Lecturers’ Pensions: The Facts

University lecturers’ pensions: Let’s look at the facts.

The USS proposal is to move future pensions from a Defined Benefit basis (where the pension is linked to final salary) to a Defined Contribution basis (where the fund is subject to investment risks until the pension is taken).  Accrued benefits in the past will not be affected (it would be illegal to alter these).

With the increase in life expectancy, Defined Benefit pension schemes (where the pension is linked to final salary) have become increasingly unaffordable.  The number of active members in DB schemes has fallen sharply. In 2006 there were 3.6m active members of DB schemes. By 2017 this had fallen to 1.3m. (Data from PPF ‘Purple Book’; an ‘active member’ is a member of an occupational pension scheme who is at present accruing benefits under that scheme in respect of current service). The USS is the biggest pension fund in the UK with assets of over £60 billion.

The move from DB to DC has often been used by employers as an opportunity to cut their contribution to pensions. But USS is not proposing this. The contribution will remain at a (relatively high) 18%, with 13.25% going into the employee’s pension fund.

In other words, university lecturers are only going through the pensions transfer process which most professions have seen, moreover with unchanged employers’ contributions.

Who is behind the lecturers’ strike?

Matt Waddup, who is the campaign chief behind the walkout of 42,000 staff at 64 universities, began his career at the hard-left Rail, Maritime and Transport union. ‘Footage shows that he has been planning strikes over lecturers’ pension benefits for seven years, telling academics that industrial action should escalate gradually until “real damage is done”.’

‘His campaigns deputy at the University and College Union (UCU) is Ed Bailey, an anti-badger cull activist linked to pro-Soviet groups online, including one that pledges to “establish a post-capitalist, communist society”.’ He once posted a photograph from a demonstration in 2009 showing a sign denouncing “Israeli terrorists”.

The UCU is claiming that “a lecturer starting work today could be £208,000 worse off over the course of their retirement – £9,600 a year – under the new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).”  However this assumes that the lecturer (a Professor in this case, member M10 in the First Actuarial example) has unbroken service of 30 years.  Most employees – academics included – work for more than one employer during their careers.  If this is the case, the sum of their DB pensions can be much reduced, since they may have only a few years of service in DB scheme and their leaving salary is well below their final salary at retirement. DC pensions by contrast are unaffected by moving jobs.

Academia is falling to the HICs ….

The truth about Israel is being progressively distorted – indeed, poisoned – in academia. PhD students are being supervised by anti-Israel Professors and are then taking up tenured positions. The anti-Israel academics referee each other’s grant applications and graduate students’ PhDs. Thus Quatermass-like, the virus mutates and spreads via these clones produced eg by SOAS, Exeter and Warwick. Let’s call them HICs – ‘Hate Israel Clones’.

Last month there was an event at Warwick where Israel was accused of eugenics. A HIC – Dr Siggie Vertommen (a Research Fellow at KCL who got her PhD at Ghent) – accused Israel of discriminating in fertility treatments between Jews and others,  in order to boost the proportion of Jews in the population.  I submitted an FOI to Warwick asking for ‘all the documents relating to the arranging of this event’.  In gaining permission to hold the event, the sponsors (‘Warwick for Justice in Palestine’ and the ‘Centre for the Study of Women and Gender’ – names are redacted in the FOI response) said ‘The speaker has not attracted any controversy. She will be presenting Marie Curie funded research.’

WHAT? The accusation that the Israeli government practises Nazi-style eugenics does not attract controversy? An obviously outrageous and false statement.

Yet more …. “Marie Curie funded”: You would think that is the Marie Curie charity which helps people with terminal illness, wouldn’t you …. clearly that is the impression that the sponsor intended to convey to the Warwick University authorities: ‘Vertommen is funded by this worthy charity – so she must be OK.’

The only problem of course is that Vertommen’s funding is unrelated to this charity. The CEO of Marie Curie explained it to me: ‘The Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship is a longstanding fellowship scheme funded by the European Commission. It supports the exchange of skills across Europe by funding international fellowships for researchers to work in another country of the EU.’

eastwood book feb 18

On Wednesday evening I attended a book launch by another HIC, Dr James Eastwood. He got his PhD at SOAS, supervised by Professor Laleh Khalili who supports an academic boycott of Israel.

Now he is a Lecturer at QMU.

