dabnichki New members of the Russell group are leading the way to mastering a totalitarian system.
. 31/10/2014 11:23:15 Primali Paranagamage
. 31/10/2014 11:23:44 chris jack
. 31/10/2014 11:25:43 Nigel Morris
. 31/10/2014 11:28:17 Greg Dow
. 31/10/2014 11:28:23 Gordon Haynes
. 31/10/2014 11:28:28 Paul Goddard
. 31/10/2014 11:28:29 Prof Raymond Kuhn
. 31/10/2014 11:31:27 Peter Matthews
. 31/10/2014 11:32:16 Alexander Lock
. 31/10/2014 11:33:01 Nigel Allinson
. 31/10/2014 11:33:05 Neil Lazarus University of Warwick
. 31/10/2014 11:39:22 Hagit Borer
. 31/10/2014 11:41:22 Sue Harris Shameful behaviour.
. 31/10/2014 11:43:06 Karen Walker
. 31/10/2014 11:43:50 ian grigg-spall outrageous decision by york management -this is an attack on every union and a total shut down of the university and all other universities should follow
. 31/10/2014 11:45:14 Jonathon Carter
. 31/10/2014 11:46:48 Bruce Baker By announcing 100% docking of pay, you have put York at the forefront of a modern industrial dispute approach to higher education. Sadly, that is exactly the wrong place for a leader of a university to be. Universities are built upon an ideal of collegiality, a value which still underpins academic life even if those who manage academics have forgotten it. I suspect that in a few years’ time when collegiality has finally been eradicated from higher education, managers (who, it should be remembered, work for academics, not the other way around) will regret it. Teachers, researchers, students, and the rest of the public who benefit from our work definitely will.
. 31/10/2014 11:53:27 Jane Clarbour
. 31/10/2014 11:53:44 Dan Lawrence
. 31/10/2014 11:54:54 Graham White
. 31/10/2014 11:58:20 Helen Shaw
. 31/10/2014 12:02:26 Andrew Yeadon
. 31/10/2014 12:03:05 Justin Yoo
. 31/10/2014 12:03:35 Simon Davies
. 31/10/2014 12:04:45 Abi Knowles
. 31/10/2014 12:06:25 Liam Campling QMUL
. 31/10/2014 12:09:52 Daniel Eddisford
. 31/10/2014 12:12:27 Phil
. 31/10/2014 12:12:51 Joanna Bullimore
. 31/10/2014 12:14:13 Phil Prosser
. 31/10/2014 12:18:22 Alan Drew Shocking bully boy tactics by York University. So much for their friendly and approachable management they pride themselves on. Just how is it in the university’s interest to carry out this action? And how is it in their interest to back the diabolical pension reform proposed by UUK?

One thing is for sure – I won’t be engaging with York in the future if they carry out these threats. This policy is only going to make their academics move elsewhere, it will weaken their university. Moreover, the changes to our pensions more generally will only weaken the whole UK sector. For example, the USA where higher income, lower taxes and better spending power results in easily four times the relative income.

. 31/10/2014 12:19:02 Erin Bell
. 31/10/2014 12:20:28 Lucy Halliday
. 31/10/2014 12:21:24 Robert Byford
. 31/10/2014 12:33:09 Sarah Campbell Solidarity with our comrades in York. An injury to one is an injury to all.
. 31/10/2014 12:36:03 Dr J Allen-Collinson
. 31/10/2014 12:36:50 Leena Kumarappan
. 31/10/2014 12:37:15 Alex Reid
. 31/10/2014 12:42:25 Dr Carol Rea Happy staff do better work and interect more effectively with colleagues and students, totally counterproductive
. 31/10/2014 12:59:08 Theo Kreouzis Shame on you York!
. 31/10/2014 13:03:11 Franco Vivaldi Sylvester Stallone management style has arrived to UK academia.
. 31/10/2014 13:06:10 Dr Renee Prendergast
. 31/10/2014 13:10:56 Dr. Owen Clayton
. 31/10/2014 13:12:16 Kevin Donovan (Dr)
. 31/10/2014 13:13:51 Alex Frankell
. 31/10/2014 13:14:33 Armineh Marghussian
. 31/10/2014 13:20:22 Dr. Stephe Harrop
. 31/10/2014 13:39:09 Paul Kirby Lecturer, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
. 31/10/2014 13:43:46 Alistair Brown
. 31/10/2014 13:45:18 C Downs
. 31/10/2014 13:48:33 Professor (Emeritus) David Parekr
. 31/10/2014 14:09:20 Dr. Jeffery R. Webber, Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London
. 31/10/2014 14:11:50 Helen Rogerson
. 31/10/2014 14:12:44 Jennifer Tremblay
. 31/10/2014 14:12:51 Joad Raymond
. 31/10/2014 14:17:23 Dr Manuel Barcia Paz A flashback to anti-Labour policies from the 19th century. I’m really hoping that you change your mind.
. 31/10/2014 14:18:38 Lucy Potter
. 31/10/2014 14:20:13 Tessa Whitehouse
. 31/10/2014 14:21:53 Angela Sealy
. 31/10/2014 14:23:43 Kelvin Smith UCU QMUL
. 31/10/2014 14:25:59 Fr. Antony Lester This proposed action against staff does not accord with the spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue I have come to value in almost 20 years contact with the University of York for 13 of which I have had the privilege to serve as catholic chaplain.

