Strikes over USS pension changes suspended

Strikes over USS pension changes suspended

Planned strikes over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) have been called off after members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted by two to one to accept proposals aimed at resolving the dispute.

A second wave of strikes due to begin this week and to continue into May and June has been suspended, as has the action short of a strike.

Trade group Universities UK proposed ending the defined benefit element of the USS, in a bid to tackle spiralling costs and a deficit of approximately £7.5 billion. But UCU said a typical scheme member would lose around £10,000 a year in retirement under the changes, prompting a wave of strikes.

The proposals agreed by UCU members mean that a joint expert panel will be set up to re-examine the USS valuation and make recommendations.

Universities UK and its members have also stated that they do not intend to return to their original proposals to end the guaranteed pension, have made a clear commitment to defined benefits and agreed to discuss a wide range of issues raised by UCU.

These will include inter-generational fairness, comparisons with the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the role of government in providing support for USS.

UCU and Universities UK will jointly present the plans to the USS board and the Pensions Regulator. UCU said it will keep its strike mandate live as a precaution until this has process taken place.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt commented: “Members have participated in record numbers in the consultation, with a clear majority voting to accept the proposals. The union has come a very long way since January when it seemed that the employers’ proposals for a defined contribution pension were to be imposed.”

“Now we have agreement to move forward jointly, looking again at the USS valuation alongside a commitment from the employers to a guaranteed, defined benefit scheme. USS, the regulator and government now need to ensure that UCU and Universities UK have the space to implement the agreement effectively.”

A Universities UK spokesperson said: “The decision by UCU members to support the creation of a joint expert panel means that strike action is immediately suspended. This gives students important reassurance that they won’t be affected by further disruption during their summer study and exam period.”

“Reviewing the methodology and assumptions in the current valuation will build confidence, trust and increase transparency in the valuation process. It will provide an opportunity to consider the questions raised about the valuation by scheme members and employers. It is important that interested parties engage with the panel and remain open-minded about its possible findings.”

The spokesperson added that UCU and Universities UK will appoint a jointly agreed chair for the panel as soon as possible, before developing its terms of reference, order of work and timescales

“Alongside UCU, we will seek support for this process from USS and the Pensions Regulator, fully recognising their statutory responsibilities and accountabilities. Current pension benefits are guaranteed until at least 1 April 2019, so the panel will need to conclude its work in time to put in place a sustainable way forward for USS from that date.”

Categories: News, UK Pensions

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