Dispute over the sector-wide USS pension scheme
President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, provides an update on the ongoing dispute over the sector-wide USS pension scheme and reflects on last year's industrial action.
"I am writing regarding the ongoing dispute over the sector-wide USS pension scheme and the industrial action from last year.
"Unfortunately, as the USS Trustee seeks to conclude a further valuation of the scheme, some of the long-term issues with USS that led to the industrial action remain unresolved.
"Locally, we are working constructively with our trade union representatives to bring about the changes we all seek, to secure a high-quality pension scheme for the long term with sustainable contribution rates. In doing so, we will jointly seek to explore all possible options on the matter, challenging USS (and other parties, where appropriate) to find a mutually acceptable resolution and avoid future industrial action. We believe that by working together we have the best chance of effecting the changes we all see as both necessary and sensible.
"I would like to acknowledge the work of the local UCU branch in challenging consistently the approach taken by the USS Trustee since the introduction of a revised approach to scheme valuations in 2014. The Joint Expert Panel, formed as a means to suspend the industrial action, has confirmed the validity of the concerns expressed by our local branch executive regarding several key elements of USS’ valuation methodology and their work has helped to inform the employers’ collective views on USS. Across the sector, UCU and employers are now much more closely aligned in terms of their aims for USS, and locally the excellent work of our joint USS Valuation Working Group has been at the forefront of the effort to find a sustainable outcome for USS.
"Although I was not in Sheffield at the time, I would like to reflect on the industrial action from last year. My University Executive Board colleagues and I understand that staff only take industrial action as a last resort, having exhausted all other avenues, and that no one wants to disrupt students' education. We acknowledge the hurt caused by the dispute, and regret that collaborative work with our UCU colleagues at the time was not sufficient to avoid the action.
"We appreciate the efforts of all members of the University to try to maintain positive relations across campus during the industrial action, and we acknowledge everyone’s continued contribution since the action ceased.
"As is the norm, pay was withheld from those who were taking strike action. As agreed with UCU and the Students’ Union during the action, we have redirected the pay deductions to activities and plans to better support our students across the University. Details of these projects can be found here.
"Since the industrial action has been suspended, we have been working closely with UCU colleagues to secure an acceptable resolution. However, it is possible that we will face more action if we cannot find a solution that works for all parties. At a national level, UCU have recently written to a number of employers, including our University, in anticipation of a potential further ballot on industrial action over USS. Locally, we will continue to work in partnership with UCU and other colleagues towards achieving the right outcomes for USS, in the hope that we can avoid further disruption to our students’ education."
Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor