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USS pension justice - we demand it

Give UCU a mandate to resolve the USS dispute

17 October 2019

As of today members have less than two weeks to vote in the ballots in higher education branches on USS pensions and pay, equality, job security and workload.

The last date you can safely post your ballot papers is 28 October. The last date you can order a replacement ballot paper is 23 October. If you need a replacement, order it now.

Vote now for a better offer on USS

Voting now will improve the union's bargaining position. If we beat the 50% threshold for strike action employers will seriously consider making us an offer before any action happens, because they will remember how effective last year's strikes were.

Say no to 'death by a thousand cuts'

From 2011 to 2017 our employers made a series of incremental cuts to our pensions. But last year they became overconfident. They tried to abolish the guaranteed, defined benefit element of the scheme. Because we forced them to withdraw that proposal they have reverted to their original 'death by a thousand cuts' plan. 

This year we are facing contribution increases to 9.6% that will be too high for many members to keep paying. Even worse, we are facing a further wave of increases in 2021, to 11%. Employers have already indicated that they are likely to try to reduce our defined benefits at that point, or worse, make another attempt to end them altogether.

We have to send employers a message that we have remained vigilant and will not tolerate any more downgrades to our pensions, either now or at the 2020 valuation.

Questions about USS governance

In the past week the USS trustee board has removed one of its UCU-appointed directors, Professor Jane Hutton. Professor Hutton has raised serious concerns about the way in which the two most recent USS valuations, in 2017 and 2018, were conducted. She also claims that USS has blocked her from following up on questions raised by the Joint Expert Panel (JEP). 

Professor Hutton's removal is now being probed by the House of Commons work and pensions select committee. This development comes on the back of the news that USS has come under investigation by the Pensions Regulator and the Financial Reporting Council in relation to the issues raised by Professor Hutton. It is therefore deeply disappointing that our employers' representative, Universities UK, has repeatedly affirmed its confidence in the USS trustee. 

Any investigations into USS will take time to complete. In the meantime we need a strong mandate to ensure that our employers cover the costs of the decisions which they and the scheme's directors have made.

Now is the time to change employers' minds

If we beat the 50% turnout threshold we will have a live mandate for strike action which will cover the publication of the second JEP report later this year, and the discussions that will shape the outcome of the 2020 valuation.

There could not be a better time to concentrate our employers' minds on working with us to achieve a viable long-term resolution to this dispute and address the concerns which UCU and other stakeholders have raised about USS. 

In the last few weeks I have held meetings with employers who agree that USS's response to the first Joint Expert Panel report was completely unacceptable. But in order to make enough employers change their position we need a credible threat of strike action. 

That is why UCU is asking you to vote now.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 6 May 2022