The latest information about the industrial action

Please find below the latest news from our national representatives, update on local negotiations, and all-staff emails from our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts.

Our national representatives:

Our national representatives are the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK).

Wednesday 15 January 2020: Meeting between the University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

On Wednesday 15 January, UCU, UUK and USS met to discuss the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) second report.

This was the first of five meetings. It was a positive meeting and there was a willingness to discuss all of the issues and recommendations of the second report of the JEP. It was agreed that the next meeting would consider a Scheme Purpose Statement and the Shared Valuation Principles.

Read the full statement


UCEA meets with UCU, Tuesday 17 December 2019

On Tuesday 17 December 2019, UCEA met with UCU. The meeting included discussions about the non-pay elements of the national pay negotiations dispute.

Read UCEA's statement 


Second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) published 13 December 2019

The Panel was set up by UCU and UUK following the 2018 industrial dispute over the USS pension fund.

Read report


UCEA letter to UCU, Thursday 5 December 2019

On Thursday 5 December 2019, UCEA wrote a letter to Vicky Blake, Vice-President (HE) UCU following their meeting on Tuesday 26 November, UCEA consulted with members who indicated a willingness to discuss matters raised by UCU at a sector level. UCEA have written to UCU inviting them to further talks.

Read letter from UCEA (PDF, 188KB) 


UUK letter to Vice-Chancellor, Tuesday 3 December 2019

On Tuesday 3 December 2019, UUK responded to the letter from Professor Koen Lamberts calling on the national negotiator to arrange further talks with UCU to find a negotiated outcome to the disputes.

Read letter from UUK (PDF, 102KB)


Vice-Chancellor's letters to UCEA and UUK, Tuesday 26 November 2019

On 26 November 2016, President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, sent letters to UUK and UCEA calling for further talks with the University and College Union (UCU) to find a negotiated outcome to the disputes. He also called for the early release of the next Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report as key to establishing a future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme that satisfies the needs of UCU, representing members, the collective employers and the USS Trustee. The JEP was set up to examine the valuation of USS pension scheme, you can read more about it here.

Read letter to UUK (PDF, 849KB) Read letter to UCEA (PDF, 848KB)


UCEA meets with UCU, Tuesday 26 November 2019

On 26 November 2019, UCEA met with the UCU. The meeting included discussions about the non-pay elements of the national pay negotiations dispute.

Read UCEA's statement


Letters from UUK and UCEA, 18, 19 and 20 November 2019

On 20 November 2019, UUK’s joint negotiating committee (JNC) representatives wrote to UCU colleagues on the JNC providing an update on their continuing discussions with UCU regarding the sector-wide USS pension scheme.

Read the letter (PDF, 90KB)

On 19 November 2019, UCEA and UUK wrote an open letter to all staff at the institutions where the UCU is planning industrial action. UCEA and UUK are the lead bodies on pay and pensions. In the letter they say that they continue to talk to UCU about finding a way forward which avoids industrial action.

Read the letter on UUK web pages

On 18 November 2019, UCEA wrote to UCU inviting them to meet to discuss the potential to resolve their dispute.

Read the letter on UCEA's web pages


Local negotiations:

Letters between Vice-Chancellor and Sheffield UCU Branch President

On Tuesday 3 December 2019, Sheffield UCU Branch President, Sam Marsh, wrote to our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, about the latest in the ongoing USS dispute.

Read letter from UCU (PDF, 435KB)

On Tuesday 10 December 2019, President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts responded to the above letter from Sam Marsh.

Read letter to UCU (PDF, 844KB)


Vice-Chancellor holds further talks with UCU and Students’ Union, Monday 2 December 2019

On Monday 2 December 2019, our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, met with colleagues from the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, and the Students’ Union, for further talks on managing the industrial action and potential ways to find a resolution to the national disputes.

The meeting was constructive and positive and once again included a focus on ensuring our students and staff are supported throughout this period of industrial action.

Following the President and Vice-Chancellor’s calls last week for talks to commence at a national level, the opening of discussions between UCU and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), the national pay negotiating body for the collective employers, and Universities UK (UUK), who represent employers in USS are welcomed. The letters from the President and Vice-Chancellor to UCEA and UUK are available to read above.

