UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II)

[UPDATES 14 & 16 February: (i) In an implicit admission of the veracity of my claims below, UUK removed their consultation webpage yesterday afternoon and replaced it with a completely different, and far more accurate, version. Click here and read upwards for more details. (ii) Click here for my reply to UUK’s attempt to explain their removal and replacement.]

What follows is a slightly redacted and copy-edited email I’ve sent to UUK and USS, addressed to Stuart McLean, Head of UUK Pensions. It is a follow up to this earlier email.

From: Otsuka,MH
Sent: 12 February 2022 08:11
To: Stuart McLean; Judith Fish; Phil Harding; Justine Mercer; Sam Marsh; ‘Anthony Odgers’; Costello, Carol; ‘Cliff Vidgeon’; ‘Deepa Driver’; ‘Margaret Monckton’; ‘Marion Hersh’; ‘Paul Bridge’; Sharon Moore; ‘Woon Wong’; Nicola Lee; Mike Shore-Nye; Jo Grady
Cc: Bill Galvin; Mel Duffield; Steven Golden
Subject: RE: Serious misrepresentations of UCU’s proposals

Dear Stuart,

I see that you have now created a public webpage on your consultation on UCU’s proposals. Regrettably, this webpage continues to seriously misrepresent them.

It does so in spite of my previous email, and our extended discussion {…}, in which we pointed out the misrepresentations of your previous post.

It does so in spite of your reassurance in your email below that once this webpage goes live, it will become clear that employers are in receipt of all relevant information on which to base their decision, including the fact that the union’s proposals contain three distinct parts.

Far from delivering such clarity, your consultation webpage obscures the content of our proposals to an even greater extent than your previous post.

The second paragraph of your consultation webpage reads as follows:

UUK shared Dr Grady’s earlier letter of 26 January 2022 to the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) Chair with employers to seek their views. The specification of UCU’s proposal differs considerably — detailing contribution rates increasing to at least 43%, although noting that the pricing is indicative at this stage. [my bold emphasis]

Had you directly linked to Jo Grady’s letter of the 26th of January, and simply quoted our three numbered proposals as contained in that letter, the falsity of your sentence with my bold emphasis would become clear.

Remarkably, however, nowhere on your consultation webpage — or in your three linked pdfs at the bottom of that page which you describe as containing “The full consultation materials” — do you ever provide the wording of our three proposals on which you claim now to be consulting employers.

Here is the exact wording of our three proposals, as enumerated in Jo Grady’s letter from the 26th:

1. That UUK call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation of the financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June (at the latest);

2. That employers agree to provide the same level of covenant support as for their own proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme year, starting 1 April 2022 at 11% member/23.7% employer until 1 October 2022, and 11.8%/25.2% thereafter;

3. That employers agree to pay a maximum 25.2% and members a maximum of 9.8% from 1 April 2023 so as to secure current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation.

As we have made clear to you and your UUK colleagues, the specification to which you refer in the sentence I’ve quoted above (with my bold emphasis added) provides our means of implementing just the second of our three proposals. You conceal this fact when you refer to this specification as “[t]he specification of UCU’s proposal”, where the singular reference to “UCU’s proposal” misleadingly implies that UCU has only a single proposal, which this specification fully captures.

Rather than “differing considerably”, this specification enumerates the exact same contribution rates for the 2022/23 scheme year as are contained in the second of our three proposals.

This specification contains a schedule of contributions which escalates to higher rates beyond the 2022/23 scheme year. But, as I explained in my earlier email to you below: “As we have made clear in discussion {…}, the escalating schedule of contributions contained in the JNC specification (which implements the second of the three elements of our proposals) would be superseded from April 2023, as spelled out in the third element of our proposals”.

In the consultation webpage, you go on to make an inaccurate reference to our third proposal, when you write:

However, UCU is also proposing that employer contributions could be capped at 25.2% and members at 9.8% from 1 April 2023, based upon a 2022 valuation concluding ahead of 31 March 2023 — but it is not clear how this could be agreed.

This is inaccurate for the following reason: as we made clear to you {…} shortly before you posted this sentence, even in the absence of “a 2022 valuation concluding ahead of 31 March 2023”, the ceiling rates of 25.2% and 9.8% would remain in place from 1 April 2023.

Why not simply reproduce the wording of all three of our proposals on your consultation webpage and the linked material at the bottom, rather than providing an inaccurate paraphrase of just one of them? [Correction in follow-up email: I now see that the consultation webpage provides what might be described as paraphrases of all three of UCU’s proposals, though each is inaccurate.]

Why do you instead persist in such egregious and escalating misrepresentation of our proposals?

On the eve of industrial action, how are the interests of the employers you represent, and their employees and students, served by a consultation webpage which is so unprofessional in its level of inaccuracy?

At the bottom of this linked consultation document, you write that “UUK hopes and expects to be in a position to share any further details and commentary with employers on the UCU proposal as it may emerge”.

In order to provide employers with a fuller and more accurate understanding of the proposals on which you claim to be consulting, I would like to invite you to share my above commentary on (your misrepresentation of) UCU’s proposal(s) on your webpage.

Best,

Mike

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Professor of Philosophy, LSE & Rutgers. On UCU national negotiating team for USS pensions.

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Michael Otsuka

Michael Otsuka

Professor of Philosophy, LSE & Rutgers. On UCU national negotiating team for USS pensions.

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