As a part of the university community but not employed by the university I would like take advantage of the freedom this offers and express the hope that the Vice Chancellor review his response.

. 31/10/2014 14:30:16 David Breslin
. 31/10/2014 14:31:01 Thomas Meares
. 31/10/2014 14:39:06 Patrick Deneny
. 31/10/2014 14:40:05 Meera Sabaratnam
. 31/10/2014 14:48:25 Waseem Yaqoob
. 31/10/2014 14:48:54 Kimberly Hutchings
. 31/10/2014 14:50:03 Dr Simon Durrant I would urge everyone to write to the Board of Governors of the University of York, pointing out that the incompetence of Professor Lamberts in alienating hard-working and world-leading staff with this astonishing move has brought their institution into disrepute. I can’t imagine many academics will be keen to join the institution now this attitude has been revealed, and student recruitment may be similarly impacted.
. 31/10/2014 14:52:37 Lesley Iwanejko
. 31/10/2014 14:52:47 Godfried Croenen
. 31/10/2014 14:53:19 Toby Hall
. 31/10/2014 14:54:50 Carole Rhodes
. 31/10/2014 14:55:11 Elizabeth Kelly
. 31/10/2014 14:59:04 Gavin Laing
. 31/10/2014 14:59:34 Rory Miller Usual stupidities from overpaid senior university managers, I’m afraid. I think that if I was a member of staff at York I’d now be scrutinising on a regular basis. As a way of losing world-class talent this strategy has much to recommend it.
. 31/10/2014 15:00:41 Dr Ian Shaw As others have noted, this is a disgusting step backwards into the murky Thatcherite world of erosion of union rights.
. 31/10/2014 15:04:11 Damian Clancy
. 31/10/2014 15:06:08 Aileen Morris Short-sighted, counter-productive and bullying tactics by university senior managers and leaders will only serve to further demoralise academic staff, drive them abroad or out of the profession altogether and, as a consequence, diminish the quality of higher education teaching and research in this country.
. 31/10/2014 15:06:32 Frank Cogliano
. 31/10/2014 15:06:37 Nigel Swain
. 31/10/2014 15:12:39 Rebecca Lawson
. 31/10/2014 15:12:59 Yannis Tzioumakis
. 31/10/2014 15:15:38 Christopher West
. 31/10/2014 15:17:54 Elizabeth Elliott
. 31/10/2014 15:21:59 Daniel Weston
. 31/10/2014 15:22:29 Roddy Slorach Equality and diversity rep, Imperial College London
. 31/10/2014 15:26:35 Dr Eleanor Bindman
. 31/10/2014 15:28:55 Rune Rattenborg
. 31/10/2014 15:31:28 Councillor Dave Taylor This would be a disgraceful step, worthy only of the previous VC…
. 31/10/2014 15:32:45 Dan Rigden
. 31/10/2014 15:38:27 dr Robbie Shilliam
. 31/10/2014 15:41:34 sue
. 31/10/2014 15:43:44 Katrina Forrester
. 31/10/2014 15:46:30 Celia Hollingworth
. 31/10/2014 15:59:55 Professor Russ Bowman This is a poor way to motivate staff and ruin the university reputation. Treat the staff properly and with respect
. 31/10/2014 16:00:09 Dr John Murphy What kind of University immediately resorts to bullying its staff in response to their intention to protect their living standards in retirement. Shame on you York University!!
. 31/10/2014 16:00:23 Gayle Davis
. 31/10/2014 16:09:40 Philip Cox
. 31/10/2014 16:11:57 Anna Baildon
. 31/10/2014 16:16:05 Kevin Hickson
. 31/10/2014 16:16:14 Lorna Lloyd
. 31/10/2014 16:25:46 Mark Abel