Whilst there is not yet a solution to the national disputes, all parties present at the meeting in Sheffield supported moves towards a mutually acceptable negotiated resolution that will bring an end to the industrial action here in Sheffield and at 59 other UK universities.

It was acknowledged that the support the University has put in place for students has been appropriate and well received and that, despite the industrial action taking place locally, relations within the University community have been positive.

The University expressed thanks for the professional conduct of those taking action and the students who have supported them over the past week. There was a common desire to ensure that our whole University community can continue to work and study constructively together once the disputes end.

The President and Vice-Chancellor committed to maintaining pressure on our national representatives to find a negotiated solution.


Vice-Chancellor meets with UCU and Students’ Union, Monday 25 November 2019

On Monday 25 November 2019, our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, met with colleagues from the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, and the Students’ Union, to discuss what more can be done locally to end the current disputes and industrial action.

The meeting was constructive and positive and included a focus on ensuring our students and staff are supported throughout this period of industrial action.

It was acknowledged that we cannot resolve the national issues unilaterally through actions undertaken just in Sheffield. The positive work we have done in partnership with our trade union colleagues over the sector-wide USS pension scheme and many of the pay related matters were also recognised.

There have been national level developments since the Vice-Chancellor’s calls for talks to take place with both Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). Both representative bodies have opened further discussions with UCU over the various elements of the disputes. All parties present at the meeting in Sheffield today expressed a strong desire that these lead to a mutually acceptable negotiated resolution that will bring an end to the industrial action we are experiencing here in Sheffield and taking place at 59 other UK universities.

The Vice-Chancellor committed to reiterating the University’s position to encourage our national representatives to find a negotiated solution.

Further talks have been scheduled for next week.


All-staff emails:

Wednesday 8 January 2020

Industrial action – update on national discussions

Dear colleague

I hope you have had a restful Christmas break and I welcome you back for the New Year.

I wanted to write and update you on the national discussions that are happening as a result of ongoing concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions, which led to industrial action taking place here at Sheffield and at around 59 other universities.

You will know from my previous communications that I called for the early release of the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) report and urged our national representatives, Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), to keep talking with the University and College Union (UCU) and the USS Trustee to find a negotiated solution to the disputes.

I therefore welcome the news that following publication of the Joint Expert Panel's second report before Christmas, it has been announced that UCU, UUK and USS will meet at talks facilitated by the chair of the JEP, Joanne Segars.

The second JEP report makes a series of interlocking recommendations covering the governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology, and the scheme's sustainability. I have been vocal about the need to agree this valuation process before going on to discuss any future changes to the scheme. I am therefore pleased that the report offers the chance to do this and I hope fresh discussions in response to it will be fruitful.

As I outlined before Christmas, UCU's higher education sector conference met in December and passed a number of motions, including one that calls for a further 14 days of strike action between 20 February and 13 March 2020 if the dispute is not resolved. The UCU HE Committee will meet at the end of January 2020 to decide their next steps.

Whilst I hope the planned talks will be key to ending the dispute, we do not know yet whether there will be any further strike action. Action short of a strike will continue, potentially until the end of April 2020. I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their support in minimising the disruption to our students and to each other.

We will continue to keep these web pages up to date with the latest information as things develop.

I hope very much that fresh talks and the Joint Expert Panel's second report will provide a platform on which to build an agreed approach with UCU, UUK, and the USS Trustee, and that further strike action can be avoided.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Monday 16 December 2019 (email sent via staff update)

Industrial action – national discussions

Dear colleague

I wanted to write and update you on the national discussions that are happening as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions, and the industrial action taking place here at Sheffield and at around 60 other universities.

Whilst strike action is over, action short of a strike continues, potentially until the end of April 2020. I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their support in minimising the disruption to our students and to one another.

I was delighted to see the publication of the second Joint Expert Panel report (JEP2) at the end of last week. You will know from my previous communications that I called for the early release of the report, and I see it as key to establishing the future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme.

The purpose of the second report is to establish key principles to underpin the future approach to the valuation of the USS fund that all parties – University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and the USS Trustee – can accept. It makes a series of interlocking recommendations covering the governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology, and the scheme’s sustainability. The recommendations include establishing a new, jointly agreed, purpose statement; improving the operation of the Joint Negotiating Committee; creating a series of joint bodies in USS to better agree on issues relating to the future direction of the scheme; and agreeing a more appropriate valuation methodology, driven by the newly agreed purpose of the scheme.

