Fighting fund banner


Special HE sector conference - November 2018: JEP/USS

7 November 2018

Information Please note this meeting was not quorate so is advisory only.

Report of the Congress Business Committee (HE): HE special sector conference to review the work of the Joint Evaluation Panel (JEP) and progress to reducing the deficit estimated in the current USS valuation round: UCU906.html | UCU906.rtf

Decisions are recorded below but can also be downloaded here [95kb].

Motions for debate* at the , 7 November 2018

Section 1: Joint Evaluation Panel (JEP)
Section 2: No detriment
Section 3: Phase 2
Section 4: Valuation
Section 5: Other related issues

*Late motions and amendments are added as received and may not be ordered on to the final agenda

Section 1: Joint Evaluation Panel (JEP)

1    Composite: Strike action, the JEP report and negotiations - University of Nottingham, University College London, Royal Holloway University of London

Conference notes

  1. the historic 14 days of strike action and the threat of further action that forced the employers and USS managers to abandon their plans to replace a defined benefit (DB) scheme with defined contribution (DC) pensions and led to the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report
  2. since 2011 UUK has sought to degrade the USS pension and was halted only after this prolonged strike action
  3. the contents of the first JEP report, that revealed the scheme was not at imminent risk of default and it was UUK's attempt to reduce the Employers' Covenant that triggered de-risking, and which vindicates, as realistic and desirable, the retention of a DB pension with no detriment to benefits
  4. analysis by both JEP and Sam Marsh of Sheffield UCU which suggests errors led to both the apparent USS deficit and universities' willingness to withdraw defined benefit pensions
  5. six weeks have passed since the first JEP report and further delays could impede the effectiveness of future strike action.

Conference further notes:

  1. the triggering of rule 76.4 imposing cost-sharing of 40%+ increased contributions
  2. as an interim measure the JEP proposed that total contributions should rise from 26 to 29.2% of salary, an increase of more than 12% in contributions.
  3. current plans for phased increases in contributions place too high a burden on employees and fail to take account of the historic underpayment by employers
  4. the dispute is not yet resolved.

Conference calls on the HEC

  1. to seek an immediate return to negotiations with UUK.
  2. to call on the employers to pick up the full cost of increased contributions
  3. to generate confidence again amongst our members, by ensuring the National Disputes Committee guides future campaigns to save our DB pensions based on policy determined at special higher education conference (SHEC)
  4. to undertake a ballot seeking a mandate for further strike action or ASOS if:
    • A.    the employers fail to accept the JEP report in full, or
    • B.    UUK seeks to postpone a return to negotiations, or
    • C.    an agreement between UCU and UUK retaining the current benefit package is not reached in a timely fashion, or
    • D.    the employers attempt to pass on costs they have generated onto employees.

Further, conference

  1. sets 04/01/2019 as the deadline by which an agreement must be reached
  2. specifies that the agreement must not include a contribution increase exceeding the JEP recommendation.

Last point i FELL; CARRIED

1A.1    University of Birmingham

Under, 'Further, Conference'

I.   sets 04/01/2019 as the deadline by which an agreement must be reached'


E1     Emergency motion: National Dispute Committee


  1. notes the report from NDC to SWG
  2. believes that there is no justification for any reduction in benefits or increase in employee contributions in the current valuation round
  3.  resolves to ballot members for industrial action if UUK attempts to impose either of these, with a recommendation to vote 'yes'.


E2     Emergency motion: National Dispute Committee 

Conference notes the report from NDC to SWG.

Conference resolves to demand that:

  1. UUK and employers apologise to their staff and students for their role in triggering the dispute
  2. employers reimburse staff their lost earnings resulting from the strike.


L1    University of Leeds

Conference notes:

  1. the creation of the National Disputes Committee by Congress HESC 2018, in the context of an urgent need for transparency among all parties including UCU
  2. NDC is a democratically elected body tasked with 'giving a representative steer to the USS dispute for the current valuation round, including during any suspension or re-ballot'

Conference agrees

  1. this conference must consider the full NDC report
  2. NDC motions sent to this conference must be ordered on the agenda
  3. to support any rules changes necessary to ensure the NDC and any subsequent incarnation of it is able to submit motions to any decision-making meeting relevant to the NDC remit (including HESCs, Congress, and HEC)
  4. to instruct HEC to submit any motions from NDC to such meetings in the interim, on the understanding that HEC does not have to agree/disagree with their content.


