Reading University UCU Rotating Header Image

March, 2022:

Strike Information March 2022

UCU HQ Strike FAQs

Physical Pickets

Please do email to let us know if you plan to come along to the physical picket lines. We are asking you to email in as we will be forwarding all ‘in person’ picketers detailed UCU legal/Covid guidance. In the first instance, can picketers please make their way to the Shinfield Road entrance and find a picket supervisor. We will be picketing between 11:30-13:30 on the following days of industrial action: Wed 23, Thurs 24 and Fri 25 March. The first six members to arrive will be given ‘Picket’ armbands, and we’ll cover the main road entrance plus the path from the bus stop past the Sports Centre. Supporters are very welcome to pop by and say hello.  Please note, we are not running physical pickets on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 March.

Virtual Pickets

Please find the UCU Teams link in a recent members email:

Wed 23: 09:00-10:00

Thurs 24: 09:00-10:00

Fri 25: 11:00-12:00

Mon 28: 09:00-10:00

Tues 29: 09:00-10:00

Emails and Outlook forwarding

Please find guidance here on how to set up auto forwarding during the strike days if your usual mode of communication for Reading UCU is your work email. This means you will receive any updates from us without having to access your work email account. Please note, if the redirect is not working, please try setting the redirect rule to work for the following email address also:, as well as adding the email addresses of RUCU, our Branch Officers (Sally, Nat) and our administrator (Colette), to your ‘safe list’ in outlook.

Resources for students

-USS FAQs (includes What is the USS dispute about?) petition: Students stand in solidarity with UCU’s demands. Senior managers must agree to avoid disruption.

Strike out-of-office

Members may want to use the following template, checked by our Regional Office:

I am not able to check email today as members of Reading UCU are taking industrial action, as part of a national dispute, in opposition to the devastating cuts to our pension scheme. The UCU USS modeller indicates that a typical USS member at point 37 of the current higher education pay spine would suffer a 35% cut to the guaranteed retirement benefits which they would build up between the projected date for implementation of the proposals and their retirement. Members of Reading UCU will be on strike on Wed 23, Thu 24, Fri 25 March, plus Mon 28 & Tues 29 March. If you would like more information about the dispute, please go to If you are a student, please visit the NUS petition here:

Informing the University about your strike action

Members are under no obligation to inform HR, or indeed any other member of staff, about their intentions to undertake strike action if you are going to be on strike in the next two weeks. If a manager asks, you can politely decline to answer that question in advance of taking part in any forthcoming action.Members also do not need to notify the Director of HR, or anyone else, immediately after every day of strike action. Our days of strike action are on Wed 23, Thu 24, Fri 25 March, plus Mon 28 & Tues 29 March. After that period of strike action, if full time, your next day of work would be 30 March. That’s the day to confirm that you have taken part in action, once you have been asked to notify. If you work part-time, then it would be the next day that you are scheduled to work after strike action. See the relevant UCU Strike FAQ here:

Action Short of A Strike

Please see the ASOS FAQ and relevant Reclaim our time: ASOS campaign pages on the national UCU website here:

Members should note that UCU has provided notice to University of Reading, that expands the scope of the ASOS that we are asking members to participate in at University of Reading. We ask members to note that the ASOS now includes:

• removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action

• not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action

In terms of ​rescheduling, the national UCU FAQs linked above state that by ‘lectures or classes’ we mean any activity between any UCU member and a student or group of students which involves any instruction, tuition, communicating or sharing of knowledge or guidance.

This includes teaching which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and covers instructional activities undertaken by UCU members who are professional services staff, as well as academic staff. You should, if asked, refuse to reschedule such sessions, stating that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike.

If someone else such as a line manager or head of department has already scheduled your classes, the FAQ state that once the action has started you should not teach rescheduled classes whoever has rescheduled them.

The national UCU FAQS also outline that the reasonability of any request will depend on the terms of your contract and custom and practice. If in doubt, or if your actions are challenged by someone senior to you, you should temporarily suspend your action and contact your branch who will seek further advice.

As a result, please do not hesitate to get in touch for support if you need to, for example by contacting the Branch Administrator in the first instance. We can ask for additional guidance from our regional office on your behalf.

UCU Picketing guidance

What is the law on picketing? UCU – HE disputes FAQs

UCU Covid advice for picketers

Slides For USS Open Meeting Wednesday 16th March

Slides: USS Pensions Dispute meeting 16 Mar 22

For further questions on this slide presentation, please contact:

Branch President: Sally Pellow

Branch Secretary: Nat Willmott

Reading UCU Comments on USS Pension

This is a message from the Branch President of Reading UCU for all colleagues,
in response to the message from Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort posted
on the staff portal here.