UCU and UUK have issued statements welcoming the report. UUK will ask us for our response to the report in the New Year, and I will share this with you in due course.

Ahead of the release of the JEP2 report, UCU's higher education sector conference met last week and passed a number of motions, including one that calls for a further 14 days of strike action between 20 February and 13 March 2020 if the dispute is not resolved. These are indicative motions and they do not mean that further strike action will definitely take place. The UCU HE Committee will meet at the end of January 2020 to decide their next steps.

UCU and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) are due to meet again tomorrow (17 December) to explore further sector-level joint work on the key issues of workload, gender pay gap, ethnicity pay gap, and casual employment.

It is my sincere hope that progress can be made as a result of these discussions and the publication of the JEP2 report, and that further strike action can be avoided.

We will continue to work closely with our local trade union colleagues.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Thursday 5 December 2019

Industrial action - action short of a strike

Dear colleague

Thank you for your support over the past eight days of strike action. Thank you to those colleagues who continued to work as normal; your efforts have been vital in minimising the impact on our students. To colleagues who have taken action, thank you for your professional conduct during the strike.

Although strike action is over, the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on its members to continue with action short of a strike until the end of April 2020 at the latest. We fully respect the right of staff to take industrial action. As before, we will do everything we can to minimise disruption and fulfil our responsibilities to our students. More details of what action short of a strike means and implies can be found on our FAQs.

I am continuing to urge our national representatives, Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), to keep talking with UCU to find a negotiated solution to the national disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

I am also hopeful that the next Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report on the sector-wide USS pension scheme, due to be published before Christmas, will provide a platform from which to build an agreed way forward with UCU and the USS Trustee.

In the past few days, I have received a response from UUK which is available to view above.

I have also received a letter from our local UCU Branch President, which is available to view above. I will post my reply once drafted too.

We will continue to keep our industrial action web pages up to date with the latest information as things develop.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Tuesday 3 December 2019

Industrial action – local and national negotiations

Dear colleague

As you know, strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions is due to continue until Wednesday this week, with the possibility of action short of a strike until the end of April next year.

In my previous email, I said I had written to our national representatives, Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), to call on them again to work with the University and College Union (UCU) to find a meaningful negotiated solution, so we can end the disputes. I also urged UUK to do all they can to ensure that the next USS Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report is published as soon as possible.

I now understand that the JEP will issue its second report on the sector-wide USS pension scheme before Christmas. The report will provide information and recommendations relevant to the 2020 valuation of USS. I expect that it will cover a broad range of issues, including the valuation methodology, scheme governance, and ways to achieve a sustainable and valuable scheme for the future. I hope it will provide a platform from which to build an agreed approach with UCU and the USS Trustee.

I also mentioned in my previous email that UCEA had met with UCU, with discussions focusing on the non-pay elements of the national pay negotiations dispute. I understand that UCEA intends to provide fresh thoughts on sector-level work on gender and ethnicity pay gaps, casual employment arrangements, and workload. Here in Sheffield, we will continue to work with our trade union colleagues on these issues.

Yesterday, I met with colleagues from the local UCU branch and the Students’ Union, to discuss management of the industrial action and to explore paths to a resolution of the national disputes. The meeting was constructive and positive and, once again, included a focus on ensuring our students and staff are supported throughout this period of industrial action. We shared a desire to ensure that our University community can continue to work and study constructively together once the disputes end.

We welcomed the opening of discussions between UCU, UCEA and UUK, and all parties supported moves towards a mutually acceptable negotiated resolution that will bring an end to the industrial action.

You can read the full statement following yesterday’s meeting above.

I know that last week was difficult for many colleagues and students and that the industrial action continues to bring challenges. Thank you once again for all your support. If you have any questions please take a look at our FAQs and latest information, which we are updating regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered on the web pages, please email: industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

I will continue to maintain pressure on our national representatives to find a negotiated solution, and to share the latest information with you.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Thursday 28 November 2019

Industrial action – thank you for your support

Dear colleague

As you will know, members of the University and College Union (UCU) have been participating in industrial action here in Sheffield and at 59 other universities since Monday as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions.

