Ninety members of the University and College Union sign a letter to Times Higher Education condemning the UCU’s compromise action on pensions (20 November), and THE gives this considerable prominence in its news coverage (“UCU accused of pensions betrayal and failure to act on pay threats”, News, 20 November). This could lead at least some readers to imagine that there is a serious – perhaps equal – split in the UCU between members supporting compromise talks and those wanting to carry on, or even step up, the now suspended industrial action.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Ninety may seem a large number, but the reality is – and I know this from my local UCU association and from many others with which I have contact – that the vast majority of the 40,000+ UCU members in the Universities Superannuation Scheme are entirely in favour of attempts at a negotiated settlement and their views have been correctly reflected in suspension of the action by the union’s national executive.
UCU Swansea University
There is a lot of devil in the detail of the plan, and I hope UCU attends to the following:
- What is the UCU’s specific response to the letter to THE from senior mathematicians and statisticians challenging the basis of the valuation, and whether indeed there is a deficit?
- What are its plans for people like me in their mid-fifties who are too young to retire early at the closure of the final-salary scheme but too old to put in a lot of earning years to build up alternative pension savings?
- What compensation will there be for people who were mis-sold the USS? These include those who transferred in from schemes that maintain final salary (eg, Teachers’ Pension Scheme) as well as those who bought additional voluntary contributions on the basis of a false prospectus, and/or have been paying AVCs on the basis of a prospectus that the USS must have known for some time it had no intention of honouring.
The UCU has not done badly so far, but it needs firm resolve and a command of the detail here. Would it be prepared to crowdsource technical feedback on proposals from suitably qualified UCU/USS members?
There has been considerable discussion about the “existence” of a deficit in the Universities Superannuation Scheme but, it seems, next to none about its “origins”. That is, where did our pension funds disappear to?
The answer is to the hedge funds, commercial banks and other parts of the financial services industry, which in “creating” money from nothing did but transfer it from us to themselves. This is all set out in The Grip of Death by Michael Rowbotham and online via www.positivemoney.org. If university economics teaching were not broken (“Economics course drops 21% in NSS”, News, 13 November), academics would agitate more determinedly for something to be done about the financial sector and to retrieve our pensions money.
Douglas B. Kell
Research chair in bioanalytical science
University of Manchester