Tony Bruce of the Employers Pensions Forum (EPF) calls for "a rational debate" on the necessity for reforming the Universities Superannuation Scheme ("Debate, not threats", Letters, 10 June).
The University and College Union agrees that changes are necessary and put forward its own proposals for change in the recently concluded discussions, which were initiated not by the USS, as Bruce asserts, but jointly by the EPF and the UCU.
The talks did not succeed in securing an agreement because the UCU did not and does not accept the EPF's radical proposal to introduce a two-tier pension structure, which, by reducing benefits for new members, would lead to intergenerational conflict.
Bruce wishes to underplay this change by characterising it as the "minimum change in scheme benefits that are necessary to secure the long-term future of the scheme". He does not make clear that the perceived "necessity" is in the eyes of the EPF and the EPF alone.
Bruce also refers to the UCU consultative ballot on the proposals. He deplores the fact that it did not offer the "opportunity for a debate on the alternatives", but fails to explain how a ballot on the issue was supposed to achieve this.
Further, while it is true that the UCU consulted only its members for whom it had email addresses, the original plan was to ballot all members affected by the proposals. While criticising the UCU for not balloting all USS members, Bruce neglects to mention that the EPF felt unable to support this plan when it was discussed during the negotiations on the proposed changes.
What is clear from the ballot is that UCU members have overwhelmingly endorsed the union's proposals and rejected those put forward by the EPF. All attempts by the EPF to discredit the ballot serve only to highlight the weakness of its position.
In light of the ballot result, there is an urgent need for further discussion of the proposals, but it is a bit rich of Bruce to call for a rational debate on the necessity for change when his side is determined that on 7 July, the USS Joint Negotiating Committee will make a decision on the respective proposals.
Terry McKnight, Lead negotiator, UCU
Michael MacNeil, Head of higher education, UCU.