As the week draws to a close, I recognise that this has been a challenging time for many colleagues, and for our students, and wanted to thank you all for your support. If you have been working as normal and not involved in the industrial action, thank you for your flexibility and for supporting our students. If you are taking part in the industrial action, thank you for expressing your views and for picketing in a way that is supportive of our collegial values.

On Monday, I met with colleagues from the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, and with our Students’ Union Officers, to discuss what more can be done locally to end the current disputes and industrial action. The meeting was constructive and everyone present expressed a strong desire to find a resolution. We were also able to come to an agreement with UCU representatives not to make any pay deductions for strike action in December, but instead to spread deductions over January and February. We have updated our FAQs page to reflect this.

On Tuesday, I wrote to our national representatives, Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), to call on them again to work with UCU to find a meaningful negotiated solution, so we can end the disputes. I also urged UUK to do all they can to ensure that the next USS Joint Expert Panel report is published as soon as possible. This report is key to establishing a future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme that satisfies the needs of members, employers and the USS Trustee. Copies of my letters to UUK and UCEA are available towards to the top of this page.

Talks have also continued at a national level. UCEA met with UCU on Tuesday this week, and issued a statement that can be found on UCEA's web pages.

As of today, however, UCU are still asking their members to continue strike action next week from Monday 2 December to Wednesday 4 December, and to continue with action short of a strike until 29 April 2020 at the latest. We will continue to do everything we can to minimise any disruption.

Please refer to our industrial action web pages for further information, including FAQs and contact details, which we will continue to update.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

I am due to meet with local UCU representatives and the Students’ Union Officers again next week and will continue to keep you updated about this and any other developments.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Monday 25 November 2019

Industrial action due to begin today

Dear colleague

As you will know from previous emails, starting today (Monday 25 November 2019) members of the University and College Union (UCU) are participating in industrial action here in Sheffield and at around 60 other universities, as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Many of you have written to me, or the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, about the industrial action. I would like to thank you for your messages and reassure you that they have been received. To help us handle the large number of emails we expect to receive over this period of industrial action, I have asked for support from a small group of specialist colleagues, to ensure that we can respond to all your emails in good time and with correct and relevant information.

As I explained in my previous email, we cannot resolve these national disputes through local action only. I will continue to call on the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK) to engage with UCU and other trade unions, to explore what can be done to reach an agreement, end the disputes, and prevent further disruption to our students. Finding a meaningful solution to these issues will require a willingness to negotiate and compromise, and I hope this is something that can be achieved as soon as possible.

Later today, I will be meeting with colleagues from the local UCU branch, and the Students' Union Officers, to discuss what more can be done locally. Later this afternoon, I will give you an update on the outcome of this discussion via the latest information section of our dedicated industrial action web pages.

Please refer to our industrial action web pages for further information, including FAQs and contact details, which we will continue to update.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

The next week and a half will be a challenging time for our entire University community. The University fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action, and we accept that action is not taken lightly. We will continue to do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students. If you intend to work as normal and not take industrial action, we would like to thank you for your flexibility and for supporting our students.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor


Thursday 21 November 2019

Important information for colleagues taking industrial action

Dear colleague

I am writing to outline the University’s position in relation to the forthcoming industrial action which the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on its members to take here in Sheffield, and at around 60 other universities, from Monday 25 November 2019.

I acknowledge that many staff will not choose to participate in the industrial action and apologise for having to write to everyone, however, we are unable to identify in advance who will be taking action. If you are intending to work as normal and not take industrial action we would like to thank you in advance for working through what may potentially be a challenging period for our entire University community, and for supporting our students. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

We will continue to work in partnership with the trade unions to address these matters locally and use our influence to try to shape the national debate. We hope that the national disputes can be resolved before we are impacted by any industrial action.

The University respects the right of staff to take industrial action and our position on managing it is available here.

The University does not accept partial performance and where this breaches an individual’s contract of employment, the University reserves the right to withhold up to 100 per cent of pay.

If you are intending to participate in the industrial action please see below for further information.

If you have any queries regarding this message please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Further details and answers to frequently asked questions are available here

Regards

Ian Wright
Deputy Director of HR

Information for those taking part in industrial action:

Strike action

For those staff who choose to take strike action on any of the dates identified by UCU between 25 November and 4 December 2019 inclusive, you will be in breach of your contract of employment and, as such, a day’s pay will be deducted for each day that you participate in the strike. Daily deductions will be calculated for full time staff as 1/365 of annual salary (including any allowances/additional payments), and will be pro-rated for part-time staff. Further details can be found on our FAQ page.

