Ballot call as online ‘referendum’ rejects USS plans

The University and College Union has called for a full ballot on changes to higher education’s largest pension scheme after 96 per cent of voters in its online “referendum” rejected the employers’ plans.

December 14, 2010

The UCU asked members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme whether they agreed to the employers’ proposed changes, which include an end to final-salary benefits for entrants and a pension age of 65 for all members.

The UCU said 96.3 per cent rejected the employers’ plans, against 3.7 per cent who accepted them.

Employers have previously questioned the online ballot, saying it is open to repeat voting – although the union responded that repeat votes were not counted.

There were 31,480 votes cast in the online ballot, the UCU said. Total membership of the USS is about 120,000.

The union has been critical of the official consultation being run by the employers and the USS, which does not present the UCU’s rival proposals.

The union’s plans were defeated at the scheme’s decision-making committee stage.

Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, said of the online vote: “The results are pretty straightforward – USS members have overwhelmingly rejected the employers’ proposals.”

Ms Hunt hoped that the formal consultation would have a similar turnout, but doubted it given members’ complaints about its inadequacy.

She added: “Despite spending money on pension communicators, the employers’ consultation exercise has been a disaster. [The universities of] Oxford and Cambridge questioned a consultation where only one side of the argument was presented and ordered UCU’s proposals to be circulated to staff.

“If USS wants the future of the scheme, and any changes, to have any legitimacy, it needs to conduct a ballot of all members on its proposed changes and the ones put forward by the union.”

A spokesman for the Employers Pensions Forum said: “The EPF notes an unsurprising outcome to the UCU’s own poll that sought to boil down the wide-ranging consultation on the USS reforms to an inappropriate ‘yes/no’ question.

“We hope it does not distract from the required consultation with staff representatives on the full package of proposals that is running until 22 December and that also enables individual scheme members to make full, considered and meaningful comments.”

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