Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pensions: we need a little less conversation, a little more action

The Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) has called for an industrial action ballot to be in place by mid-late August and for the NEC to liaise with all other public sector unions over a timetable for 'phase 2' of industrial action in defense of our pensions (see full statement below).

We welcomed phase 1 of the action being led by other unions and call for unity in action with those unions who already took action on 30th June.

Together, we are stronger: for us UNISON members in education, that means in particular coordinating our action with our sisters and brothers in the UCU and all other teaching unions.

Having heard the latest from the repugnant Danny Alexander today, I say the sooner the better... Did anyone really believe the Government would go into scheme specific talks in good faith?

Talks are going nowhere so far in part because we don't have enough leverage.

When we start our ballot for action, that will help to focus their minds. So let's stop the delay - we've had a year to prepare for this - let's get on with it!

We need 'a little less conversation, a little more action ... A little more bite and a little less bark!'


This SGE notes:

1) That the proposals being put forward on Public Sector pensions by the Treasury Team led by Danny Alexander as revealed in the Guardian on 19 May 2011 exceed the worst fears of public sector workers for the future of our pensions.

2) The strike action by NUT/UCU/ATL/PCS on 30 June

The treasury proposals endorse all the detrimental changes put forward in the Hutton report which include:

* Increased contributions
* Raised Retirement Age
* Replacement of final salary schemes with career average

Critically they also include proposals to change the annual rate of accrual of pension entitlement in a career average scheme to 1/80, 1/90, or 1/100.

The current accrual rate for a final salary pension in the LGPS is 1/60. Most pensions experts agree that in order to deliver broadly comparable benefits the accrual rate for a career average scheme would need to be significantly adjusted in favour of scheme members – the civil service career average scheme for example is 1/42.

It has already been estimated that this change alone could require a pension scheme member who would currently be entitled to a pension equivalent to half their final salary after 30 years contributing to work a further ten years to achieve a similar level of benefits.

These detrimental changes are amplified by the change from using RPI to CPI to uprate pensions and the proposal to end the fair deal on pensions announced on 11 May 2011.

The proposals leave no room for doubt that the government proposals are based not on any need to make change to promote the long term viability of the schemes but on an ideological drive to undermine public sector pensions in a way that threatens the continued existence of the schemes themselves.

We welcome the action taken on 30 June as the first phase of united and co-ordinated strike action to defend all schemes.


1. Calls on the NEC to take all steps necessary to ensure that a lawful industrial action ballot can be taken at any point from the middle of August onwards

2. Liaise with other public sector Trade unions to agree a date for united industrial action on pensions in early august.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Higher Education Pay 2011 Final Offer

Higher Education Pay 2011 Final Offer

The latest pay bulletin can be downloaded from the link below which gives an update on the recent higher education pay talks. Please distribute this widely to members. The University and Colleges Employer’s Association (UCEA) made a final offer of £150 on all pay scale points. The UNISON negotiating team expressed their disappointment at the offer and said that it failed to meet our members’ expectations on pay. A special meeting of the Higher Education Service Group is being convened shortly to consider the UNISON response to the offer and to consider what further action to take.

HE Pay Bulletin - Final Pay Offer 2011

The Higher Ed Service Group Exec group is going to meet by the end of July to discuss this latest insult from the employer. My view is we on the exec should recommend to our members to that we reject it.

My position on this is very clear: give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

What about you? Let me know before 26th July.

See also press release:

Friday, 8 July 2011

Support Sheffield University UNISON

Sheffield University UNISON Branch are in the middle of a bitter dispute over their local final salary pension scheme. They've already taken two days strike action.

If we are to win our fight nationally on Pensions, it's important we win this local battle. It will affect all of us in HE UNISON.

For more see UNISON:

BBC news:


How can you help?

1) Email a message of support to:

2) Donate to their fighting fund. Pass a motion of support through your branch and send cheques to:

University of Sheffield UNISON
Unison Office,
2 Hounsfield Road,
S3 7RF

Tel: 0114 2228829

2nd June, 2011

Dear Sue,

Our branch is currently balloting our members for industrial action against compulsory redundancies, so we know what it's like to call on your members to take action and to say: 'Enough is Enough!'