If you do take strike action you must complete a strike notification form as soon as you return to work following your participation. The strike notification form (Word, 32.1KB) must be sent to your Head of Department to countersign and then returned to HR at industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Provided forms are received by HR by 10am on Friday 6 December 2019, deductions from pay will be spread over the December 2019 and January 2020 payroll runs. If forms are received after this date, all deductions will be made in the January 2020 payroll. Details of this process can be found on our FAQ page.

Action short of a strike (ASOS)

UCU is also asking its members to take action short of a strike (ASOS) from 25 November 2019 on a continuous basis, potentially until 29 April 2020. Details of the proposed ASOS can be found on our FAQ page.

In line with the University’s position outlined above, the University does not accept partial performance of the contract of employment of any member of staff and reserves the right to deduct up to 100 per cent of pay in such circumstances. This means that if you choose to take part in any ASOS by declining to undertake duties which normally form a part of your role, or to follow a reasonable management instruction, you may not be entitled to your full pay from the date you start to participate in the ASOS.

The ASOS called by UCU has the potential to have a serious adverse impact on our students and operations. Whilst the University reserves its right to do so, we will review the impact of the action before deciding whether and how to make deductions from pay where staff are in breach of their contract of employment. Staff will receive prior notice of the implementation of deductions to enable them to choose whether or not to continue to participate in ASOS before deductions are made.

Anyone who chooses to commence taking ASOS must complete a notification form on the first day they begin taking the ASOS and send it to their Head of Department immediately. Download the action short of a strike notification form (Word, 30.4KB).

Pension scheme membership

For details of how taking industrial action will impact on your pension scheme membership and benefits see our FAQ page.

If you change your mind

If you choose to take part in the action (strike or ASOS) being called by UCU and at a later stage decide to change your mind, you should inform your Head of Department (or their nominated deputy if they are taking strike action at the time) in writing by email immediately. Your pay will be reinstated to your normal contractual salary from the date on which you return to normal working. Any pay withheld whilst taking action will not be reinstated.


Tuesday 19 November 2019

Industrial action due to begin next week

Dear colleague

As you will know from my emails over the past couple of weeks, the University and College Union (UCU) intends to begin strike action here in Sheffield and at around 60 other universities from next week, as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions. It is a matter of great regret that we are once again facing the prospect of disruption to our students' education and divisions within our University.

Despite the positive steps we are taking with our trade union colleagues to address the issues of concern (see, here) and our work with UCU colleagues to influence the direction of the sector-wide USS pension scheme (see, here), we cannot resolve these national disputes on our own. For many years, we have participated in the national pay bargaining process, supported by our trade union colleagues, and we are therefore bound by the collective view of higher education employers. However, that does not diminish my willingness to continue to work with our local trade union colleagues on the important matters that form part of the national pay claim, including addressing our gender and ethnicity pay gaps and issues around workloads and precarity of employment.

We have continued to express our concerns, alongside UCU, over the way the USS scheme valuations are undertaken. We have been unequivocal in our support for the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), which was formed to suspend the industrial action in 2018. I urge the JEP to release their second report as soon as possible, ideally before the end of this week. I hope that the report will provide a way for all parties - employers, UCU and the USS Trustee - to seek an immediate solution to the USS-related issues through meaningful negotiation.

At a national level, I have been calling on the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK to talk to UCU and other trade unions to see what else can be done to prevent the disruption to our students. If we are to make progress, it will require a willingness to negotiate and compromise on both sides. It remains my sincere hope that we can find a way to avoid industrial action.

Here in Sheffield, I have invited the UCU Branch President and our Students' Union President to meet with me, to explore what more we can do locally. I recognise that we are at heart a community of scholars, professionals and students, and I want to do all I can to support that community.

We have created some industrial action web pages designed to help you find information quickly and easily. These include FAQs, which we will continue to update as we have more information, and details of whom to contact if you have any questions or concerns. You can find these pages at: www.sheffield.ac.uk/staff/industrial-action

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk or get in touch via the web form on the industrial action web pages above. I will also make sure you are kept updated with the latest information.

