Open Letter to the Principal of Royal Holloway

Dear Professor Layzell,

We are sending you this Open Letter and would be grateful if you could respond openly as well.

A number of Vice Chancellors and Principals have gone on public record with their concerns about the proposed changes to USS. We are asking you to do the same.

The proposed changes safeguard the final salary pensions of long-serving and retired staff. However, this is done at the cost of substantial cuts in the contributions made by the College towards pensions for newer staff. Further, these newer staff will have to take on the risk of asset markets going forward, and may – if their investments are unlucky or the market takes a downturn as they approach retirement – end up with very little pension at all.

The serious intergenerational inequality should be of concern not just to newer staff, but to those long-serving and retired staff who will be benefiting at the expense of newer entrants to the profession. But also, the severe diminution of pensions will impact upon the College’s ability to recruit and retain the best staff. We are already having difficulty attracting European staff. All staff will have to weigh the much more attractive total salary and benefits packages on offer elsewhere against the relatively low salaries and pension provision at the College.

If you agree with us on these points, we ask you to signal this publicly, as has been done by other Vice Chancellors and Principals at top research universities.

Academics and students have shown a remarkable degree of support for the current action. The local branch of UCU has had a significant number of new members signing up. All indications are that a large number of staff support the action that is vital to maintaining the long-run sustainability of the College.

However, we all worry about the short-run disruption to our students. We believe, strongly, that a statement from you, along the lines that we suggest would allow many staff to step back from this course of action to the benefit of all members of the RHUL family. Further, when the national strike is resolved, everyone would easily come together in the spirit of cooperation
and consensus that has been such an important component of collegiality at Royal Holloway over more than a century of excellence in education.

With best wishes,

RHUL UCU local branch committee on behalf of our members

Open Letter to the Principal of Royal Holloway

Dear Principal,

Re: Imminent USS Pension Industrial Dispute

As you know, UCU is in dispute with you regarding the USS pension fund. At the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) on Tuesday 23 January, following the Chairs casting vote, the UUK proposals to fundamentally change USS from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme was resolved without UCU agreement.

The legal basis of our dispute with you is your failure to reach a collective agreement with UCU which protects the pensions of our members from detrimental changes.

The UCU wants a negotiated solution if possible and we thought it would be useful if we set out the steps you could take which might help to resolve this damaging dispute.

We would like you to publicly call for the reopening of national negotiations with the aim of retaining a decent defined benefit scheme. Defined pension benefits are an important component of our remuneration,  and the predicted average loss of £208,000 to employees currently in the USS defined scheme cannot be borne.

The current UUK proposal will not be finally endorsed by the USS JNC and Board until the end of June 2018 so there is plenty of time for further negotiations if the position of Universities UK shifts.

This national resolution is clearly UCU’s preferred position, but it is substantially in the interests of this institution too.

This is because if there is no shift in the national position and the UUK proposal is imposed, industrial action will continue at Royal Holloway until this institution has met the legal terms of the dispute “to protect our members’ pensions” as described above.

The cost of doing that will be substantial.

To further aid you in your consideration of this matter we have set out as Appendix A to this letter, our calculation of the monetary loss over the course of their retirement for several typical staff profiles at this institution. A typical member of academic staff who moves from lecturer to professor in a thirty-year career stands to lose £208,000 over the course of their retirement.

We have estimated that if the UUK proposal is imposed the typical lecturer would need a compensatory annual payment equivalent to at least four increment points to maintain their estimated retirement income at its current level.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you urgently.

Donna Brown, Dr
Chair, RHUL-UCU Strike Committee
Vice Chair RHUL-UCU Branch Committee
On behalf of RHUL-UCU Branch

APPENDIX – Estimates by First Actuarial of the loss of income from the UKK proposal over the course of a typical retirement