Industrial action | USS pension scheme | 2019–20 pay dispute

Please find below an update about the national discussions over pensions, pay and working conditions.

For more information about the disputes and related industrial action, including our work in partnership with trade unions to address these matters locally, and how we have used our influence to try to shape the national debate, please visit our industrial action web pages.

From the start of these disputes, our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, has urged our national representatives, Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), to keep talking with the University and College Union (UCU) and the USS Trustee to find a negotiated solution to the disputes. We therefore welcome the progress outlined below about UCEA’s proposal to UCU on the 2019–20 pay negotiations, as well as the constructive talks that are taking place based on the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) second report about the USS pension scheme.


Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) proposal to University and College Union (UCU) on the 2019–20 pay negotiations

On Monday 27 January 2020, UCEA sent a proposal to UCU and the other higher education trade unions, which they hope will lead to an end to the current pay dispute.

The proposal includes actions developed following engagement with all 147 of the participating higher education institutions. It focuses on three key issues from the current dispute about pay and related matters: casual employment; workload and mental health; and gender pay gaps and ethnicity pay. It follows two months of constructive dialogue with UCU and national negotiations with all the trade unions that began in March 2019.

The proposal sets out a series of expectations of higher education institutions around the three key issues, which we are already working on here in Sheffield. We are committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and is treated fairly and with respect. We continue to work with our local trade unions on a range of matters which are of concern to them and colleagues across the sector to find ways to address issues such as workload pressures, stress and mental health concerns, casual working and gender and ethnicity pay gaps. You can read more about our joint work here. UCEA has asked that trade unions consult with their members on this revised offer as a potential basis for concluding the 2019–20 pay negotiations.

Read about UCEA’s proposal


Universities UK (UUK) consultation on the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) second report

The Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was set up by UCU and UUK following the 2018 industrial dispute to examine the valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). Its second report was published on 13 December 2019. It makes a series of interlocking recommendations covering the governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology, and the scheme's sustainability. The recommendations include establishing a new, jointly agreed, purpose statement; improving the operation of the Joint Negotiating Committee; creating a series of joint bodies in USS to better agree on issues relating to the future direction of the scheme; and agreeing a more appropriate valuation methodology, driven by the newly agreed purpose of the scheme.

UUK is asking us to share our thoughts on the report. Our USS Valuation Working Group (comprising UCU, academics and representatives from HR and Finance) are currently reviewing the report and will make recommendations to the University Executive Board. We will share our full response to the UUK consultation once it is submitted at the end of February.

Read our responses to previous consultations


27 January 2020: Fourth meeting between the University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

On 27 January 2020, UCU, UUK and USS met to discuss the recommendations of the second Joint Expert Panel report (JEP2).

This was the fourth of five meetings. The parties continued to hold productive discussions. They considered and discussed the Valuation Methodology Discussion Forum, which the Trustee had established to support and inform the development of the valuation. They also continued their discussion on the creation of a Strategic Discussion Forum, and began to consider the JEP’s recommendations in relation to governance and the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). It was agreed that further consideration of the question of sustainability would be considered at the next meeting.

The fifth meeting took place on 29 January 2020 with a statement expected within a week of this date.

Full statement from fourth meeting


23 January 2020: Third meeting between the University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

On 23 January 2020, UCU, UUK and USS met to discuss the recommendations of the second Joint Expert Panel report (JEP2).

This was the third of five meetings. The parties continued their discussions on the recommendations of the second JEP report. The discussions were positive with all parties engaging actively in the process. The discussion included consideration of the sustainability of the USS pension scheme and agreed to return to this issue at a future meeting. The group also began to map out how, by whom and in what order the recommendations of the JEP relating to valuation governance should be considered. It also looked at the JEP’s proposal for a Strategic Group to consider issues relating to the future direction of the scheme.

Full statement from third meeting


The latest about the dispute from University and College Union (UCU)

UCU have re-balloted members over the pay and/or pensions disputes at 37 higher education institutions. The ballots closed on Tuesday 28 January 2020. The UCU higher education committee are meeting on Thursday 30 January 2020 to consider the outcomes of those ballots, the latest developments in both disputes and to determine next steps, including potentially if further strike action is to be called.

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Consultation: Proposed change to maintain the revaluation of the salary threshold

Following an agreement by the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), comprising UCU and UUK representatives, all active members of USS, any employee eligible to join USS and their recognised employee representatives are being consulted on a proposed change to maintain the revaluation of the salary threshold.
The consultation will run from Friday 24 January 2020 for 60 days, until 5pm on Monday 23 March 2020.

Further details and how to respond