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Employers' pensions propaganda prompts angry backlash

20 October 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

University employers are facing a furious backlash following the decision to include a one-sided briefing on changes to university staff pension schemes.

UCU said it was surprised the document had been included, but not at all surprised by the angry reaction from members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The controversial changes to the pension scheme are being opposed by the union who has called for a ballot of all USS members. USS, however, is refusing a ballot and is pushing ahead with a consultation that the union says has no legitimacy. The formal consultation process begins today  and UCU said that the decision to include the one-sided briefing from the employers only helped expose the sham process.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'There are two sides to the debate about how best to manage changes to the pension scheme. We believe both sides should be allowed to make their case and then all members of the scheme, not just UCU members, can vote on them.

"What is happening is that the employers' side is sending out briefings, but still not letting members have a vote. When we describe the consultation process as a sham, we're being polite.'

Two weeks ago UCU revealed that 'pension communicators' Anthony Hodges Consulting (AHC) had been hired to deliver the consultation. The union's dossier on AHC includes quotes and glowing tributes from companies who have worked with AHC to make changes to their own pension schemes and lists those that have either cancelled their final salary scheme or are looking to cut benefits.

The full dossier can be seen here:  AHC dossier [46kb] 

In a defence of the decision to hire AHC, described by UCU as 'confused', USS said: 'UCU has drawn parallels between some of the names on AHC Limited's client list and moves which have taken place within many private sector schemes to change the terms of defined benefit schemes. It is indeed correct that AHC Limited has assisted a number of employers/trustees in making such changes, but it is also right to say that AHC Limited provides assistance with many other aspects of pensions communication, for example, scheme booklets, member websites, interactive modellers etc.'