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Talks call in lecturers’ strike

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Pensions dispute: Lecturers plan four weeks of action

UNIVERSITIES UK has called University and College Union (UCU) to meet to engage in ‘serious, meaningful’ talks on the future of the USS pension scheme.

A strike by UCU members in the week ​of February 19-23 was only the first of a planned four weeks of industrial action as employers and lecturers battle out a dispute over the future shape of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Universities UK claims that the current scheme – the largest funded scheme in the UK – is unaffordable and that a projected £6.1bn deficit means that retirement benefits have to be cut. The union claims that the deficit is overstated and that, having already eroded some pension rights, further cuts to it are unfair.

In a press statement which accompanied an open letter to UCU members, Universities UK said: ​”​It is of paramount importance that both side make every effort to meet – despite the ongoing industrial action – to stop any impact and disrupton to students.

​”​Universities UK has never refused to continue to try to find an affordable, mutually acceptable solution. We would be willing to discuss a credible proposal that addresses the significant financial issues the scheme is facing.

​”​The problem that we share as interested parties in USS is that, to continue to offer current benefits, contributions would have to rise by approximately £1 billion per annum. The scheme has a £6.1 billion deficit and there has been an increase of more than a third in the cost of future pensions.​”​

Responding to that statement, UCU said it would certainly be attending as it had been calling for talks for weeks, but refused to call of scheduled industrial action.

However, it said that unless the employers were prepared to talk about the January decision to slash pensions then it did not see how the dispute could be resolved. In its statement UUK said ​’​talks would not re-open the Joint Negotiating Committee decision made on 23 January​’​.

That decision is the very reason staff are on strike.

UCU said it was disappointed UUK had ignored the wishes of universities minister Sam Gyimah who stated explicitly that the talks should be without preconditions.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: ​”​Because this is so serious for students and for staff we will of course attend. I am however very concerned that UUK has explicitly ruled out discussing the imposed changes that have caused the strikes.

​”​The universities minister was very clear that he wanted talks without preconditions and we hope UUK will reconsider his words before we meet. We remain committed to serious negotiations aimed at resolving this dispute.​”​

Universities UK’s position is not assisted by the long-running dissatisfaction with some of the extraordinary pay packages its members dole out to some university vice chancellors.

University vice-chancellors have enjoyed huge pay rises in recent years. The average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005/06 was £165,105. Over the next decade it increased by 56.2% to £257,904 in 2015/16.

Professor Peter Mathieson, recently appointed as vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University, will be paid a basic salary of £342,000 – £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O’Shea. Professor Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000. He will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

Professor Mathieson quit his contentious and controversial tenure as vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University to take the Edinburgh post.

Stuck in the middle of the dispute between lecturers and universities are students.

The programme of strikes is taking place at one of the most sensitive times of the year for higher education students, with many final year students rapidly approaching the end of their courses. A suggestion has been made that some universities will take account of disruption to studies when making degree awards, In addition, while many students sympathise with their lecturers’ predicament there is growing frustration among those who are likely to be most severely affected by strikes that will last 14 days initially, with the possibility of further action during summer final exams.

Some students are contemplating demanding compensation, with The Guardian quoting one saying: “I am a third-year student in his last term of university and the fact that my vice-chancellor has told me that I could be without any assistance for a whole 14 days over four weeks in my most important term of education is a joke.”

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Education

Ceredigion Schools have already produced more than 300 visors

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MORE than 300 face-visors have already been produced by staff at Ysgol Bro Pedr, Ysgol Penglais, Ysgol Bro Teifi and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.

These face-visors provide much needed protection for front-line workers in Ceredigion. The visors are produced on the schools’ 3-D printers.
Plans are in place to produce another 2,000 of these vital visors.

Meinir Ebbsworth, Corporate Lead Officer – Schools said, “We are extremely grateful to our staff who are using their expertise and school equipment to help others.”

Ceredigion County Council are proud of the contribution that our schools are making during this difficult and challenging times, and to all our staff and volunteers who have shown such goodwill to help others.

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Education

Ceredigion pupils receive Holocaust survivor experiences

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To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Ceredigion pupils had the opportunity to hear the story of a Holocaust survivor.

On 27 January 2020, it was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Dr Martin Stern MBE was five years old when he was arrested at his school.

His journey was a difficult one being close to death on a few occasions. Dr Stern moved to Britain in 1950 and became a Doctor. These days, Dr Stern is educating young people about what happened. On 29 January 2020, he came to Aberaeron to talk to a hall full of Ceredigion’s young people.

Meinir Ebbsworth, Corporate Lead Officer for Schools said, “75 years ago, the world saw images of people coming out of the camps and coming to terms with what had happened. We are so grateful to Dr Martin Stern for coming to Ceredigion to share his story and experiences. It is not easy to talk about a very dark time in the world’s history. I hope our pupils have considered what we had heard. Due to the overwhelming silence in the room when Dr Stern was speaking, I think they really appreciated the afternoon.”

The afternoon was jointly organised by Ceredigion County Council’s schools service and ERW.

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Education

Bronze-medal winning hairdresser on the road to Shanghai

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Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training (HCT) continue to lead the way in skills competitions across the UK. The latest success story is Bayley Harris, who recently qualified as a Level 2 hairdresser at HCT.

After succeeding in demanding regional and national qualifying rounds, Bayley earned a spot in the grand final of the WorldSkills UK competition which was held from 21 to 23 November 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham.

The competition took place over three full days, with Bayley having to compete in five different categories including dressing long hair, cutting, colouring, bridal hair and barbering. She finished in third place out of a total of ten top-class hairdressers, earning her the bronze medal in the awards ceremony.

As a result of her outstanding performance, Bayley has been selected for the Squad UK for the prestigious international WorldSkills Competition which will take place in Shanghai, China in 2021.

HCT hairdressing tutor Carys Randell, congratulated Bayley for doing so well in the competitions, as they were very intense and of an extremely high standard. She went on to add, “I am so proud of Bayley for coming third in the UK, and I look forward to supporting her on her next journey in Squad UK.”

The WorldSkills competition in Shanghai will feature over 1000 of the world’s most talented apprentices and students competing in over 50 different skills as they battle it out to be named the World Champion in their respective vocation.

Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services and Life-long learning. She said, “It’s great to follow Bayley’s journey within the hairdressing industry. This latest award is a credit to her. Bayley shows where you can reach if you put your mind to work with the support of Ceredigion Training. Good luck in the UK Squad.”

All staff and learners at HCT would like to congratulate Bayley in her most recent competition success and wish her all the best in her bid to represent the UK in China in 2021.

Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training (HCT) offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Motor Mechanics, and Welding. For more information, find HCT on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HyfforddiantCeredigion, or visit the website: http://www.ceredigiontraining.co.uk/hafan.

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