Your FAQs about the 4 Fights & USS dispute

Questions about our industrial action ballots – submitted by members, and anwered by your branch committee.

What is the ‘four fights’ dispute about?

The ‘four fights’ are about pay, the gender and ethnic pay gap, workload as well as casualisation in Higher Education. Staff in universities have experienced years of real terms pay cuts, combined with rising workloads. Structural inequalities and discrimination mean that those least able to pay the price bear the highest cost. Since the economic crisis in 2008 the real terms pay of university staff has declined by 20%. The gender pay gap across the sector is 15% while disabled and Black and Minority Ethnic staff continue to experience serious pay discrimination. In 2019-20 33% of academic staff were employed on fixed term-contracts. These were the workers who were ‘let go’ when the pandemic struck.

What is the USS dispute about?

USS members used to enjoy a final salary pension that provided a guaranteed payment based on final salary linked to length of service. The employers have been intent on cutting  our pensions. Only union action as protected what we have.  The employers’ preferred option is a pension with no defined benefit, but for now they are cutting existing provision incrementally. The latest proposed cut is substantial – see the UCU modeller to see what the employers’ plans will cost you. The USS dispute is simple – it is about protecting the pension provision we have now, but which employers want to slash. Our pensions have been cut enough – and we know that when they’re gone, they’re gone. Cuts will not be restored. This is a moment for USS members to draw and line in the sand and say ‘enough, and no more’. The employers’ cuts are unnecessary and unjust.

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Response to the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was commissioned in the wake of last summer’s mass protests in over sixty countries and over several localities in Britain following the killing of George Floyd in the USA. The Black Lives Matter movement and mass protests meant that the struggle for racial justice become more relevant than ever.

The report’s main theme is an attempt to shift decades of understanding of the role of structural factors in determining the life chances of Britain’s ethnic minority population, to a focus on the failings of groups and individuals. The narrative of the report presents a view that for some ethnic minority groups, they have ‘never had it so good’. Whilst for others their lack of success or progress is reflective of the inability to grasp the boundless opportunities. Within this perspective, the importance of notions of institutional and structural racism, in understanding race and ethnic disparities/inequality are out of favour.

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