De-risking: increasing the deficit so that it can be calculated more easily

October 20, 2014
Bosch - A pickpocket works alongside  a conjurer

Bosch – A pickpocket works alongside a conjurer

De-risking sounds like a good thing to do, doesn’t it? You don’t want risk. If you’ve heard this term in relation to the current USS pension debate, you might have understood that USS and the Employers Pension Forum are talking about ‘de-risking’ the scheme. Let’s have a look at what they say about this on the Employers’ Pension Forum:

 “• The USS Trustees are also concerned about the risk that the deficit could continue to grow and aim to reduce the risk of this happening in the future. They propose to do this by reducing the investment risk that they take with the USS’s assets.
• If the USS Trustees’ proposals to reduce investment risk were to go ahead, this would increase the deficit from £7 billion to £13.1 billion. This would push the contributions required from employers and employees to unaffordable levels. Therefore the USS Trustees have prompted a review of the benefits provided by USS in order to ensure that USS remains affordable.” (accessed 19 October 2014)

Let’s take that bit by bit:

1. They don’t want the deficit to grow.
2. To do this, they’ll reduce risks taken with assets – this means they’ll sell some investment vehicles that are a bit riskier (for example, stocks and shares) and replace them with investment vehicles that are less risky (like bonds and gilts).
3. If they de-risk in this way, the deficit will in fact go up, not down (but see 1.). This is because the lower risk attached to an investment vehicle, the lower return you get for your investment.
4. If they do this, it will make the pensions scheme too expensive.
5. It is this de-risking that is causing the need to cut our pensions.

Let’s remember that the deficit is not a real sum. That is to say it does not reflect the actual health of the pensions scheme and its investments. The scheme has in fact a £42 billion surplus, and its debts this year were around £1.6 billion.

The deficit is a calculation that is required by regulations, and originates in single-company schemes. The requirement to calculate a deficit (or surplus, of course) is intended to protect pensioners if the company goes bust. The company needs to be able to prove it can pay all future pensions. So, the ‘deficit’ is a calculation of all the money in the pot at one point, minus all the pensions (and other costs) payable now and in the future. Put in plain English, the deficit calculation and requirement is:

“Is there enough money in the scheme now, not including any future contributions, to pay all current and future pensions? If not, you have a deficit and you need to find ways of removing it by raising money in the scheme or reducing your outgoings.”

Now, of course, the USS scheme is a multi-employer scheme, so there’s no question of all employers going bust at the same time. So there is nothing ‘real’ about the deficit.  The consequences of that theoretical sum are very real, though.

What we are being told in the quotation from the Employers’ Pension Forum is that the need to reduce your and my pension is not because of this fictional deficit, but because by ‘de-risking’ the scheme by selling profitable investments and buying less profitable investments they are deliberately and knowingly increasing the imaginary sum that has such an impact on us.

So why are they de-risking, and thereby increasing the deficit that  they must respond to by taking our money? Because of ‘volatility’ they tell us. The volatility they speak of is in the deficit, and only in the deficit: “Since 2011 this deficit has increased significantly and has been very volatile. In June 2013 it was £7.9 billion.” (same url)

Even senior managers seem to misunderstand this issue of volatility, and they believe that the scheme’s investments itself suffer from volatility. This is not true. There has been clear growth that has not only been consistent with the stock market, it has even beaten the FTSE in eight years out of ten in the last decade.

No, the volatility they want to remove is simply that the calculation of the deficit goes up and down unpredictably. This is partly because USS use two different means for calculating the assets and the liabilities. The assets are calculated at market value. The liabilities – mostly all future pensions to be paid – are calculated using a system that assumes the prices of gilts for future calculations. So, to make the predictions of liabilities more reliable, and less ‘volatile’, they buy more gilts. The consequence of which, as we have explained, is to increase the deficit. And so we have to lose money from our pension. So that they can better predict a fictional number. There are Vice-Chancellors who do not seem to understand this basic premise to what we are going through.

De-risking is just a process by which the deficit is increased as a result of wanting to calculate it more reliably.

And, remember – we can’t say this enough – the deficit is not real. The current deficit was calculated at 31 March 2014, so though it does include all the future pensions to pay out, it does not include any of the contributions we have made into our pensions since March. Or any that we are likely to make.

