Stuck on the sidelines

February 9, 2012

The University and College Union's decision to suspend its industrial action while negotiations take place over the Universities Superannuation Scheme in the pre-1992 sector is unwelcome. While the union's USS conference in London last month voted to demand the replacement of Sir Andrew Cubie, the so-called "independent' chair of USS, refused to accept the cuts imposed since October 2011 and demanded a settlement no worse than in the Teachers' Pension Scheme, the decision to suspend industrial action leaves no means by which the UCU can effectively enforce these demands.

It is now explicitly recognised by the UCU and the employers that the TPS dispute in the post-1992 sector will play a major role in the final negotiated settlement for the USS. The reason is simple: the settlement currently imposed on the USS makes it one of the UK's worst public sector pension schemes. Whether one considers its accrual rate, the rate of indexing for existing contributions or the inflation indexing of pension payments, it is demonstrably worse than even the coalition proposals for the TPS.

In recommending calling off industrial action, the UCU leadership in the pre-92 sector has thrown away an opportunity to join with colleagues in the post-92 sector in a campaign for all pensions. Instead, it favours sitting on the sidelines while the fight is waged by others in the hope that employers, who have shown no shame when changing the rules to protect those on fat-cat salaries, will relent and improve the settlement imposed in October.

Ordinary members of the UCU in pre-92 institutions must do everything in their power to show solidarity with the forthcoming strikes over the TPS. Every improvement in that scheme will make it harder for the dreadful USS settlement to remain in place.

Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee

Iain Ferguson, University of Stirling

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