The picket line last month at the Sidgwick Site. A new round of strikes begins in MarchRosie Poser

The University and College Union (UCU) has condemned the University for excluding some members of the University Council from voting on a resolution to the Universities’ Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension dispute in an open letter sent to Stephen Toope on Friday (4/3).

The UCU said that the University had violated its own “principles of democratic self-governance” by barring sixteen members of the university’s main decision-making body from the vote (21/2) on the grounds that they hold their savings in USS, higher education’s biggest pension pot.

The open letter described the excluded members as mostly University staff who would be “best placed” to understand the UCU’s proposals. Only a minority of the council (9 out of 25) were eventually able to vote.

Of these nine who were able to vote, the open letter identifies four as external members, three of whom are bankers and business people. The fourth was an economist who in 2004 argued for “much greater reliance on fee contributions from students”. The open letter argues that these external voters “may have determined the outcome of the Council vote”.


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The open letter also argues that excluding members of the council is “based on a misinterpretation of charity law” and is analogous to female council members being unable to vote on narrowing the gender pay gap because they stand to benefit.

The open letter concludes by asking the Vice Chancellor whether members were “given a free vote” on the decision, on what constitutional grounds votes were “suppressed” and whether the University will publish how it reached its decision to reject the UCU proposals.

In a statement to Varsity, the University said “All members of the Council were able to participate in the discussion on the UCU proposals. Only those members of the Council who are not active members of the USS voted on the matter.

“This approach, which reflects Council members’ fiduciary duties as charity trustees, was agreed by the whole Council at successive meetings in 2018 and has been followed since then for all matters relating to the USS.”

The UCU has confirmed another round of strikes will start at the end of this month (21/3).