In the distinct likelihood of industrial action next week, my University Executive Board colleagues and I would like to thank you for your efforts to ensure we maintain positive relationships and support our students and each other. We will do everything we can to minimise disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor


Wednesday 6 November 2019

Industrial action - action planned from 25 November 2019

Dear colleague

Last week I emailed you to say that the University and College Union (UCU), one of our recognised trade unions, had achieved a mandate through a ballot of their membership for industrial action over two ongoing disputes - increased member contributions to maintain existing benefits in the sector-wide USS pension scheme; and the national pay negotiations, incorporating issues of workload, casualisation/precarity of employment and the gender pay gap. This mandate was achieved here at Sheffield and at 60 other UK universities.

Yesterday, we received further details about when and what form this industrial action will take. UCU intend to take strike action from Monday 25 November to Friday 29 November 2019 and from Monday 2 December to Wednesday 4 December 2019 inclusive. They have also informed us that this will be accompanied by action short of a strike from 25 November 2019 onwards, which means taking action that falls short of a full withdrawal of labour.

My University Executive Board colleagues and I understand that staff only take industrial action as a last resort, having exhausted all other avenues, and that no one wants to disrupt students' education. We will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students. We are doing all we can to prepare, including working closely with heads of department, HR colleagues, Student Support Services and the Students’ Union.

We appreciate that not everyone who is a member of UCU will want to take action and that periods of industrial action can be difficult for all staff and students. I would like to thank colleagues in advance for their flexibility and support in minimising the impact on our students.

We have created some industrial action web pages designed to help you find information quickly and easily. These include FAQs, which we will continue to update as we have more information, and details of who to contact if you have any questions or concerns. You can find these pages at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/staff/industrial-action. You will also find a link to the student and parent FAQs, which are currently being updated.

Of course, we will continue to work with our local trade unions on a range of matters of concern to them and colleagues across the sector. And I will make sure you are kept updated with the latest information about this industrial action.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor


Friday 1 November 2019

Trade union ballot outcomes

Dear colleague

I am writing regarding the ongoing disputes over the sector-wide USS pension scheme and the national pay negotiations. Three of our recognised trade unions, the University and College Union (UCU), UNISON and Unite, have balloted their membership to seek a mandate for industrial action - UCU and UNISON over both issues and Unite over national pay negotiations only.

Yesterday, we received notification that UCU have received a mandate for action on USS at 43 universities (out of 69 balloted) and on pay and related issues at 55 HE institutions (out of 147 balloted), including here at Sheffield on both issues.
UNISON did not secure a mandate for industrial action over the national pay negotiations dispute. We are awaiting news from UNISON regarding its other ballot on USS and Unite in respect of their ballot on pay and expect those results shortly.

We do not yet know whether there will be any industrial action, when it may be, or what form it may take as a result of the UCU ballot outcomes. We anticipate receiving details early next week.

If we do face action, I want to make it clear that my University Executive Board colleagues and I understand that staff only take industrial action as a last resort, having exhausted all other avenues, and that no one wants to disrupt students' education. We will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education and learning as soon as possible following any disruption.

We appreciate that not everyone will want to take action and would like to thank colleagues in advance for their flexibility and support in minimising the impact on our students.

The dispute over the USS pension scheme relates to the increase in member contributions to maintain current benefits and address the deficit in the scheme. We have been working very closely with UCU over the past 18 months to better understand and address these issues and we share many joint aims and perspectives. We want to see a scheme which is good quality, sustainable and affordable and we share some of the concerns that UCU has raised. Further information can be found here.

The dispute over the outcome of the national pay negotiations also includes a range of non-pay issues. We continue to participate in national negotiations between the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and the recognised higher education trade unions, a process supported by our trade unions locally. Further information can be found here.

We continue to work with our local trade unions on a range of matters which are of concern to them and colleagues across the sector to find ways to address issues such as workload pressures, stress and mental health concerns, casual working and gender and ethnicity pay gaps. Read more about our joint work here.

We have also reached an agreement with UCU over casual teaching arrangements and are committed to further joint work. Read our joint statement.

We will continue to work in partnership with the trade unions to address these matters locally, inform our position, as well as use our influence to try to shape the national debate.

I will make sure you are kept updated with the latest information about these disputes and the anticipated industrial action.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor