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October 5th, 2012:

Result of Higher Education Sector Conference, 13 September 2012

As some members may be aware, at UCU Congress this year a vote was taken to reinstate industrial action over USS pensions.  Predictably, the employers reacted badly to this and immediately pulled out of negotiations and removed what progress we’d made in those negotiations so far.

Given the response from members at Southampton and throughout the country, at a recent Higher Education Sector Conference a number of motions were presented to return to negotiations.  The details below are from our Executive Committee members who attend the conference on behalf of Southampton UCU:


Conference overwhelmingly rejected all motions and amendments to escalate action on the USS negotiation. Just as overwhelmingly, Conference accepted the motion to suspend action and resume negotiations.

Conference passed the following motion (Motion 2 (Composite)):


“Conference notes that our current USS negotiating objectives are contradictory, and have established preconditions that make it impossible to reach a negotiated settlement.


Conference re-affirms the HESC policy of May 2011 to:

   de-risk USS through the introduction of an acceptable CARE scheme for new entrants;

   close the gap between the value of the CARE and final salary sections by negotiating improvements to the CARE scheme which would secure broad comparability with TPS, including the removal of inflation caps; and

   protect the final salary pensions of existing members.


Conference believes that it is a priority to resume negotiations in order to achieve these objectives, and therefore authorise HEC to:

   suspend industrial action if the employers agree to negotiate on the above agenda within an acceptable time scale; and

   maintain this suspension while serious and constructive negotiations are taking place and an acceptable settlement might be reached by early 2013.”


After some debate, and only by a vote of 64 to 54, Conference also passed the following amendment to Motion 2 proposed by the Open University.


To add at the end of motion 2

 agrees that although the work-to-contract is no longer a useful lever in the USS dispute, many members feel individually protected by the action;

   instructs HEC to ensure that the suspension for this dispute is accompanied by members’ guidance on excessive working hours and relevant legislation;

 • notes that UCU will be launching a major campaign on workload in the autumn and that work-to-contract is a necessary sanction for disputes in that campaign.”


We at Southampton UCU are very pleased about this outcome.  Many members contacted us to express their concerns with restarting industrial action over USS, and thus we’re glad to see the Conference acted in the best interests of our members.

If any members have further questions about the outcome at the Conference, please feel free to contact us through the usual channels.


Eric Silverman

Southampton UCU President