The University’s position on UCU’s proposal to conclude the USS 2020 valuation
A statement made on 23 February 2022
The University believes that all parties involved in the current dispute about the future of the USS fundamentally want the same thing – to ensure a secure, stable and sustainable pension scheme that is valued by all colleagues, regardless of background and career stage. Where views clearly differ at this juncture is on the best way to achieve this.
It is deeply regrettable that this has led to a second period of strike action that has further disrupted the education of our students, noting that one of our key priorities is to keep this disruption to a minimum.
In common with other employer institutions, the University was invited by UUK to offer views on a UCU proposal to conclude the USS 2020 valuation – one of the issues at the heart of this industrial action.
The Pensions Committee of the University Council – the University’s governing body – has given this matter very careful consideration (including reviewing correspondence from UUK and UCU, nationally and locally), and its position remains that the proposal put forward by UUK remains the best available at the current time.
The Committee considers that this UUK proposal will provide a viable, affordable and implementable solution to the 2020 valuation, while buying time for all parties to work together to find a longer term solution to the challenges the scheme faces. And under it, scheme members will still receive good pensions at generally affordable contributions.
In reaching this conclusion, the Pensions Committee endorsed a number of the concerns raised by UUK in relation to the UCU proposal, including:
- A lack of clarity (including from a legal perspective) about the grounds on which UCU believes the 2022 valuation it proposes would deliver a more favourable outcome to the 2020 valuation, given the regulatory and economic realities under which the new valuation would take place.
- A lack of clarity about the specific arrangements were the proposed 2022 valuation to require contributions which exceed a combined employer/member contribution of 35% of salary – the cap proposed by UCU, which would itself require endorsement by the JNC, USS and the Pension Regulator.
- A challenging timetable – UUK has raised questions about the time it would take to conclude a 2022 valuation and the impact of this.
On Tuesday 22 February, the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) approved the package of necessary reforms initiated by UUK on behalf of the scheme employers. The JNC’s decision was confirmed with the vote of the independent chair and will now be considered by the USS Trustee.
The University notes that there is much common ground between UUK and UCU in relation to USS, including around the need for scheme redesign, improving scheme governance, and developing ways to reverse high-opt out rates of members.
We therefore remain hopeful that all the main parties can build on this common ground to find a solution to deliver that secure, stable, sustainable pension scheme we all seek, and would continue to value.