Section 2: No detriment

2    USS pension campaigning - University of Leeds

Conference notes that:

  1. the report delivered by the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) has recommended adjustments to the USS scheme valuation methodology
  2. UUK has used the 'deficit argument' since 2011 to introduce massive cuts to our pensions
  3. the JEP report undermines the deficit claims.

Conference believes none of those cuts were justified from a financial perspective; they were purely dogmatic.

Conference resolves to campaign for:

  1. the re-establishment of one defined benefit scheme for all USS members
  2. financial compensation for those USS members who have lost a portion of their defined benefit pension due to the above unjustified decisions.


3    USS dispute - Newcastle University

Conference welcomes the JEP report and further notes that

  1. JEP has shown that the contribution increases imposed on members for this valuation are the result of failures in scheme governance, regulatory oversight, and employers' handling of consultations and negotiations
  2. JEP does not address the employers 'contributions holiday'
  3. USS's valuation rests on a mistake in calculating Test 1
  4. as a result, there is no deficit in the scheme and no need for detrimental changes to benefits or contributions.

Conference calls on universities:

  1. to acknowledge that USS is not in deficit
  2. to pay for any contribution increases still deemed necessary for this valuation after Universities UK, USS, and the Pensions Regulator (tPR) have responded to the report
  3. to urge universities to repay the deducted wage of those staff who took strike action during the dispute that resulted directly from universities' own errors.


3A.1    University of Birmingham


D. To mandate employer-appointed trustees and negotiators to: demand the resignations of JNC chair Andrew Cubie and the USS executive; publish all records of contact between USS, Mercer, and tPR since 2010; and publish the minutes of all JNC and trustee board meetings in 2017.


Conference resolves:

  • to ballot members on strike action if these requests are not granted, with all ballot communications written by NDC and signed by the GS or highest-ranking deputy.

Part 1 (add 'D') CARRIED; Part 2 (add 'Conference resolves') FELL

4    Justice for UCU Workers and Accountability in UUK - University of Liverpool

Conference notes and commends the sacrifices of UCU members in taking strike action to reject the proposed and unnecessary changes to the USS pension scheme.

Conference welcomes the work of the JEP in further highlighting the flaws in the 2017 valuation process.

Conference believes that the pension strike was precipitated by UUK's pursuit of the aggressive marketisation of HE.

Therefore, conference resolves to:

  1. demand and bring about reimbursement of all wage deductions for members who were docked pay as a result of industrial action
  2. demand the immediate resignation of UUK chief executive, Alistair Jarvis if the organisation has any intention of gaining credibility with higher education workers
  3. demand a formal apology from Professor Dame Janet Beer in her role as president of UUK
  4. demand a clear indication of when the 2017 valuation will be replaced
  5.  instruct UCU negotiators to press for all deficit recovery contributions to be covered by employers.


4A.1    University of Liverpool


  • demand that UUK and employers apologise to their staff and students for their role in triggering the dispute
  • demand that employers compensate students for lost teaching resulting from the strike.


Section 3: Phase 2

5    Pension negotiations - University of Leeds

Conference notes that:

  1. the Joint Expert Panel report on the USS valuation largely vindicates UCU's arguments that there is no substantial deficit
  2. Universities UK is currently consulting employers about their response to the report
  3. there will soon be another round of joint negotiating committee negotiations about potential changes to pension arrangements
  4. employers were concerned by the industrial strength we showed during our spring 2018 strikes.

Conference instructs UCU's pension negotiators to press for:

  1. the employers to cover any additional contributions that USS may seek as a result of the JEP report
  2. the restoration of the 1% match
  3. the defined contributions threshold (£55,550 in 2017/18) to be increased to spine point 49 of the nationally agreed framework salary scale (£56,950 in 2017/18) and to increase each year in line with pay for that spine point.


