USS pension – response to UCU industrial action ballot

November 8th, 2021

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West has today written on behalf of UEB to the University’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU).

The letter follows the results of the recent national ballot on industrial action over proposed reforms to the USS pension and the national pay award. You can read a full copy here.

UCU members at Nottingham alongside 37 other universities voted for a mandate for possible industrial action, however the union did not secure a mandate in 31 of the 68 universities that were balloted on USS pension reforms. UCU’s HE Committee will consider this Friday whether to re-ballot institutions who did not reach the threshold and the form that any action might take.

For further information, please visit the USS 2020 Valuation webpages.

In the letter, Professor West writes:

“While I am sure that every UCU member will have thought very hard about whether to vote and how to cast their vote, I and my UEB colleagues can only express our deep disappointment at the prospect of further industrial action.

“Strikes this year would only penalise students, who are re-engaging with life on campus which is so important for their education and wellbeing after the turbulence and disruption to their school and university experience over the past 18 months.

“Nationally, as the union considers this week whether to re-ballot institutions who did not make the threshold for industrial action and consults members on the form it might take, we would request that union members consider the interests of students in their responses.

“The proposals currently under consultation with pension scheme members – backed up by £1.3 billion support from employers – form the only viable plan that keeps contributions affordable for members and retains defined benefits which are rarely seen in other schemes.

“However, I believe we share similar concerns to the union on the pension scheme’s design, its governance and the ability of early career staff to enter the current scheme. Central to the current reform proposals are formal commitments from employers to: explore alternative scheme designs, including conditional indexation; accelerate a major review of USS governance with independent expertise; and work with stakeholders, including UCU, to develop a flexible, low-cost pension option. I would invite UCU to join the conversation on these areas and help to negotiate the future rather than disrupt the present.

“Looking ahead to the near future, it is clear that all of our colleagues, including those who voted for industrial action, have had to take very difficult decisions, and we await further decisions from UCU’s Higher Education Committee this coming Friday. The prevailing concern for all of us on UEB will be to mitigate the impact of any industrial action on the education, experience and wellbeing of our students who have all experienced significant disruption to their education over the last 18 months.

“Whether or how industrial action proceeds in the coming weeks and months, I trust that the debate can be conducted in the civil and constructive manner that is a hallmark of discussion at our University.”

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