On 22 February 2022 the Chair of the USS Joint Negotiating Committee, Judith
Fish, used her casting vote to determine that proposals put forward by
Universities UK (UUK) last summer should be implemented from 1 April 2022.
The UUK proposals were tabled at the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC)
at its meeting on 31 August 2021 where the employers voted for the proposal,
and the Chair used their casting vote to make the final decision. See here for
the UCU report of the meeting.

These changes, effective from 1 April 2022, have been calculated by UCU and
USS as being detrimental to the final pensions received by those in the
scheme: typically, the losses will range from 10% of final pension for those
nearing retirement, to 51% of final pension for those starting out in the sector.
Staff can review their own likely losses at the USS supplied modeller or at the
UCU modeller or can compare the losses at a separate app produced by some
staff at Bristol University. The changes were designed to respond to
predictions of a significant loss in the future value of the pension scheme: this
was based on a snapshot valuation of the scheme undertaken on 31 March
2020 (during the first lockdown).

Benefits accrued to 1 April 2022 will remain unaffected.

UCU sought to table a counter proposal at that August meeting, but the
employers’ representatives refused to agree to underwrite those proposals
(the covenant support) which meant that the proposals could not be formally
presented to the USS JNC for consideration and voting. As the proposals could
not be formally presented and were unviable without the covenant support,
they could not be shared with the wider group of members or employers.
In January this year, UCU put forward a new alternative approach, which would
involve an increase in contribution from both staff and employers for a short
period, pending a revaluation of the scheme. The timing of this was based on
the ending of the consultation of USS members on employers’ benefit cuts: the
consultation closed in January. The consultation indicated a very strong
preference from members to protect current benefits. Details of the new
alternative proposal are laid out in this article from 26 January 2022: the
details make clear that the proposals are limited to a temporary increase in
employer contribution to rise no higher than 25.2%, pending a new formal
valuation of the pension scheme.

UUK then sought the views of their members at their 140 universities, whilst
adding their own commentary to the proposals, although there appears to
have been some delay before they did so. A number of elements were
misrepresented to employers, in particular the extent to which the employer
contributions might rise. For a detailed rebuttal of these misrepresentations,
see UCU General Secretary Jo Grady’s response where she confirms that UUK
now accept that there would not be any rise beyond 25.2%, and certainly not
to the 29.1% suggested in Professor Van de Noort’s commentary. A further
commentary is available at ‘UCU proposals for securing the future of USS
following the 2020 valuation’ where UUK’s own override is clarified; also the
explanatory blog by Michael Otsuka, one of the alternate USS negotiators, at ‘A simple means of ensuring that rates are capped at 25.2% and 9.8% from 1 April

As we all know, investments are subject to fluctuations and there are no
guarantees that a future valuation of the pension fund would show an
improvement. Valuations are subject to the oversight of the Pensions
Regulator and are obliged to take a prudent view. Currently, the fund has total
assets of £89.3bn and contributions coming in are greater than the amount
being paid out to members. USS’s own calculations, referenced here in a
Medium post by one of the negotiators show that the calculated deficit fell
from £14bn to £3bn in the period since the 2020 valuation.

Whilst there is obviously no guarantee that a valuation in April 2023 would
show an improvement, the reality is that the indications are clearly favourable.
Further research by staff at Cambridge University challenges the assumption of
any projected deficit and can be viewed here together with a link to a
recording of an open meeting. In the High Court this week, a legal challenge to
the USS directors over the 2020 valuation was raised by a group of academics
and they have obtained court permission to move to a full hearing: see details

We would be very concerned about suggestions that staff might be
discouraged from participating in the scheme.

We will be calling an open meeting shortly for USS members at Reading to
discuss this further.

Kind regards,
Sally Pellow
President, Reading UCU

Regional Office Advice Regarding Recent HR Email [Subject: UCU industrial action]

UCU’s own guidance states, after a period of strike action has taken place, that if your employer asks you to confirm whether or not you partook in the action you should respond honestly. Of course, what is not more clearly defined is what or “who” is meant by “the employer”.

Our UCU Regional Office understands that this a more recent and new development at University of Reading, that of HR emailing staff directly. Please read carefully the UCU’s FAQ on industrial action, as a number of the requests that HR outline in the message to staff are actually all covered by the ongoing ASOS mandate that we hold (i.e. not uploading materials related to lectures/seminars missed due to strike action). [For more information on our ASOS mandate, please check our up to date blog post here.]

If you have not yet responded to the University, you may want to email your line manager to inform them that you partook in strike action and on what days, in order to fulfil your obligations in this regard.