UNIVERSITY and College Union (UCU) branch representatives will meet at 11am on Wednesday 28 March to discuss members’ feedback on a new pensions offer from Universities UK (UUK) employers. The union’s Higher Education Committee will meet after that meeting to set out the next steps.
UCU said on Friday: ‘Following further negotiations this week, the Universities UK (UUK) board met this afternoon and agreed a proposal aimed at resolving the pension dispute. ‘That proposal has been sent to University and College Union (UCU) members, along with a message from UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.’
UCU said: ‘The proposal will see the creation of a jointly agreed expert panel to agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund. ‘To allow this to happen, the current deal in terms of contributions into USS and pension benefits will remain in place until at least April 2019.’
Sally Hunt said in her letter to members: ‘Of course we welcome any acceptance by UUK that the valuation should be looked at again. However for any such process to have the confidence of the sector, the panel and its terms of reference must be jointly agreed between UCU and UUK rather than imposed by one side on the other.
‘Equally importantly, if UUK now proposes to do this work the current round of cuts to pension benefits which are the immediate cause of this dispute must be removed so that a properly constituted panel can do its work. ‘This week I have continued to press UUK on both of these objectives in talks supported by ACAS. ‘Arising from this, UUK has agreed a proposal to be put to UCU members which I have set out below this message. In essence what has been proposed is as follows:
• A Joint Expert Panel, comprised of actuarial and academic experts nominated in equal numbers from both sides will be commissioned to deliver a report. • A jointly agreed chair whose first step will be to oversee the agreement of the terms of reference, the order of work and timescales with the parties. • The panel will focus in particular on reviewing the basis of the scheme valuation, assumptions and associated tests. It will take into account the unique nature of the HE sector, inter-generational fairness and equality considerations, the need to strike a fair balance between ensuring stability and risk. • Recognising that staff highly value Defined Benefit provision, the work of the group will reflect the clear wish of staff to have a guaranteed pension comparable with current provision whilst meeting the affordability challenges for all parties, within the current regulatory framework.
‘I have spoken today to UCU’s Superannuation Working Group who are agreed that this statement should go to members and that – in line with our previous practice – USS branches should be recalled to a briefing on Wednesday, 28 March to provide initial feedback on your response. ‘It will then be for the Higher Education Committee to decide on the further process for consulting members via a ballot.’