USS under attack

Action for USS

UCU members took serious and sustained industrial action in the face of damaging proposals from the employers which would effectively destroy the USS pension scheme.

USS pensions under attack

  • The employers wanted to end guaranteed pension benefits.
  • They said your final pension should depend on how your 'investments' perform and not on your contributions.
  • We said it's wrong to risk our members' futures.

Follow the work of the USS national dispute committee, providing a representative steer to the dispute.

Key member updates

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has announced that it is to carry out another review of its funding position.

First Actuarial: three questions on the valuation [1Mb]

Universities UK has said that 'it is clear that there is support from most employers for the JEP's recommendations': Clear employer support for JEP recommendations, says UUK. UCU later called this is a 'hugely important step' for members

UCU national head of policy and campaigns, Matt Waddup, updates members on the USS dispute and the ongoing response to the first report of the Joint Expert Panel.

Backing for defined benefit pension scheme bucks trend: Financial Times - 27 Sep 2018

The Financial Times reports on the significance of the JEP report [768kb] following UCU member action, stating 'the panel's 100-page report made for uncomfortable reading for the key players, including the regulator, which the panel accused of misjudging the ability of the university sector to financially support the scheme'.

  • The joint expert panel (JEP) set up to independently review valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has delivered its first report: JEP reports on 2017 USS valuation

Delegates at a special higher education sector conference on the USS dispute held on 21 June passed a number of important motions on the Joint Export Panel and possible future action.

The USS Joint Expert Panel has held its first meeting and agreed that initial submissions from stakeholders should be sought on the 2017 valuation and in particular on:

  • the three tests used by USS
  • the prudence or otherwise of the assumptions used by USS
  • the strength of the covenant; and
  • alternative valuation models and assumptions to those used by USS.

Submissions on these matters or comments for the attention of the Panel are warmly welcomed and should be sent to:

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has updated members on USS developments following the decision by UCU members to accept revised proposals from the employers, which includes a significant milestone in UCU's campaign: Significant milestone in defence of USS

Consultative ballot result

The result of the members consultation on accepting the latest proposal on ending the dispute from the employers was as follows:

Total balloted: 53,415
Total votes cast: 33,973
Total number valid votes: 33,913
Turnout: 63.5%

Yes to accept the UUK offer 21,683 (64%)
No to reject the UUK offer 12,230 (36%)

In line with the decision of members all current and future industrial action is suspended but the union will keep the legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.

Update on the branch briefing meeting and Higher Education Committee decision on the latest proposal on USS:

Sally Hunt writes to members with answers to questions on the latest UUK proposals:

ASOS continues

Note that members will be consulted by their branches over the detail of the offer, who will then feed back to the Higher Education Committee (HEC) on 28 March 2018. HEC will then decide whether it should be put to a full member ballot. Until then, action continues.

Final strike day at: University of Edinburgh; Institute of Development Studies; King's College London; Queen Mary, University of London; Ruskin College; St George's, University of London; and the University of Stirling

Elsewhere: ASOS

Strike Day at: University of Edinburgh; Institute of Development Studies; King's College London; Queen Mary, University of London; Ruskin College; St George's, University of London; and the University of Stirling

Elsewhere: ASOS

Strike Day #14

Members at Ulster University and Queen's University of Belfast are not taking strike action on Friday 16 March but action short of a strike continues.

Strike Day #13

Strike Day #12

Strike Day #11

Strike Day #10

Talks at Acas resume tomorrow morning and as you would expect, UCU has been busy working over the weekend in preparation. Please continue to participate in the strike tomorrow. Your negotiators are doing an important job and they really need your support. If you are a new member or someone who has not yet visited the picket line why not come down to say hello tomorrow; you will get a very warm welcome.

There has been constructive engagement and progress on the challenging issues in the dispute. Talks will continue on Monday, although both sides will be working over the weekend. For the avoidance of doubt, the strikes remain on.

