As a current member of USS (but not of any union), I must say that UCU’s reaction to the proposed changes to USS seems rather over the top.
Under the proposed changes, benefits already accrued will not change – all that will change is that benefits accrued from 2019 onward. The scheme would move to entirely defined contribution, rather than defined benefit. This is in line with standard practice in the private sector. In addition, the proposal would include an option for employee contributions of 4%, alongside the 85 already offered, making it far more appealing for to staff such as myself on lower salaries.
In contrast UCU’s proposal would see employee contributions increase above the current 8% (hardly a low level to begin with), which would likely price many lower paid staff out of the scheme.
While I believe there is a middle ground between UUK’s proposed reduction to benefits and UCU’s proposed increase in contributions, UCU’s response to UUK’s proposal being chosen over theirs seems to be melodramatic. To call for 14 days of strike action over a change which would simply bring the scheme in line with the private sector norm, and to do so before the consultation period on the new scheme has even opened, looks to me like UCU striking for the sake of it.
It is totally unnecessary for the university to require us to ‘double-teach’ lectures, as you report in subtext 172. The lecture can simply be recorded and placed on Moodle. A single optional session can then be organised for those students who wish to ask questions. When I previously wrote to subtext, a couple of years back, in support of the LUSU campaign for the video recording of all lectures, pointing out in the process that this was an opportunity for us all to lecture less, my views were not exactly warmly received. One of those who replied was, if I recall rightly, ‘appalled’ at my suggestion. Perhaps now, faced with the prospect of coming in on a Saturday morning to repeat the Friday afternoon lecture, staff will become more appreciative of the technological alternatives. There are, of course, some things that must be delivered fact-to-face – laboratory/computer practicals being the obvious example. Some of these I do currently double-teach, but in my experience I generally have a flood of students for the early session, and then a sparse group for the late show. Students don’t seem to like double-teaching any more than we do. So let’s not have any talk of double-lecturing – let’s just get out the cameras, apply our non-reflective moisturizer, and get into the 21st century.