University news

Industrial action from 22 February

The University of Manchester has been notified that members of the UCU are proposing to take part in national strike action from Thursday, 22 February. The action is being taken across 61 UK universities in protest to proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which is a higher education pension scheme.

 

The University appreciates that the current discussions on potential changes to the future benefit structure of the USS are causing considerable uncertainty and concern for both USS members and students affected by the industrial action which UCU members propose to undertake.

This is a national issue affecting staff and students at the 350 institutions which are part of the USS. We take this issue very seriously and you can find further details in the Key Facts section below. It is important to note that the University is not able to negotiate USS pension provision independently.

The result of the UCU ballot at The University of Manchester was a turnout of 54.6% (of the 2,024 entitled to vote) and a vote for strike action of 88%, and 93% voting for action short of a strike.  This result was similar to the average of other universities which were balloted.

The University recognises the rights of individual members of staff to take industrial action and it is our intention to maintain, as far as possible, normal operations during industrial action to safeguard the interests of our students and staff.

We aim to manage this period of industrial action in a spirit of collegiality, and will respect the integrity and professionalism of all our staff by deeming a member of staff to be engaged in industrial action only by asking them and trusting them to inform their line manager that they have taken such action.

Our experience suggests that the impact of this industrial action will vary in different parts of the University, and each School will be looking at how to minimise any disruption during the strike period. We will then consider the impact and consequences of the industrial action for each student retrospectively.

We already have contingencies in place to ensure that future decisions relating to your progression, degree outcome and graduation can be taken irrespective of the impact of this industrial action.

As we develop a better understanding of the impact and consequences of the industrial action we will continue to keep you informed directly and by general updates on My Manchester and Student News.

Key facts

  • The result of the UCU ballot at The University of Manchester was a turnout of 54.6% (of the 2,024 entitled to vote) and a vote for strike action of 88%, and 93% voting for action short of a strike. This result was similar to the average of other universities which were balloted.
  • The University of Manchester is not able to negotiate USS pension provision independently.
  • Pension funds like USS which offer an element of defined benefit pension, are coming under increasing financial pressure with both deficits and the cost of future service increasing significantly, in spite of additional payments by employers and employees.
  • Any proposed changes to the USS are negotiated nationally by the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) which is made up equally of University UK (UUK) and UCU representatives with an independent chair. As mentioned earlier, the University is not able to negotiate USS pension provision independently.
  • It is clear that the current USS scheme cannot continue as it is and over the past year employer representatives (UUK) and Scheme member representatives (UCU) have met more than 35 times to discuss USS’s challenging funding position.
  • UUK and the UCU both made proposals to the JNC which were put to a vote and UUK’s proposal was carried by the JNC. UUK consulted with employers who confirmed that further increases in contributions would necessitate significant budget cuts, potential job losses and the diversion of funding away from employers’ core missions that would be unjustifiable to students or other funders of higher education and research.
  • The proposal supported by the JNC does not end all defined benefits – defined benefits continue for life assurance and disability benefits and employers have committed to consider in three years’ time if further or additional defined benefits can be re-introduced should the Scheme’s funding conditions improve. UUK has offered to work with the UCU in the interim to define what improvements in funding conditions would be necessary.
  • Employers remain committed to supporting the USS and have confirmed they will maintain their 18% contribution for the next six years, over two valuations, through to 2023.
  • All active USS members, employees eligible to join USS and their elected representatives will take part in a statutory consultation which will begin in mid-March 2018. Employees will be able to give their feedback and employers will listen carefully to their views.