Strike Day #9

Strike Day #8

Strike Day #7

Strike Day #6




Strike Day #5

Strike Day #4

Strike Day #3

Strike Day #2

Strike Day #1

On the eve of the biggest HE strike action ever Sally Hunt explains that the employers have left us with no choice: We have no choice: strike together for fair pensions

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt appears on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to explain the USS strike action: Strike action warnings on BBC Radio 4

UCU estimates that over 1 million students will be hit by the action with 575,000 teaching hours lost:  Over 1 million students will be affected by university pensions strikes

In her latest message to members UCU general secretary Sally Hunt talks about 'the letter' they have received from employers in recent days: Let talk about 'the letter'

USS strikes force cancellation of Southampton science and engineering event

'Stop spinning and start talking' employers told: Sally Hunt warns time is running out to stop USS pensions strikes at 61 universities

'I don't cross picket lines' says Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell as she cancels lecture at University of Manchester.

With less than two weeks to go until the first wave of strikes branches are now building for action.

Sally Hunt reports there is still no sign of the employers moving away from their hard-line position of wanting to remove the right to a guaranteed pension: Employers refuse to engage

What to tell students and your employer, financial support and the likelihood of negotiations: Four questions about the strikes

Strike message to students

The National Union of Students has sent its support to UCU ahead of the wave of beginning of the strike action: National Union of Students' message of support to staff ahead of USS pension strikes

Strike dates confirmed: UCU announces 14 strike dates at 61 universities in pensions row

UCU's general secretary Sally Hunt has updated members on the implications of the latest negotiating meeting: Members updated on hard-line employer stance

Strikes now look increasingly likely after talks end without agreement and the chair sides with the employers' representatives and their plans to transform the scheme from one with a guaranteed retirement income to a defined contribution scheme. UCU says strikes now look like a reality as pension talks end

The USS ballot result has now been counted. In a message to UCU members, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, 'The results provide a very strong mandate for UCU to continue the fight for a decent, guaranteed pension': USS ballot results announced

UCU's higher education committee congratulated members on the mandate to defend pensions and agreed escalating strike action in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome to the talks: USS strike action agreed

A letter from nearly 1,000 professors on the importance of USS has been published in the Times Higher: 1,000 professors on the importance of USS

Sally Hunt again asks vice-chancellors to use their influence to change the national position taken by Universities UK: Sally Hunt's letter to vice-chancellors

Urge to vote in final week

New year update to USS members from the UCU general secretary on the extended negotiation timetable and the approaching ballot deadline.

USS negotiations timetable extended

Your dispute questions answered, including: the impact of proposals, impact analysis, the significance of 18 December, the state of current negotiations, affordability, breakthrough prospects, imposition implications, the 50% turnout requirement, replacement ballot papers, new joiners and voting, and what form of action is likely?

Update on employers' intransigence

Letter: pensions regulator to Universities UK, 7 Dec 2017 [114kb]

Shadow education secretary raises concerns over pension changes for 'brilliant university staff'

National Union of Students calls for negotiations in USS pensions dispute

Form for requesting duplicate ballot paper goes online

Overhaul of university pensions could leave staff £200,000 worse off in retirement

See also: A comparison of TPS with USS with and without a salary threshold [1Mb]

USS ballot envelope Look out for your ballot papers

Voting papers are now being sent out in the ballot for industrial action over proposals to end guaranteed pension payments in USS. They should reach members over the next few days. Please look out for your ballot envelope.

You can read the statement that accompanies the ballot here [131kb].

University vice-chancellor breaks rank to criticise proposals for staff pensions - see also the statement from the University of Glasgow

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has written to members in USS ahead of the ballot papers being sent on 29 November: read her message here

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt updates members on the employers' alarming proposals for the future of the scheme which would mean the effective end of USS as we know it, and Sally reports is 'the worst proposal I have received in twenty years of representing university staff': read her full message here

See also:

Last updated: 23 November 2018