Wednesday 6 July 2011

Message from the general secretary: Vote Yes

Dear colleague

I'm writing to you to urge you to use your vote in our ballot over the USS dispute and to vote yes to support your union.

As you know, we are balloting you again over the employers' imposition of their highly detrimental reforms to the USS pension scheme. We have produced a new full briefing for members on the present situation and the need for a ballot, which you can read here.

But I want to take a little time in this letter to set out why I think we need to do this.

It would be easy to think that these changes only affect new members. I believe that would be a serious mistake. While our campaign has won protection for existing members, who can stay in the final salary pension scheme, the employers are pushing through changes that remove your right to an unreduced pension if you are made redundant. At a time when we face tremendous insecurity in our sector, this is a naked attempt to make it cheaper to sack you and your colleagues.

If you are a new entrant to the scheme, you will now join a vastly inferior pension scheme, with a very poor career average benefit structure. That means you could lose around 30% from the value of your pension at retirement, compared to those in the final salary scheme.

As well as being unfair, I think that's extremely dangerous for the health of our scheme and for the future of all our existing members. The employers have made it clear that in the long term they want to reduce their contributions and that gives them a big incentive to look to move those currently on final salaries onto the new scheme.

If we let the employers impose worse pensions on new members, we are also giving them the opportunity as well as the motive to come back for more. Within five years, active members on final salary pensions will be outnumbered by those on the new scheme. Asking those people to stand up for our pensions in five years time, will be a tall order.

That's why I am asking you to vote yes to industrial action now. I believe this could be our last chance to defend the USS pension scheme for all members.

But I also have to be honest about what I'm asking you to do.

It is clear that one-day strikes will not move the employers. That's why we need to be ready to undertake a sustained programme of industrial action, including action short of a strike, aimed at disrupting the universities' operations. The employers have made it clear that they will take a robust line on partial performance. But I don't believe we can dodge this fight. So we are asking branches to work with us to develop local action strategies now and we are making clear that these must have the support of members.

In the meantime, please make sure you use your vote and vote yes to industrial action. A big, strong turnout and a large majority for action will send a clear message to the employers that their strategy of bullying and intimidation has failed.

Finally, please note that our colleagues in post-92 universities and further education colleges will be taking strike action with teachers across the country next Thursday. Rallies and protests will be taking place across the country. If you can show them your support by attending one of the rallies, please do so. You can find a full list of the rallies here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter.


Sally Hunt
UCU General Secretary
(by email 22 June 2011)

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