Employers and UCU to reconvene pension talks following ‘work to rule’ action

Employers have agreed to hold fresh talks with the University and College Union over the sector’s biggest pension fund, following the start of industrial action.

October 29, 2011

The UCU opposes employer-led changes to the £32 billion Universities Superannuation Scheme introduced on 1 October, including a two-tier system putting newer members on lower-value pensions than older members.

In a statement issued following a meeting of the scheme’s Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) on October, a USS spokesman said: “The employer and UCU representatives agree to establish a working group at the JNC meeting in December 2011 to explore options, without prejudice, for future changes to the scheme within the context of the scheme’s sustainability.

“The JNC agrees that any further scheme changes should produce outcomes considered fair for scheme members and employer stakeholders.”

The UCU began “work to contract” industrial action on 10 October and had threatened to strike and boycott the research excellence framework if employers did not return to talks.

Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said: “No one should be under any illusions that achieving a fair settlement will be easy, but at least now the two sides are talking to each other following UCU’s ‘working to contract’ action.

“Achieving talks was our first aim; agreeing outcomes for the scheme which are fair and just is our next. Members are asked to continue to work to contract and to be prepared to escalate the action should that, unfortunately, still be necessary.”

Ms Hunt has previously pointed to “key areas” for reconsideration, including accrual rates for new members and redundancy payments for those who are 50 and 55.

A spokesman for the Employers Pensions Forum said the developments were “a positive step. The working group is an opportunity to improve dialogue and develop everyone’s better understanding of the USS scheme and to work together to ensure the scheme remains affordable and sustainable for all in the long-term.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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