Universities UK misleading staff? Leeds management’s position?

October 18, 2014

We are curious to know if the leadership at our university agree with the position from the University of Oxford on the issue of recently released pension projections. Oxford state that the UUK figures comparing the current scheme with the proposed pensions scheme are “misleading because they assume no promotion or incremental salary increases over time”.

Our University’s management has not yet made clear if they agree with Oxford, and they may therefore be content with modelling that does not assume promotion or incremental salary increases. They have not yet made their position clear on this matter.

The University of Oxford’s working party state: “We feel that we should show our staff examples based on a realistic and typical careers, including the kind of promotion that they might reasonably expect.”

It is noteworthy to see a University management recognising an obligation to speak for their staff in this way, and recognise a need to give staff appropriate data and information. Until we hear otherwise, at Leeds we can only for now assume our management are satisfied with the briefing illustrations that they have been given that do not do represent typical career progressions (and therefore mathematically downplay the damage to retirement pension that the proposals they promote will cause).

UCU have not only made their actuarial calculations available, they have also made the actuarial assumptions fully transparent. To date, The Employers’ Pension Forum has not.

Given the EPF’s embarrassing climbdown on over-exaggerated mortality figures, we’re seeing a theme develop here.

Longevity: An admission of misinformation?

October 7, 2014

The employers’ pension forum site has silently adjusted a claim it made about the impact of longevity, when it was pointed out to them that their stats were incompatible with those of the Office of National Statistics. The figures they used were not credible, and plainly overstated the case by a considerable margin compared to the official statistics. When they were contacted about their original statement, they made no acknowledgement of the communication, but changes were made to their website. Here’s the wording on their website before they were told they were hugely inflating the figures:

Before - the overstatement

And here’s the wording after:

After the changes

Misinformation? You decide.

Longevity does certainly play a factor in deciding future benefit, but it acts here as a smoke-and-mirror tactic. The key reason for a growth in the notional deficit is an new investment strategy of ‘de-risking’ which involves quite consciously increasing the notional deficit by investing more in low-yield investment vehicles. The UCU are arguing for a more sensible and growth-assuring investment plan. Issues of longevity are left in the shade by these matters, but are often wheeled out to convince people to stay on-side as they are far more easy to communicate and understand than, for example, future gilt yields. But what we have yet to learn is – to what degree did these extreme and inaccurate predictions of longevity impact on the calculations that are now being used to justify detriment to your pension? By the fuss they have made about longevity, one would expect the impact to be quite significant… We will blog more on this soon.

We’re grateful for the work of colleagues at Warwick UCU for revealing the above material:

Anatomy of a desperate accusation

October 3, 2014

A reflection by Mark Taylor-Batty, UCU president at Leeds

So there I was, emailing personal tutees to help with some discovery module timetable issues, and preparing for a PhD supervision meeting, when into my inbox dropped an email that contained a link to a page on which it told me that I was misrepresenting facts to hundreds of my colleagues. And hundreds of my colleagues were being told I was doing this.

Now, that’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?

I’ve been doing my best over a period of weeks to digest significantly difficult and complex data, history and information around the current ‘deficit’ of the USS scheme and the employer proposals that were made public over the summer, and to present that in accurate, straightforward ways for friends, colleagues and UCU members. And now they publish a statement that says I’m misrepresenting everything. Ouch.

Deep breath.

I looked more closely at the statement, and something about its syntax, its structure, smacked of the awkward. This was a statement in the flux of panic. Look at it:

The UCU modelling that is provided as supporting evidence for the ballot for industrial action is premature and ill-informed. By disregarding the modelling being considered jointly by UCU and UUK, UCU has provided misinformation to its members even though the employers’ proposals for reform have not yet been finalised and are the subject of continuing discussion between UUK and UCU.

Does it seem right to you? Let’s consider it part by part:

‘The UCU modelling that is provided as supporting evidence for the ballot for industrial action is premature and ill-informed.’

Grammatically, in this sentence, it is the ‘modelling’ that the subject of the adjectives ‘premature’ and ‘ill-informed’. But later in the following sentence they say they are doing modelling too. So if now is the time for modelling, how is one set premature and the other not? Surely it is reasonable and responsible for a union to provide detailed evidence for its members when asking them to consider industrial action. You need to do that before the ballot for industrial action, so how is our work ‘premature’? What would they say if we called for industrial action without presenting evidence? And how is that modelling ‘ill-informed’?  The UCU have published the actuarial basis for the modelling in all its tedious detail. You can go away and look at that detail and decide if the assumptions behind our calculations are reasonable, or if they have been skewed to boost the figures. Clue: they haven’t. The employers have not provided you with any such calculations or assumptions, so we don’t know how well- or ill-informed their modelling is, but it’s quite clear that ours is informed to the last decimal point and actuarial footnote.