5A.1    University of Leeds

On point c: delete all after 'defined contributions threshold', replace with 'to be increased in line with inflation.


6    Pensions for casualised and low paid members - University of Glasgow

Conference notes casualised staff are often barred from the right to join USS by their employer and that casualised and low paid staff may find it very difficult to pay the contributions.

Conference resolves:

  1. to demand in our pay campaigns equal access to pensions for casualised staff
  2. to ensure all grades of academic related, teaching and research staff have equal access to the USS pension scheme
  3. to ask the JEP to investigate tiered (reduced) contributions from the current 8% to improve affordability for casualised and other low paid members.

Conference instructs the negotiators to ensure that access to USS for casualised staff cannot be prevented by employers and that they retain existing pension rights during a break in service without needing to make contributions.


6A.1    Compositing amendment - University of Strathclyde

Final paragraph, after 'Conference instructs the negotiators to', add 'put a rule change through the JNC to'.


7    The ongoing fight for fair pensions after the first JEP report - Lancaster University

Conference welcomes the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report and notes that:

  1. while JEP recommends that the Scheme valuation could be much improved to maintain existing benefits, the JEP 2nd phase that reviews existing methodology for alternatives is yet incomplete
  2. there is no agreement as yet, with UUK consulting employers over proposals while concurrently USS is consulting members on cost-sharing
  3. JEP does not address the employers' irresponsible 'contributions holiday' while recommending an increase in contributions to maintain existing benefits
  4. members' interests need to be protected as the dispute is not yet over.

This conference believes that

  1. UCU's democratic structures and members should determine the outcome through the elected JNC
  2. that the National Disputes Committee should guide the JNC based on policy determined at HE conference
  3. employers should bear the costs for any contribution increases at least until the JEP publishes its final report.


8    JEP Phase 2 - Higher education committee

Conference welcomes the report of the JEP and its recommendations and expresses its sincere thanks to the panel for expediting its work and completing Phase 1 in line with the agreed terms of reference.

Conference congratulates the outstanding work of UCU members who are expertly demonstrating the flaws with the methodology used to value the scheme, and in particular the entirely discredited Test 1.

Conference also notes the unanimous statement of the SWG [Superannuation Working Group] endorsing the JEP report.

Conference believes that the JEP should commence phase 2 of its work as soon as possible in line with the agreed terms of reference and examine alternative valuation methodologies which would enjoy the confidence of scheme members.

Conference reaffirms its commitment to a defined benefit pension scheme.


9    Joint Expert Panel and Phase 2 - University of Strathclyde

Conference welcomes the JEP report and thanks the JEP members for all their hard work. Conference notes that the JEP conclusions vindicate UCU and expose serious weaknesses in USS's methodology.

Conference recognises that the JEP report contains both recommendations agreed by all panel members and proposals for further work (Phase 2).

Conference believes that defined benefits (DB) are the best form of pension provision and that the JEP report shows that they are affordable.

Conference instructs UCU negotiators:

  1. to agree the JEP recommendations with UUK
  2. to press for the start of phase 2 as soon as possible, with the aim of reducing costs to as close as possible to 26% in line with 'no detriment' policy
  3. to explore all options for putting pressure on the USS Executive, including the use of the motion calling for the resignation of the CEO, if they oppose the recommendations.


10    Pension Regulator - University of Dundee

Conference notes that the Joint Expert Panel criticised the role of the Pensions Regulator during the 2017 valuation and their assessment of the level of risk to which the scheme is exposed. Conference believes the actions of  the Pensions Regulator were inimical to its statutory objectives and injurious to USS members, and calls on UCU to:

  1. lodge a formal objection with the Pensions Regulator through its established complaints procedure, and
  2. communicate the substance of the complaint to the work and pensions select committee of the House of Commons.


Section 4: Valuation

11    USS: stop de-risking and reveal full information on Test 1 - Cardiff University

Research by Woon Wong shows one single interest rate can explain up to 99% of the past seven years of USS valuation outcome. Using an appropriate discount rate the so-called deficit turns into surplus. Wong also shows the risk of holding equities in the current (non-de-risked) investment strategy can be diversified away, ensuring our scheme is fully funded in a prudent way.

