Letter to Provost Ian Walmsley

Dear Ian,

Just over a month ago, 27/1/20, you wrote to all staff:

“This year’s pay and benefit consultation will be informed by the new Pay and Employment Benchmarking Report (from a working group led by Professor Nigel Brandon, Dean of Engineering). This compares salaries and benefits from comparable institutions in the US and Europe. The report will be reviewed by Provost’s Board this week, and a decision made on implementing its recommendations. Our aspiration is to be competitive in our compensation, recognizing the different environments in which we and our competitors operate. The report and the outcomes of the Board’s deliberation on alignment of pay to comparator benchmarks will be shared with you.”

In February’s FoE MC Summary, sent to EEE staff on 4/3/20 we were told:

“Audrey Fraser, Head of Reward, Engagement and Policy in Human Resources joined the FMC to provide an update on the pay and benefits benchmarking data generated by UCEA. The benchmarking now enabled comparisons of academic pay and benefits with leading London universities in STEM subjects, Russell Group universities, and selected US and European institutions. The data will be discussed at the March meeting of Provost’s Board, with the intention that this robust emerging data set will be used every 1-2 years to inform the approach to pay and benefits at Imperial. Members noted that the costs of living in/near London are also a significant factor for staff and a review of housing support is also going to be carried out over the coming year.”

 

The Pay and Employment Benchmarking Report was one of management’s responses to the 2018 industrial action. It is disappointing that consideration of this report by the Provost Board was delayed from January to March, especially as you were informed on 27/1/20 that members at Imperial UCU had voted for industrial action on pay. To postpone consideration by senior management of the pay information that might help them better understand the vote for action is difficult to understand. Certainly it meant that the Provost Board could not use that information to reassess the basis of our claim and consider if the strike could be averted in a timely manner.

Staff are very reluctant to take industrial action. In fact the current strike is the first on pay since Imperial left national negotiations in 2005. Richard Sykes, the Rector at the time, said a local settlement was necessary to give staff at Imperial the pay they deserved. But since Sykes left in 2008, pay levels at Imperial have fallen by 12.2% in real terms. That figure represents the subsequent drop in the value of the annual settlement at Imperial with respect to the local measure of inflation, CPIH London, as supplied by College to inform our local pay negotiations. College might be reluctant to use CPIH London, but it is the measure that best reflects the pressures staff at Imperial face.

In your latest response to us, below, you seek to assure us that our views will be taken into consideration. However, there is no mention of the Pay and Employment Benchmarking Report, and you state, without any justification, that national as well as local inflation should inform the pay settlement. It is difficult to feel reassured if key information is either being ignored or discounted.

Finally, regarding transparency, particularly the policy of pay in lieu of pensions, it should be noted how that policy affected pay for all staff after its implementation in 2016. Looking at ranked salaries in the period from 2015 to 2017, the College accounts show there was a very considerable uplift in the salaries enjoyed by the highest paid staff:

Such an increase was the result of a decision by senior management to compensate themselves for the change in pension taxation introduced in 2016. In the current dispute, in answer to a questionnaire from UUK, Imperial’s senior management stated they did not want to offer any compensation for the increase in USS employee contributions faced by the majority staff at Imperial.

 

All the best

Tom

_________________

W Thomas Pike

Professor in Microengineering
Optical and Semiconductor Devices
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Imperial College London SW7 2AZ

Teach Out Events – Week Commencing 9 March

The following events will all take place from 12:15-2:00pm in the Metric Room of the Imperial Student Union, Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BB.

These are open events, all are welcome to attend – Imperial staff and students along with members of the general public.

Monday, 9 March

International Women’s Day – Panel Discussion on Current Challenges for Women in Higher Education with

  • Becky Stewart (Chair), Lecturer in Dyson School of Design Engineering
  • Fay Dowker, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Physics Department
  • Nousheen Tariq, Postgraduate Education Manager, Faculty of Medicine
  • Emma Toumi, Head of Intellectual Property Strategy, Enterprise Division
  • Gemma Williamson, Postgraduate Education Officer, Faculty of Medicine

Resisting the Hostile Environment with Julian Bild – Immigration solicitor, Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)

(link to Facebook event)

Thursday, 12 March

Viruses: Fact, Fiction … and Fear with Dr Michael McGarvey, Reader in Molecular Virology, Imperial College London

(link to Facebook event)

Friday, 13 March

No teach out, instead there will be a solidarity rally on Exhibition Road before the March for Education and Earth.

Teach Out Events – Week Commencing 2 March

The following events will all take place from 12:15-2:00pm in the Metric Room of the Imperial Student Union, Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BB.

These are open events, all are welcome to attend – Imperial staff and students along with members of the general public.

Monday, 2 March

The Random Universe with Andrew Jaffe, Professor of Astrophysics and Cosmology, Imperial College London

Tuesday, 3 March

Fossil Free Economy Debate with

  • Martin Blunt, Shell Professor of Reservoir Engineering, Imperial College London
  • Sheridan Few, Research Associate, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
  • Camilla Royle, Geography Department, King’s College London

(link to Facebook event)

Wednesday, 4 March

The Politics of Mental Health with Roddy Slorach, Senior Disability Advisor, Imperial College London

Thursday, 5 March

Mars: Our Future? with Tom Pike, Professor of Microengineering, Imperial College London

(link to Facebook event)

Start of Strike Action February/March 2020

After re-balloting in the new year, the Imperial UCU Branch surpassed the legally required minimum 50% turnout and voted in favour of a mandate for strike action on two issues:

  1. Local dispute over pay with College Management;
  2. National dispute over pensions with USS.

After the 8 days of strike action before Christmas which Imperial UCU did not take part in due to not meeting the requirement of 50% of ballots returned by eligible voters, Imperial UCU is taking part in the 14 days of strike action across February and March.

Summary of Pay Dispute

Our pay settlements have fallen behind the increase in the cost of living over the last 10 years. In 2019 College Management made a pay offer that did not even begin to address this long term decline in our salaries. This pay offer was rejected by all three campus unions. The college has now imposed a settlement on all staff without the agreement of the UCU. In addition to inflation, staff pension contributions have also risen (see below) from 6.5% of salary in 2011 to 9.6% today.

Summary of Pensions Dispute

Our USS pension scheme has been under attack for nearly 10 years. By 2018 our pension contributions had already risen to 8% of our salary. Since then our contributions have been raised twice more to the current 9.6%, and in 2021 they are set to rise again to 11%. All these rises have been based on a discredited valuation of the USS Scheme, meaning we’re paying more and more for a pension which is worth less and less. The 2018 USS strike showed that the only time the employers have been prepared to listen to us is when are prepared to go on strike.

We have been hit by a real-terms pay cut AND increased pensions contributions.

The full strike dates are:

  • week one: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • week two: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • week three: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • week four: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March.