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Industrial and potential legal action over USS - and why you need to vote

29 October 2021

USS pensions are once again under attack.

Employers are cutting the guaranteed pension which members will build up for future service by well over 30%. The overall impact on the benefits members build up in future will be 20-25%.

This is on top of a decade of other cuts that have already ensured a typical member of USS will be �240,000 worse off.

You can get a picture of what the latest round of cuts would mean for you by studying the modeller produced by our professional advisers, First Actuarial.

The size of the benefits you build up will be subject to greater levels of risk. They will depend more on the vagaries of future inflation and the performance of USS's investments.

As I have said before, because these cuts apply only to future service, not benefits you have already built up, they will hit members in the earlier part of their career even harder.

You need to vote for industrial action over USS - and make sure you post your vote by Tuesday 2 November at the latest, or it will not count.

Voting in this ballot is the best way to address the short term as well as the long term threats looming over your pension.

Collectively, UCU members have the power to force employers to withdraw their cuts and negotiate an acceptable outcome with us. We have done it before, defeating a similar proposal to this one during our 2018 industrial action, and we can do it again.

At the same time, I want to assure you that your union is trying every viable option when it comes to defending your pensions, including legal action in addition to industrial action.

Potential legal action

In recent months we have taken detailed advice from a top pensions QC about potential legal challenges to the 2020 valuation of USS, which has already been heavily criticised by a wide range of experts.

On Monday I wrote to the chief executive of USS, Bill Galvin, setting out a range of concerns, based on the advice we have taken, about the valuation process.

Our USS FAQs have been updated with more details but in short, we believe that USS may have breached its own scheme rules in a way that has materially impacted the ability of employers and members to negotiate an acceptable outcome.

We are asking USS to pause the 2020 valuation process and not to complete it until we can agree a resolution or there has been an application to the High Court to review USS's decisions and any breach of rules has been remedied.

We are committed to pursuing this argument as far as possible. The outcome could give our negotiators more time to reach an acceptable agreement with employers and it could result in a better resolution to the 2020 valuation, but there are no guarantees at this stage. We are awaiting a response from USS to my letter and I will continue to update you as the situation develops.

Whatever happens on the legal front, if you don't vote in our industrial action ballot, you will make it much more likely that from April 2022, USS members will build up vastly inferior retirement benefits. From there, it will be an uphill struggle to return to the quality of pension which members deserve and have enjoyed in the past.

I urge you to vote YES for industrial action no later than this Tuesday 2 November.

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 6 May 2022