Unfortunately I was delayed and missed the first 20 minutes of the talk.   Eastwood has form. He was the academic who alleged (at conferences at both Sussex and Warwick) that a  Mizrachi woman dressing up her grandson for Purim was in fact an Ashkenazi woman practising racism.

Eastwood showed a couple of film clips which he said were shown to high school students in Israel in pre-military academies. The first was from the film ‘To See If I’m Smiling’, the second (he said it was made by Breaking the Silence) a video of an incident at Hawara checkpoint where a soldier punches a Palestinan – he later says ‘by mistake’.  (What he did not tell us was that the video is 14 years old).

Eastwood’s somewhat trite argument was that an army cannot behave ‘ethically’ – however much ethical training there is – if they are pursuing an unethical political objective.  Of course he assumes it’s a given that Israel is NOT pursuing an ethical objective – predictably he descended into mindless HIC slanderous clichés, accusing Israel of “patriarchal and racist social relations” and “above all, settler colonialism”.

In the Q+A I asked Eastwood about the allegation he made at Warwick (see above – repeated at Sussex). He said he had been to Warwick again and had apologised there for his error.

After the Q+A there were drinks and crisps and a book sale (£50 down from the £75 that Amazon is charging!).  So I went to speak to Eastwood. I asked him what is the purpose of the checkpoints (since he hadn’t said anything in the talk, nor had he said that the IDF is fighting genocidal terrorists). His response was “to control Palestinian movement”. When I expressed incredulity, suggesting that their purpose might just be to save life by stopping suicide bombers, all he could say was “I understand the position you are putting forward” followed by “I don’t really see the point of continuing this conversation”.  I also asked him if he spoke Hebrew. “Yes” he answered .  But David Collier’s earlier report suggests that the truth is different:

At one point, someone asked Eastwood to translate ‘back into Hebrew’ a specific word. Eastwood was unable.  At the break I asked James if he speaks Hebrew. He ‘gets by’. I point out that must be an enormous impediment to conducting this type of research. He says he cannot scan, nor is he comfortable reading Hebrew newspapers.’

At that point the young American woman who had been chairing the meeting (she could have been Jewish and was obviously anti-Israel) decided that Eastwood couldn’t handle difficult questions and she called in the security (who had been hovering outside) and two of us (the other was Thor Halland) were asked to leave. Not for heckling. Not for intimidating. But asked to leave for the crime of asking the speaker questions which exposed his obvious bias.

So far from being an institution which encourages free speech and evidence-seeking, you will be thrown out of Queen Mary University in London if you dare to challenge a biased Israel Hater……………

Beware of the HICs!


Antisemitism Runs Riot in St Albans Methodist Church

At the invitation of a Christian supporter of Israel, I went on 1 February to the Methodist Church in Marlborough Road St Albans to hear a talk (‘Thinking Lunch’) entitled ‘Saving Israel – What next for the Palestinians?” The talk was sponsored by ICAHD (the first Israeli organisation to call for the end of the Jewish State (antisemitic according to IHRA)). The speaker was Tim Coldicott who showed slides and read out a script. The Minister, Rosemary Fletcher, introduced Coldicott and said that there would be a collection for the ‘Charity’ ICAHD UK. Of course it is not a charity – it has political objectives. (The flyer for the meeting also made this mistake).

A clue as to the nature of the talk was inside the entrance. There was a big photo of a roadsign in Judea/Samaria forbidding non-Israeli registered vehicles from using a road. The Israel traducers of course tell you that the road is ‘for Jews only’ and is an example of ‘apartheid’. It’s a lie. The road is for all Israeli registered vehicles regardless of the driver’s religion and the reason for that is purely security. Further inside the entrance was a table with a variety of PSC literature on it. Yes PSC in a Church – the organisation that is riddled with hardcore antisemites and whose logo shows the elimination of the State of Israel.

Coldicott‘s appearance (he is a mild-mannered man in his 70s) gives no clue as to the vile antisemitic lies that he tells. Antisemitism in a Church is particularly awful – one, because of the history of Christian antisemitism, two, because vile as the talk might be (and it was gut-wrenchingly vile) one feels constrained in a religious building about responding robustly.

Coldicott set out his stall. He worked in a kibbutz in 1962 then he saw ‘The Promise’ on Channel 4 TV– a series which completely distorted history and the facts of life in Israel. It’s clear he swallowed the lies hook, line and sinker. And so he (and his wife Mayonne who was with him in the Church) decided they had to ‘do something’.

