USS pension justice - we demand it (logo)

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. But the fight is not over!

USS pension justice

USS pensions justice - ballot poster animation Demand USS pensions justice!

  • 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.
  • They now want you to pay more for your existing pension.
  • It's time, once again, to make a stand.

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

Key member updates

UCU revealed today that more than £100,000 has been donated to the UCU's fighting fund since the ballots for strike action at universities opened in September. UCU said the support and generosity from students, sister trade unions and the general public has been overwhelming, and will only help to strengthen members' resolve.

With eight days of strike action drawing to a close and action short of a strike about to begin, UCU general secretary Jo Grady tells members 'employers should be in no doubt: they badly misjudged us'.

After meeting and corresponding with our negotiators, Universities UK (UUK) requested a further meeting. Following this meeting the UCU negotiators made the following statement: 'The solid support for the strikes is having an impact and we want to thank members for their continued efforts. At today's meeting we pushed the demands set out in last week's letter [291kb].  If we are going to move forward, we need vice-chancellors to do more than just acknowledge members' anger on picket line visits. Vice-chancellors need to speak out and press their negotiators to come back to the table with meaningful actions that can actually resolve the dispute. The strikes for Tuesday and Wednesday remain on and we will be meeting with branches at the end of the week at a special conference to discuss the dispute.'

UCU has written to the USS employers [291kb] setting out some areas where we want them to commit to meaningful action. The letter, from UCU's  says there should be full, collaborative consultation between USS and the USS employers over the technical provisions for the 2020 valuation and therefore the contribution rate. It also says the trustee chair, David Eastwood should recuse himself pending full investigation into his conduct, especially around The Pension Regulator's complaint of misrepresentation by USS and the treatment of Jane Hutton.

UCU general secretary writes to update members on the strike action and the latest talks with the employers, reporting that they 'are making vague promises about the way they will approach the next USS valuation in 2020, but so far they refuse to put money on the table to cover the contribution increases that are already pricing members out of the scheme'.

UCU announced that more universities are to be balloted over strike action. These institutions* being balloted over USS are:

  • Imperial College London
  • University of Kent
  • SOAS (simultaneous pay ballot also)
  • University of Surrey (simultaneous pay ballot also).

Another eight institutions are being balloted over pay at the same time: Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Trinity University, University of Worcester, University of East Anglia, University of Arts London, University of the West of Scotland, Falmouth University, and Northumbria University.

Also today, UCU said Sheffield Hallam University should stop trying to use strong-arm tactics and get back round the negotiating table after the university was accused of trying to students into snitches.

*Institutions updated from initial list

UCU said that strong shows of support for strikes at 60 UK universities sent a clear message that staff would not settle for increased pension costs: Solid support for strikes sends clear message to universities

The day before action begins UCU general sceretary Jo Grady  says 'We strike to improve our working conditions, but we also know as well as any group of workers that strikes are about education. Let's take this opportunity to remind our students and the wider world how much our work matters'.

Industrial action confirmed after universities are accused of being 'all spin and no substance' in their response to disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions: University strikes ON after universities refuse to deal with pensions, pay and working conditions

With one week until the strikes in 46 institutions over USS, UCU general secretary Jo Grady says the best way to make that happen is to be ready to follow through on our threat of strike action and make it as effective as possible: One week from strike action

FAQs, resources and more in the new strike info centre.

Employers have just under two weeks to meet us and find a solution to our disputes over USS pensions and pay and equality and Jo Grady makes clear that the ball is in the employers' court.

Sixty UK universities will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, UCU announced today: UCU announces eight days of strikes starting this month at 60 universities

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told members 'I am serious about using the powerful mandate you have given the union to get round the negotiating table and achieving a meaningful, lasting resolution': Eight days of strike action called in HE disputes

UCU members working in UK universities have backed strike action in ballots over both pensions and pay and working conditions: UCU members back strikes over both pensions and pay and conditions

The general secretary, Jo Grady, said that the HE ballot results send a strong message to employers.

With time nearly up, Jo Grady says every vote counts in the HE ballots.

With the ballot deadline looming, Jo Grady urges members to beat the 50% threshold.

national agreements that hold the sector together says the general secretary.

Jo Grady argues that we need to fight to defend the national agreements that hold the sector together.

With less than two weeks left to vote in the ballots in higher education branches on USS pensions, UCU general secretary Jo Grady urges members to say no to 'death by a thousand cuts': Give UCU a mandate to resolve the USS dispute

UCU has expressed concerns about how Jane Hutton has been removed from the Universities Superannuation Scheme and has called on the scheme to release its evidence: UCU concerned about process behind sacking of USS board member

After worrying leaks from the HE employer's annual conference, the general secretary says it could not be clearer that USS members need to act now and vote yes: Leaks show USS members need to act now

UCU has urged university employers to 'stop spinning and start talking' on pay and pensions, after the Universities and Colleges Employers Association published a second misleading report within a week down-playing problems with pay and contracts in the sector, while failing to respond to a call for renewed talks from the shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has said that she 'fully supports' UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions, while calling for urgent talks to try and resolve the disputes.