This conference proposes that:

  1. UCU request its representatives on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) require that USS immediately stop any de-risking that is being planned or undertaken immediately
  2. UCU request that its representatives on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) require that USS provide full information (methodology expressed in mathematical formula and all required data) of 'Test 1' and other related valuations (used by USS to justify changes that are detrimental to scheme members) to all stakeholders including research individuals who are USS members.


12    Response to the JEP's 'phase 1' report - University of Aberdeen

Conference thanks the Joint Expert Panel for its work so far and for its unanimous phase 1 report.

Conference calls on the USS trustee to complete the 2017 USS valuation on the basis of the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Expert Panel dated September 2018, which will result in the modest increases of contributions from employees (to 9.11%) and employers (to 20.071%) that the Report recommends.

Conference calls on UCU and UUK to use their best endeavours to bring about the outcome specified in paragraph 2 above.

Conference calls on UCU and UUK to instruct the Joint Expert Panel to begin work on a review of future USS valuations, their method, tests and assumptions, as soon as possible, and to instruct the Panel to present its findings in time for them to be taken into account at the next triennial USS valuation.


13    USS should abandon the 2017 valuation - University of Sheffield

Conference believes that the Joint Expert Panel's first report and newly released information on asset projections mean that USS's current approach to the 2017 valuation and its associated proposals for cost-sharing have been entirely discredited.

Conference notes that the funding position of the scheme has improved significantly in the year to 31 March 2018, as discussed in the report of the Joint Expert Panel.

Conference calls on the USS trustee to abandon the 2017 valuation. Moving forward, discussions and negotiations would be based instead on a valuation as at 31 March 2018, updated according to the Joint Expert Panel's recommendations. USS should make clear to the regulator that the delays to the 2017 valuation are best dealt with in this manner.


14    2018 valuation - Higher education committee

Conference welcomes the JEP report and the light it has shone on the flaws in the 2017 valuation of the USS scheme. The expert and independent analysis and unanimous recommendations in the report identify a number of areas where changes can be made to the assumptions used to value the scheme and price members' pensions.

Conference notes that the JEP report comments on the performance of USS since the 2017 valuation indicate that the overall impact of a 31 March 2018 valuation would be positive. Conference further notes that, if the JEP recommended changes were implemented expeditiously and in full, it would be possible to protect current pension benefits whilst avoiding the significant increase in contributions proposed under Rule 76.4.

Conference resolves that if necessary to maximise protection of pension benefits UCU support a 31 March 2018 valuation.


15    USS - Higher education committee

Conference reaffirms its commitment to a defined benefit pension scheme.

Conference resolves to not obstruct an interim valuation but equally does not endorse an interim valuation.

Conference resolves to maintain a no detriment and no deficit position as our negotiating position.


16    Future JEP work and USS campaigns - University of Glasgow

Conference recognises:

  1. the need to maintain DB pensions
  2. the need for a valuation scheme which is technically sound, has a moderate, not excessive level of prudence and does not overestimate the costs of DB pension provision
  3. problems from previous valuations.

Conference instructs the SWG and HEC, including through the JNC to work for the following: a technically sound valuation scheme, with moderate level of prudence and which does not overestimate the costs of DB pension provision, as the JEP priority.


Section 5: Other related issues

17    Ethical investment and environmental work - University of Dundee, Higher education committee

Conference recognises

  1. that members are concerned about how their pensions are invested
  2. the need to prioritise defending pensions over the past year
  3. the very urgent threat posed by climate change
  4. that it is now time to continue work on ethical investment and the environment.

Conference instructs the Superannuation Working Group and HEC to:

  1. resume work on the motions on these topics from previous conferences, with a particular focus on pressuring USS to adopt an ethical investment policy
  2. to put pressure on USS to withdraw from high carbon investments
  3. to put pressure on USS to be proactive as an investor in encouraging businesses it invests in to adopt carbon neutral technologies, in line with its purported responsible investment strategy.


Last updated: 17 August 2021