And now the rump of it:

‘By disregarding the modelling being considered jointly by UCU and UUK, UCU has provided misinformation to its members even though the employers’ proposals for reform have not yet been finalised and are the subject of continuing discussion between UUK and UCU.’

Look at the structure of the second sentence:  ‘By disregarding… UCU has provided… even though’. It doesn’t know which way it’s turning. It strings together numerous clauses that struggle for attention as the mind reads the sentence through to the end. This has not been written calmly, or with attention to meaningful detail. It clearly wants to DO something much more than it is able to SAY anything, and what it wants to DO is have you come out of its messy structure thinking that the UCU are not being honest. That’s its message. But its component parts don’t really lead to that, do they?

Firstly, there is a claim that UCU are disregarding the modelling being jointly considered by UCU and UUK. It is not possible to both consider and disregard something simultaneously.

Secondly, following the logic of the structure and syntax, it is ‘by disregarding’ that ‘UCU has provided misinformation’. This does not even make sense. Does nobody check the copy? The act of disregarding a mode of modelling – which we also learn we have not done – does not in and of itself mean that misinformation is created. If we want to generate misinformation we do it by creating something, not disregarding something. Surely.

Then, rather than starting another sentence, a third clause continues the dawdle away from sense. The first two clauses want to operate together (‘by disregarding… the UCU has…’) and then the the third wants to take ownership of the second (the UCU has… even though…). If this was a student’s work, it would have my track comments all over it.

Let’s look at that ‘even though’. Apparently UCU has provided misinformation even though the employers’ proposals are not finalised, those clauses state. What, should we wait for the finalised proposals before we give misinformation? Because that’s what that ‘even though’ is doing. Must do better.

So, actually, it is not clear what the source of the misinformation is, because of the garbled and poor syntax which sits around that accusation.

Now, enough textual analysis, let’s consider the facts. The employers published some draft proposals over the summer. UCU took them and let members know – this is informing members, not misinforming members. We then modelled some outcomes for pensions based on the employers’ published draft proposals and a set of common principles (age, length of service, inflationary possibilities, you name it) all of which are perfectly usual for such calculations. Independent actuaries did it all. This is informing members, not misinforming them. Going further, to be transparent, we published the assumptions, so that members were fully informed about how we had made the calculations. In what reality is this misinformation?

But it gets even more bizarre. On the very same page that the University of Leeds place this poorly proofed and badly structured UUK accusation against me and my colleagues, they offer links (at the bottom) to the exact same set of proposals that the text seems to want to claim is not ‘final’ yet. The self same set of proposals that have informed the UCU information and calculations. Go figure. They are screaming ‘don’t trust the UCU, they are not telling you the truth when they tell you the exact detail of the links we are here giving you’.

Let’s be clear: the accusation of misinformation is itself an overt and not too canny act of misinformation. It will convince the people who want to be convinced anyway, but nobody else.

All this indicates a rather desperate response to USS members’ growing disquiet. To date, the employers have chosen to remain silent on this matter. Why? They have known about it for the best part of the year, but have opted to say nothing to their staff, despite knowing the devastating impact their proposals might have. They break their silence – surprise surprise – the day after the ballot opens. They complain that we have offered calculations backed up by actuarial advice, but do not offer you their calculations backed by actuarial advice. Why?

Who do you trust?

File under: ‘employers’ own goal’.

Save Healthcare

February 16, 2014

LUU campaign video #savehealthcare

UCU, UNITE, UNISON petition to Save Healthcare Training at the University of Leeds

Please Sign

Current plans in the University seem set to lead to:

1) the closure of: Pharmacy, Audiology, Cardiac Physiology, Counselling and Psychotherapy

2) the possible closure of Diagnostic Radiography and Social Work

3) the retention of Nursing and Midwifery, subject to “transformation of the staff base.”

The Review that the University has initiated seems likely to have unintended consequences and to impact on:

1) National skills shortages

2) The national importance and reputation of some of the disciplines within the school

3) The quality of education available to students

4) The need of local people (many of them women returners) to be able to study in Leeds

5) The quality of clinical care available in West Yorkshire and surrounding areas.

Please Sign


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