His first slide showed Yad Va’shem (the Holocaust Memorial building in Jerusalem). Given his title (Saving Israel) this was an unmistakable (and antisemitic) hint that if Israel does not make peace, there will be a 2nd Holocaust

Then we had the lies about how children are educated in Israel: They are taught about weapons and they are taught about the Holocaust “in order to keep fear alive”. They are taught that Israel is a “land without people for a people without a land” (this quote was never said by a Jew of course!). They are taught that there is no such people as Palestinians – “only Arabs, who want to throw us into the sea” (a lie of course – they are not taught this). And they are taught “that the whole world is against us” and that “the reason is antisemitism”. And “it is forbidden on the curriculum to mention the Naqba.” All defamatory lies.  And that hardly any Israeli children learn Arabic (Lie: Arabic is mandatory in Jewish primary schools). “There are only five schools where Jewish and Arab children learn together” – A lie. He was talking about Yad B’Yad schools. There is nothing to stop Arab children and Jewish children going to any school they want.

Then “Israel blew up over 400 Palestinian townships in the 1950s”. In 1947 “Jews were given 55% of the territory for only 7% of the population” (failing to mention that much of the land the UN Partition Plan gave the Jews was uninhabitable desert – of course The Maps That Lies was there on the PSC table).

Plan Dalet” was “a longstanding plan to attack Palestinian villages and terrorise the population so that they fled.” A lie. Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948 (it is open and available for all to read in the IDF Archive and in various publications), was the master plan of the Haganah – the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) – to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. That’s what it explicitly states and that’s what it was.

The Naqba is not recognised by Israeli Jews as equivalent to the Holocaust”. This is Holocaust Minimisation – one step above Denial. To suggest that the forced expulsion of a handful of Arabs (read Efraim Karsh) was morally equivalent to the murder of six million Jews – two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe – is obscene.

And so on with the demonising antisemitic lies … “It was not Jews who faced being pushed into the sea  … It was Arabs.” “The Arabs who stayed in Israel were regarded as enemies and subjected to military rule” .. “They experienced the Judaisation of their land and were prohibited on pain of death from returning to their villages.”

“The land is the property of the Jewish people” … “The settlements are illegal” ….”Settler violence is not punished” … “Complain about the behaviour of settlers and you’ll be arrested” … “Ethnic cleansing” … “Children are in prison for throwing stones” (yes stones kill, ask the parents of poor Adele Biton) .. .Israel “illegally uses live ammunition to control unarmed civilians”.

This is how Coldicott summed up, suggesting all Israel’s history is a lie: “The record has caught up with the story, we now know the story isn’t true”.

Then of course came the apartheid comparison – an Al Jazeera clip to support his statement that the Palestinians live in ‘Bantustans’ [does he mean Israeli Arabs or Palestinians in the Disputed Teritories?].

Coldicott continued with the lies…. “Palestinians in Israel [he means Israeli Arabs] do not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis …. “Beduin village cleared to make way for a Jewish-only town” … “Israel wants to be a State for Jews only” … “A Ghetto Wall will surround all of Israel”.

The final lie was about “the closeness of Jews and Muslims in the 1920s”. No mention of the 1929 Hebron massacres or other atrocities committed against Jews. And indeed no mention throughout of Hamas or Hezbolla terror.

Coldicott’s final slide was “What Can We Do?” You can guess his answer – “BDS and join the PSC”.

The Q+A became very heated. Rosemary Fletcher said that the Church “celebrated” (she changed that to “commemorated”) Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday and that it would be hosting a speaker from the Council of Christians and Jews. As if that made up for the vile antisemitic calumnies we had just witnessed!  And as I left the Church she assured me that one of her best friends is Jewish (!) … On the way out I was told by a man that I am “a disgrace to the Chosen People” (I had got the first question and tried to correct some of the lies before the roving mike was taken away. I was also manhandled and my belongings confiscated).

Antisemitism in a Church has a special frisson …………… One wonders how many churches Coldicott is going to spread his poison at, without anyone there to correct the lies. Already Google suggests he has spoken in Farnham, Frensham and Dorking.

Memo to the government of Israel: Ban him – and ban his wife.


David Collier’s excellent account is here. Note in particular David’s comment about what Coldicott said about the Arab village of Sepphoris.  And about Coldicott’s use of material from Badil.