Debate, not threats

June 10, 2010

The University and College Union's response to Nicola Dandridge's article on the reform of the Universities Superannuation Scheme invites employers to begin talks "to help find a joint solution" to the issue ("UUK's two-tier pension bid is justly unpopular", Letters, 3 June; "Live long and prosper: we must work together to reform our pensions", May).

The union's letter fails to mention that discussions on the reform of the USS were initiated by the pension fund itself more than four years ago, and that the Employers Pension Forum (EPF) and the UCU have spent the past two years discussing the reform of the fund and negotiating on the proposals.

The talks ended in deadlock because the UCU was unwilling to contemplate the minimum changes in scheme benefits that are necessary to secure the long-term future of the scheme.

The union's letter also refers to the outcome of the UCU's recent opinion poll. This asked members simply to endorse the union's proposals or reject the employers' by ticking boxes without offering the opportunity for a serious debate on the alternatives.

The outcome of this self-organised poll has not been verified and in any case can represent the views of only a small minority of scheme members.

Under the rules of the USS, the UCU represents all 250,000 USS members, but only a fraction of these are actually members of the union and were thus able to express their views in the poll.

There is a need for a rational debate on the necessity for change, rather than threats of strike action. The EPF website provides balanced information on the changes and links to the employers' and the union's proposals.

Tony Bruce, Employers Pensions Forum,

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