UCU has announced it is pursuing investigation into the possibility of legal action against USS Trustee Ltd after a leading pensions QC found that there are grounds to proceed on the basis of breach of trust: Possibility of USS trustee legal action

Access to UCU's fighting fund will be changed to enable better support for members in the event of strike action being taken as a result of the USS industrial action ballot, UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, has announced: Strike fund support

We've published an FAQ on the USS dispute and how we've got to where were are now: USS - explained!

For a more indepth review of what's at stake, please watch this presentation by UCU USS negotiator Sam Marsh: USS: what's at stake

The general secretary announces that the National Union of Students (NUS) has agreed to work with UCU and throw its full weight behind both of our strike ballots: We stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with you. Read the full joint public statement: Joint UCU/NUS statement on the current HE disputes

With the USS ballot of higher education members now well under way, the general secretary, Jo Grady, explains why we need a resounding 'yes' vote to secure the future of the scheme.

Vote yes, urges UCU general secretary Jo Grady, so that we can put pressure on the employers to enter into meaningful negotiations to find a long-term solution to the sector's ongoing issues.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady is touring higher education institutions across the UK this autumn, calling on members to vote YES in both the USS pension ballot and the higher education pay and equality ballot.

Industrial action ballots confirmed: University strike ballots will open on Monday 9 September

As the USS and equality and pay-related ballots are due to open in higher education, UCU general secretary updates members on the latest developments and the importance of the ballots.

New analysis [425kb] reveals staff will lose tens of thousands of pounds in retirement because of a series of detrimental changes made to USS. Read the full story here.

Employers' strike ban rejected by UCU in pensions dispute

The likelihood of another round of strikes has increased after universities backed measures that will increase costs for staff in USS: Autumn pension strikes more likely as universities impose higher costs

Responding to employers' assertions about the USS dispute: UCU has issued branches with an open letter that the national dispute committee (NDC) recommends should be issued publicly to members and university management to help build support for the ballot. Given that the issues at stake in the USS dispute affect all scheme members, whether or not they are members of UCU, we would like to share this message with all USS members.

The USS annual report shows that satisfaction among scheme members has fallen dramatically: USS member satisfaction plummets

UCU negotiators have presented proposals at USS JNC for employers to cover members' costs from the 2018 valuation: UCU counter-proposals

UCU's general secretary-elect, Jo Grady, updates members on the position of the employers on USS and the annual negotiations: Defending our profession

In her latest message to HE members, UCU's general secretary-elect, Jo Grady, updates on the simultaneous strike ballots over pay and USS planned for September: Simultaneous HE strike ballots over pay and pensions

UCU's higher education committee has set out a September timetable for a ballot on USS pensions and also for a pay ballot to run at the same time: Industrial action timetable announced

Professor Jane Hutton has appeared on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 outlining her concerns about governance failings at USS: Professor Hutton speaks to Radio 4 on USS failings

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary-elect, has updated members about the Universities Superannuation Scheme dispute and possible further industrial action: USS and further industrial action

Trinity College, Cambridge faces academic boycott over USS withdrawal decision: Union censures Cambridge's Trinity College in row over pension scheme

UCU has written to 69 USS institutions warning over industrial action later this year if they do not rule out benefit cuts or contribution increases: Autumn strike warning for universities in USS pensions dispute

An update on the latest Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting, the three options proposed by USS to finalise the 2018 valuation and key dates for next steps. 

There's also an update from the chair of the USS Joint Expert Panel.

UCU's Superannuation Working Group (SWG) has produced a report on USS to the higher education sector conference being held during UCU Congress 2019: SWG report on USS

This update outlines USS's formal response to the employers' stance on contingency contributions, with three proposals for finalising the 2018 valuation: USS proposals for finalising the 2018 valuation

See also: UCU response to pension scheme proposals from USS board

Report on recent phase 2 meetings from the Joint Expert Panel which considered updates on the 2018 valuation from stakeholders UCU and UUK: Phase 2 meetings of the Joint Expert Panel

This update seeks to explain as straightforwardly as possible the employers' proposal for contingency contributions and sets out UCU's policy: Further update on USS

Briefing on the latest USS position alongside a similarly concise recap of the key points so far: The latest news on USS

Report from the Joint Expert Panel's first meeting which discussed phase two of its work: JEP action points

The JEP has recently started its second phase of work on the USS valuation and is looking for submissions on the roles and involvement of UCU, UUK and others in the valuation process: call for submissions - Joint Expert Panel (JEP)

UCU's Superannuation Working Group has appointed Bryn Davies to the Joint Expert Panel (JEP): New USS JEP appointment

An update on the latest developments on USS, the JEP and the employers: A ten point update on the USS dispute

UCU is seeking to appoint a new JEP panellist to sit on the JEP as phase 2 of the work commences: UCU Joint Expert Panel vacancy

UCU branches have been updated on the latest developments with USS and in particular the 'live' technical provisions consultation with employers.

Members receive an update on the latest USS developments.

The Pensions Regulator has called upon USS to reach a formal agreement with UUK on how to manage any possible downside from the employers' new commitment to undertake more risk.

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: submit@ussjep.org.uk

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

 

ASOS Day

ASOS Day

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: 6 December 2019