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Fri 05 March 21

The Friday email: 05 March 2021

Defend our pensions: UCU responds to USS valuation 

Universites Superannuation Scheme (USS) has announced the pension scheme's 2020 valuation with a view that for the scheme to remain sustainable the combined employer/employee contribution rate will need to rise from the current 30.7% to as much as 56% in a worst case scenario, to cover deficits. 

In our response UCU have accused USS of risking endangering a healthy pension scheme and said that the valuation give an overly pessimistic view of the sector. After a decade of pay and conditions being degraded, many precarious and low paid higher education workers may feel they can no longer afford to be USS members. Even more will quit if contribution rates go up further and this will clearly endanger the health of the scheme as a whole. 

Jo Grady said 'USS is trying to spin the fundamentally flawed assumptions which its valuation of the pension scheme relies on as objective matters of fact. In doing so it risks endangering a healthy scheme. Problems with USS's methods and assumptions have not been properly addressed despite widespread dissatisfaction among members and criticism from across the pensions industry and the higher education sector, including the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Universities UK now needs to step up the pressure on USS to change its approach.' 

UCU members fighting back

UCU branches across the UK are fighting to defend jobs and conditions and you can read our roundup of local disputes including the latest successful vote for strike action at the University of Central Lancashire.

International Women's Day, Monday 8 March

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'Choose to Challenge'. Celebrate on social media using the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge, and visit our webpage for resources and further information about this annual event. 

Budget 2021 

It was budget week this week and in advance of the announcement Jo Grady called for a budget for a fairer education system, highlighting the need for better mental health provision in post-16 education, guaranteed funding for universities and increased investment in adult and community education. 

Responding to the statement itself on Wednesday Jo described it a as missed opportunity to rebuild the sector to meet the country's needs, calling for 'investment now in the education workforce to ensure the sector can recruit and retain the staff it needs to deliver on the government's skills ambitions'.

UCU sexual violence task group - have your say 

The UCU sexual violence task group is surveying UCU members on the issue of sexual violence in our sectors. You can access the survey here.

The survey is now live and will close at 5pm on Friday 26 March. The task group has outlined other ways in which you can engage with its work beyond the survey. These include the possibility of one-on-one conversations between survivors and group members (subject to capacity) and a portal for survivors of sexual violence to make creative submissions to the group. Please visit the group's web page for more information.

Prison education - has your MP signed the motion?

UCU has worked with MPs in Westminster to get a parliamentary motion tabled calling for more investment in prison education technology and greater support for staff and prisoners. Please contact your own MP and encourage them to add their name to the current list of signatories, you can find your MP's contact details here. 

Scottish parliamentary online election hustings, Wednesday 24 March

UCU Scotland is hosting a Scottish parliamentary elections hustings, 1.00 - 2.30pm Wednesday 24 March. More details, including final confirmation of the speakers, information on UCU Scotland's manifesto for the elections and joining details, will be released shortly.

Sustainable education in practice: online workshop for members in Scotland

Members in Scotland are invited to take part in Sustainable Education in Practice, an online interactive workshop that will look at how you could develop how you work to play your part in combatting climate change. The workshop will be held on Monday 22 March, 2.00-4.00pm, and Thursday 25 March, 2.00-4.00pm and you will be expected to attend both sessions and to complete a short activity in between. 

Save Newcastle University's London campus: sign the petition 

Newcastle University's London campus is set to close on 31 September. Here is a petition in support of the staff facing the prospective of either a move to Newcastle or redundancy.

LGBT+ mental health webinar Wednesday 17 March, 4pm

UCU LGBT+ will host an online event about LGBT+ mental health on Wednesday 17 March 2021, 4.00- 5.30pm.

Last updated: 5 March 2021