UCU remains ‘some distance’ away from USS contribution agreement with universities

The University and College Union (UCU) has said that remains “some distance” away from employers on what it believes would constitute an acceptable response to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) dispute.

The union, employers, USS and members have been in dispute over proposed increases to pension contributions since 2017.

In an update, it also called on its higher education members to “keep pressure” on employers by observing action short of a strike until its mandate for industrial action ends on 28 April.

On 31 March, the USS confirmed it will proceed with its valuation as planned, despite recently triggering a funding measure breach, and reported that its deficit had risen to over £11bn.

The scheme reported itself to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) earlier in March after market volatility saw it breach a funding measure from its monitoring and action framework.

Talks have continued on the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel between UCU, Universities UK and USS in regard to the way USS governs itself and conducts its valuation process.

UCU and its professional advisers, First Actuarial, said that they are “not satisfied” by USS's plans for the 2020 valuation.

“In particular, we do not feel that USS has provided employers or member representatives with enough information about the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, of alternative approaches to the valuation which could make the scheme more affordable and sustainable, without necessarily exposing it to more risk,” said UCU general secretary, Jo Grady.

The union noted that, despite the coronavirus crisis, USS has decided to go ahead with its valuation “unlike some other schemes”.

“Our negotiators continue to argue that USS needs to take a long-term view of the situation, bearing in mind the overall health and viability of the employers that support it, rather than making knee-jerk decisions based on short-term market shocks,” Grady added.

UCU noted that more updates will be “coming soon”, in particular after the Higher Education Committee meets on 24 April.

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