We salute your robust stance your branch has taken, congratulate you on winning a 'yes vote', and we wish you all the best in your defence of your pension scheme.

An attack on your members is an attack on all our members. Your success will be ours too. Unity is Strength!

Please let us know if there is anything else we from our branch - or that I personally on the NEC - can do to help your struggle?

In solidarity,

Max Watson

We also passed a message of support through the Higher Ed Service Group Exec yesterday.

'Freedom for Palestine' single - buy it NOW!

On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall being built by Israel in the West Bank is illegal and should be torn down. Yet 7 years on, the Wall continues to destroy lives - cutting children off from schools, farmers from their land and family members from each other.

War on Want is working with partners in Palestine to break down the Wall and demand justice for communities affected by it. But in order to do that, first we must break the silence on the treatment of Palestinians.

That is why we need you to buy the 'Freedom for Palestine' single today. If we get the song into the charts, the mainstream media and politicians will be unable to ignore its message.

"This song represents us, it comes from the heart and it is our voice to you" Jamal Juma’a, Co-ordinator, Stop the Wall,

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Remembering Pete McGreal: unsung hero

It is with great sadness that the Branch learnt of the death of Pete McGreal, 44, who passed away on Saturday 25th June 2011 following a cycle accident. Pete was a Health and Safety rep in the City campus, and was an active and respected member of the Branch Committee, who will be sorely missed.

His family have requested that donations in Pete’s memory should be made to the Royal London HEMS Air Ambulance Service​m

We felt the need to pay tribute to Pete and keep a page for our memories of him on our website. Please follow this link for our memories of Pete McGreal.

Pete McGreal came on to our branch committee in 2009. Like many reps at the time, he got active in our branch when we were facing large scale job cuts. His job wasn’t threatened, but he did everything he possibly could to help save his colleagues’ posts.

Like many union reps he was reluctant to get too involved but soon became a respected, central figure on our branch committee.

Pete was easily recognisable as a ‘natural leader’: his peers looked up to him; he had experience; was popular, intelligent and had invaluable people skills. He’d already been a steward before and soon he was a Health and Safety rep. He quietly put up with the ongoing shenanigans of his work on the H&S committee and only occasionally came to the Branch Committee for guidance or advice.

You could trust his judgement completely and we only really ever had to commit to backing him up whenever he needed it.

Not only did we appreciate his experience and wisdom on the Committee, but also his skills as a graphic designer. He created by far our most beautiful and original leaflet (‘We are London Met’) which of course he took no credit for at all. He also quickly and simply laid out the design of our postcard that over 200 members of staff completed and posted to the Chair of the Board of Governors.

His other contributions include arranging for Andy Walsh to speak to us about United FC, designing our logo, and countless other things, too many to list.

So I’m devastated at the loss of Pete, as an outstanding trade unionist in our branch, but also as a colleague whose company we enjoyed immensely. He could laugh at himself, and laugh at all of us on the left – at our sometimes ridiculous behaviour.

I remember a story he told me about when he worked for a left paper, years ago, and the trouble he got in for saving a photo of their leader at the time, and naming the file ‘Uncle Joe’. It didn’t go down very well…

Pete was irreverent, and would laugh off any of the sectarian bickering that went on in the left. He was the real McCoy and he certainly wasn’t anybody’s useful idiot.

Pete truly was an unsung hero of the labour movement. He was much loved and respected by those who worked with him in our branch; he always stayed true to himself and his deeply held principles; he was a genuine leader who people would naturally look up to, yet he’d rather let someone else step forward and take the credit.

I was lucky to work in the same building as Pete in Jewry Street, and I shall miss him terribly. None of us can go for lunch with him on a Friday again, and whenever I get my bike from outside work, his will be missing. Typically, Pete was the first to joke about the recent loss of my front wheel to a thief just after a meeting with management (‘I bet it was Bowler’) – he was always able to make us smile.

We’ve lost a dear comrade and friend.

He was also a father, and partner to Mandy – and despite regular attempts to get him to stay behind for a ‘quick pint’ after work, his priority was always to go home to his young family. I can only imagine the pain and the devastating loss his close friends and family must be feeling right now and my heartfelt condolences go out to them all in their time of grief.

Our thoughts will always be with Pete.

Max Watson

-- See more here: Please follow this link for our memories of Pete McGreal.