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USS has confirmed UCU pensions proposals are implementable: now we need to push employers to accept them

10 February 2022

USS has now officially confirmed that UCU's proposals to protect benefits in return for slightly higher employer and member contributions are capable of implementation.

I wrote today to Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK (who represent employers across the table from us in this dispute) urging him to consult immediately with employers to avert, or at least mitigate, the strike action. 

I am pleased to say that he has written back to confirm that UUK will formally consult employers on our proposals. However, there was no need to wait this long to do that - UUK could have launched this consultation when we published the proposals last month and avoided strike action over USS altogether. Employers and their representatives are deliberately testing your resolve to go on strike, and playing games with the education of over a million students. 

Because of UUK's deliberate brinkmanship, strike action on USS next week is all but unavoidable. The action over USS is scheduled to start on Monday 14 February and run up to and including a critical negotiation meeting on Tuesday 22 February.  

How soon the action is suspended will depend on employers, including your employer. The sooner your vice chancellor responds to UUK to say that our proposals are acceptable, the briefer the disruption to the sector will be. 

A strong start to the strikes will make a huge difference 

Tens of thousands of UCU members will be taking action on Monday because you know that you cannot accept these cuts when an implementable solution exists to protect your security in retirement. That's why so many branches voted for strike action and action short of a strike. 

UCU's proposals would see retirement benefits protected for as long as possible in return for a small short-term increase in contributions for both members and employers, until a new valuation can be implemented. The cuts being put forward by UUK are based on a valuation of the USS pension scheme which was conducted in March 2020, when markets were crashing due to the pandemic. Since then, scheme assets have climbed to well over £90bn, an unprecedented level. The cuts proposed by employers are completely unjustifiable. 

As your negotiators head into crunch talks at the USS JNC (Joint Negotiating Committee) later in February, it is vital that we make next week's strike action as big and our picket lines as colourful and bold as possible. Your negotiators are meeting frequently to discuss strategy and press members' points at the JNC and they need your action next week to strengthen their hand. We need to send a strong message to employers that we won't back down, and that they need to take our proposals seriously as a way to end this dispute and the disruption to the sector.  

If your branch is not striking you can still take part  

If your branch is not striking you can still show your solidarity:

I know I will be seeing thousands of you on picket lines next week, as always - starting with Glasgow, where I will be visiting on Monday morning. And please watch this space and keep an eye on UCU's social media accounts for more updates on the action, negotiations, and the employer consultation. 

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary 

Last updated: 11 February 2022