Fighting fund banner


'A rotten retirement' page icon

News from today's negotiations: employer cuts to USS confirmed

22 February 2022

In recent emails I have mentioned that there would be a crucial meeting of the USS joint negotiating committee (JNC) today, Tuesday 22 February.  

That meeting has just finished and I regret to inform you that the cuts to USS proposed by employers were passed and are scheduled to take effect from April 2022. 

The employers' representatives, Universities UK (UUK), voted in favour of the cuts. UCU's negotiators voted against the cuts and tabled our own counter-proposals for a vote. The tied vote was decided by the independent chair of the JNC, Judith Fish, who once again cast her vote in favour of the employers' proposals. 

Our elected negotiating team tried every possible avenue to question and challenge the deeply flawed process that has led us to this point and delay this decision. And we all agree that as members you have done absolutely everything we asked -- tens of thousands of you turning up to picket lines and withdrawing your labour in the hope of causing enough disruption to help us get a better outcome. 

I want to be absolutely clear now about one thing. These cuts may take effect from April, but they are not irreversible and this dispute is far from over. Your elected representatives on the higher education committee (HEC) will be meeting on Friday 25 February to decide our next steps. Employers could call on USS now to conduct a new valuation -- as UCU continues to demand -- where these cuts could be replaced by a better package of benefits.  

In today's meeting I asked the employers' representatives if they would be willing in principle to restore your current benefits at the next valuation. They said they would -- but you know as well as I do from bitter experience that employers' words cannot be trusted and they do not give us anything freely. 

I have never seen a set of employers so deeply entrenched as in the current USS and Four Fights disputes. The results of Universities UK's recent consultation of employers on UCU's counter-proposals were that over 90% of employers did not want to accept them. In Four Fights, employers are still refusing even to hold a consultation or meet for any meaningful talks. 

In almost every other dispute UCU has engaged in recently in every sector, from further education to prison education to single-employer disputes in higher education, we have made significant progress and achieved victories by taking, or threatening to take strike action. But in USS and Four Fights, we are continuing to witness an unprecedented level of employer intransigence. Senior managers throughout the sector are united in their refusal to invest even a penny more in staff in response to our perfectly reasonable demands. 

That intransigence will not change without a wider range of campaigning tactics on our part.  

In the short term, that means we will start to prepare for a marking and assessment boycott this summer. In the longer term, that means making sure we are in a position to secure a new valuation as soon as possible and put even greater pressure on employers when it takes place. 

When your higher education committee meets on Friday, it will consider escalating action on USS and I will be asking it to call a special sector conference on USS where branches will be able to send delegates to reflect on what has happened so far and make decisions about the future of the dispute. 

I will be in touch soon with more information. For now, if your branch also has a mandate for action in the Four Fights dispute, the action scheduled for that dispute continues on Monday 28 February and builds towards a massive joint day of action with the NUS and students from all over the UK on Wednesday 2 March.  

Please continue to check our disputes pages for all the support and information you need, along with resources to help you step up the pressure on employers. 

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 3 March 2022