USS pension: Industrial action ballot

If you are a member of UCU and are being asked to vote, we would ask you to consider these points about the UCU’s ballot.

We have now received notification from the University and College Union (UCU) that it will be holding an industrial action ballot in opposition to proposals from Universities UK (UUK) for changes to the USS pension scheme following the recent actuarial valuation. The UCU ballot paper specifically refers to the University of Leeds’, “failure to agree to a collective agreement with UCU to protect … pension benefits”.

If you are a member of UCU and are being asked to vote, we would ask you to consider the following points about the UCU’s ballot:

  1. It is not a national ballot. The UCU has focused its ballot in a number of individual universities (we believe more than 50) in a bid to secure enough support to make industrial action legally viable in specific institutions. This effectively makes it a local dispute about an issue that is being negotiated at a national level.
  2. This means the University is the subject of a dispute which we have no power to resolve; we are not at the negotiating table. Responsibility for resolving the dispute lies with members of the Joint Negotiating Committee (Universities UK, who represent the sector employers, and the UCU who represent employees).
  3. Given that USS is a national scheme, it is clearly untenable for individual universities to give a local guarantee to protect pension benefits, as requested by the UCU. One of the reasons why the USS scheme is valuable to members is the fact that it is a national scheme, transportable from one university employer to another, thereby allowing individuals to accrue continuous benefits. 
  4. An industrial action ballot is premature. The national negotiating process is not complete: only one scheduled meeting has taken place, and a number of further negotiating meetings are already scheduled to run through to 18 December. We hope that the issue can still be resolved through the agreed channels without the need to resort to industrial action.

The University fully appreciates that the prospect of pension reform will be of concern to many colleagues. However, we do support the collective position of employers that reform is necessary now to ensure the sustainability of the scheme, meaning that valuable retirement benefits will be available to current and future employees, of all ages and career stages.

It is important that all our USS members have the opportunity to review all the latest information. We will continue to update the For Staff In Depth section as further information becomes available from the national negotiating meetings. 

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