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UCU welcomes fresh pensions talks

28 October 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Representatives of UCU and university employers have agreed a programme of talks to try and resolve a dispute about changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme.

The dispute centres around changes to the scheme - the second largest private scheme in the UK - imposed on 1 October. The changes will see scheme members pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.

Following the imposition of the changes and a refusal of talks from the employers' representatives, UCU members at 67 UK universities began 'working to contract' on Monday 10 October. Working to contract means staff just work to the terms of their contract (including their obligation to perform their duties in an efficient manner).

The union says that while it welcomes the talks, the 'working to contract' action will continue. It has been agreed* that preparatory talks between UCU and the employers will take place in November before a union-employer working group is set up at the joint negotiating committee in December.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I welcome the fresh discussions agreed between UCU and the employers. No one should be under any illusions that achieving a fair settlement will be easy, but at least now the two sides are talking to each other following UCU's 'working to contract' action.

'Achieving talks was our first aim; agreeing outcomes for the scheme which are fair and just is our next. Members are asked to continue to work to contract and to be prepared to escalate the action should that, unfortunately, still be necessary.'

Full details on the dispute, what work to contract means and how the action may develop can be found at www.ucu.org.uk/ussdisputebriefing.

* Establishment and terms of reference for a joint working group of the joint negotiating committee (JNC)

1. The employer and UCU representatives agree to establish a working group at the JNC meeting in December 2011 to explore options, without prejudice, for future changes to the scheme within the context of the scheme's sustainability The JNC agrees that any further scheme changes should produce outcomes considered fair for scheme members and employer stakeholders.

2. The working group will be chaired by the chair of the JNC and comprise two members of the employers and union sides respectively, one of each of whom should be a member of the JNC plus up to two senior officials representing the interests of the employers or union sides. Each side may also have up to two advisers present. By mutual agreement, the working group may invite other interested parties to participate or facilitate key discussions.

3. A preparatory meeting will be held in November to deal with initial matters and establish a programme for future work

4. The outcomes of the preparatory meeting will report to the JNC to be scheduled for mid- December.

5. In order to facilitate agreement, both sides agree that the paper JNC 34-11, titled "Changes to the Pension Tax Rules", will be discussed by employer and UCU representatives in November and the outcome reported to the December JNC.

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