USS Pension dispute redux

Some of my posts from the last iteration of the USS pensions dispute just over 2 years ago appear increasingly relevant again, so I’ve re-activated them (I haven’t checked for dead links):

Resources about the proposed USS reforms and UCU dispute

On the politics of pay docking – who is threatening what in the USS dispute?



On the politics of pay docking – who is threatening what in the USS dispute?

As a follow-up to my previous post on the current dispute between UCU and UUK about changes to the USS pension scheme, a characteristic of this dispute has been the divergent approaches taken by employers with regard to salary deductions for those taking part in the Action Short of Strike (ASOS) which in this case is a marking and assessment boycott. A minority (Times Higher Education is quoting “at least 8” in this story from 13 November) have taken a particularly hard line, informing staff that they would dock 100% of salary for participation in the ASOS. Others plan to dock 20% or 25%, and some intend to dock 100% but return 75% ex gratia. Yet details about which universities are adopting which tactics are also hard to find.

As a start, the universities known to be threatening 100% deductions include (in alphabetical order):

  • University of Bradford
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Salford
  • University of Sussex
  • University of Ulster
  • University of York (apparently reconsidering)

Let me know what your institution is threatening and I’ll add it to the list.

Some useful references about this practice are:

Resources about the proposed USS reforms and UCU dispute

The University and College Union (UCU) in the UK is currently in dispute with the employers at ‘pre-1992’ universities, represented by the employer association Universities UK (UUK), over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). But anyone trying to build up an informed opinion of the proposals and counter-proposals is faced very little accessible information, even less of which is intelligible to anyone who isn’t an accountant, preferably an actuary. This post just seeks to collate some of the sources I’ve found useful as I try to work out what to think. Hopefully others will also find it useful.

Update 14 November:
  • The UCU has released a pension modeller to provide an indication about the effect of the proposed reforms on your pension. Bearing in mind the intricacies mentioned above, it is nevertheless vastly more useful than the ‘model career trajectories’ previously released by both UUK and UCU. See

Conference announcement: ‘The plurality and politics of environmental justice’, 26-27 June 2015, UEA

UEA’s Global Environmental Justice Group (of which I’m a member) and the Lancaster Environment Centre are jointly organizing a conference on 26-27 June 2015 in Norwich, UK on ‘The plurality and politics of environmental justice’. By plurality, we refer to the multiple meanings of justice in specific contexts. Yet if notions of justice are plural, the question arises about which notions – and whose notions – find traction in public discourse, and how some social actors are able to promote certain notions, whereas other actors and notions are not heard. Some justice conceptions may even become hegemonic in dominant discourses of national development or environmental management or institutionalized in governance arrangements and assemblages, thereby marginalizing others.

We invite paper proposals that examine the plurality and politics of justice in particular settings from empirical or normative perspectives. We aim to attract contributions covering a wide variety of empirical settings, including studies operating at the local, national and global level, originating from the Global North and South, and analyzing a diverse set of environmental and natural resource problems. In addition, we encourage submissions from all related academic disciplines, including but not confined to environmental studies, anthropology, political ecology, geography, science and technology studies, international relations, and international political economy.

Keynote speakers: Tor Arve Benjaminsen (Norwegian University of Life Sciences), Ryan Holified (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), David Schlosberg (The University of Sydney), Astrid Ulloa (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)

Please send paper proposals (up to 500 words, including the author’s name, affiliation and email address) to by December 19, 2014. We will inform authors about the acceptance of their paper proposals by January 9, 2015. Full papers are to be submitted by May 29, 2015 for circulation to the conference participants. For further information, see

UEA’s Global Environmental Justice Group is also hosting a one day workshop for postgraduate research students on June 25, 2015: ‘Research methods in Global Environmental Justice’. This workshop will consider the opportunities and methodological challenges of using a GEJ perspective to conduct critical environment and sustainable development research. With interactive presentations by faculty and student led discussions, the workshop will provide a stimulating opportunity to engage with an exciting new analytical lens for examining place-based environmental struggles in relation to larger political and economic processes. To book a place and for other details, please email

A Polanyi snippet

“The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end.”

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, 1944 (p. 48 in the 2001 Beacon Books edition)

My involvement at AAG 2014

In a few weeks thousands of geographers will inundate Tampa, Florida for what to my knowledge is the world’s largest geography conference; the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. I’m organizing a pair of sessions with Sara Fuller, full details of which can be found on the conference website: Climate justice: interrogating an emergent discourse (1) and Climate justice: interrogating an emergent discourse (2). I’m also participating in a really interesting panel looking at the role of the state in responding to the climate crisis: Urgency – yes, but of what kind? State theory, climate change, and the left.

IAG/NZGS 2014 Call for Papers: ‘Geographical perspectives on climate justice’

Institute of Australian Geographers with the New Zealand Geographical Society Joint Conference, 30 June – 2 July 2014, University of Melbourne, Australia

Session Organizers: Gareth Edwards*, Donna Houston^ & Sara Fuller^
* University of St Andrews, UK
     ^ Macquarie University, Australia

In both academic and policy circles, climate justice is emerging as an important concept guiding both mitigation and adaptation. While the early academic literature focussed on international and intergenerational questions of distributive justice in the context of intergovernmental climate change negotiations (e.g. Gardiner, 2004; Paavola & Adger, 2006; Parks & Roberts, 2010), engagements with climate justice from geographers—particularly political ecologists and environmental justice scholars—have begun to mushroom (e.g. Bulkeley et al., 2013; Bulkeley et al., 2014; Chatterton et al., 2013; Forsyth, in press; Steele et al., 2012; Wainwright & Mann, 2013). Scholars have sought to develop more progressive theorizations of climate justice, to interrogate it in the context of critical theory, and to examine how it is being articulated by social movements as well as governments and their negotiators at the international climate negotiations.

Building on a similar session at the 2014 AAG in Tampa, this session seeks both theoretical and empirical papers addressing climate justice, in order to open up the geographical debate on this important discourse. We invite contributions that explore (but are not limited to) the following issues:

  • Interrelations between climate justice and environmental justice
  • Scale, governance and climate justice
  • Activism and mobilisations around climate justice
  • Climate justice and southern theory – how is climate justice articulated in the south?
  • Climate justice and ‘more-than-human’ geographies
  • Climate justice and Indigenous knowledges/research methodologies
  • Climate justice and carbon-intensive resource development