USS reforms will only undermine scheme

November 6, 2014

The decision by the University of York to deduct 100 per cent pay in response to the University and College Union’s democratic mandate to initiate an assessment boycott in the Universities Superannuation Scheme pension dispute (“UCU ready to ‘dig in’ for a long war on pensions”, News, 30 October) can only be seen as a new low in industrial relations in higher education.

Even where employers deducted 100 per cent of pay for partial performance in the 2013-14 pay dispute, they did so only for those days where two-hour strikes took place. York now has the unenviable achievement of topping at least one league table – that of least union-friendly universities in the UK.

As has been identified, the proposals for change increase rather than decrease risks within the pension scheme and are based on flawed analysis. That no proposals, guarantees or safeguards have been outlined for the defined contribution part of the new scheme further suggests that the decision to make these changes has nothing to do with ensuring that the USS remains an attractive or stable pension scheme and, instead, everything to do with undermining it altogether.

Removing the so-called deficit, reducing employer contributions and transferring risk to individual members thus lays the groundwork for the future privatisation of higher education.

The UCU has a clear mandate for national strike action in defence of pensions, a membership that has voted in the largest turnout in its history for this action and the ability to ensure that higher education remains a public good. We must now respond with all-out national strike action not only to defend our pay and conditions but also to retain a higher education system that remains under public control.

James Cussens
Branch secretary, University of York UCU

Marion Hersh
UCU national executive committee (higher education), University of Glasgow

Lesley McGorrigan
University of Leeds and UCU NEC (higher education)

Lee Jones
Queen Mary University of London

Sean Wallis
President University College London UCU and UCU NEC member (higher education)

Carlo Morelli
Vice-president University of Dundee UCU, University of Dundee

Sara Munday
Postdoctoral researcher in mathematics, University of York

Malcolm Povey
Past UCU president University of Leeds and ex-UCU NEC (higher education)

Wendy Olsen
University of Manchester

John Parrington
University of Oxford

Alpesh Maisuria
University of East London

Roddy Slorach
UCU equality and diversity rep, Imperial College London

Patrick Baker
Goldsmiths, University of London

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