Fresh UK pension scheme talks ‘could avert further strikes’

UCU, employers and USS will discuss the ongoing pensions row, following series of recommendations from expert panel  

December 23, 2019
Strike at Goldsmiths
Source: Eleanor Bentall

Employers, the University College Union and the Universities Superannuation Scheme have agreed to get back around the table in the new year, a move that could end the long-running dispute over university pensions.

Last week, UCU announced that more universities were being balloted for strike action in 2020.

In November, staff at 60 universities went on strike for eight days _ of those, 46 union branches were taking action over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, and UCU said that they are set to go on strike again next year.

Senior members of the organisations involved, including UCU general secretary Jo Grady, UUK chief executive Alistair Jarvis and USS Group chief executive Bill Galvin, will attend the talks.

The discussions take place following the publication of the second report from the Joint Expert Panel, originally set up in the wake of the 2018 pension row walkouts.

The report recommended improving communication between those involved, particularly the operation of the Joint Negotiating Committee, which comprises UCU and UUK representatives, and called for further talks between them.

It also said that the governance and valuation of the scheme need to be seriously looked at.

A UCU spokesman said that the scheduled talks “offered a real opportunity to deliver a fairer valuation process, that could reduce costs for universities and members, and could help avert further strikes likely to hit universities in spring”.

He added that there was an “urgent need” to address the number of people leaving the scheme and to rebuild trust and confidence among members and potential members.

Dr Grady said that the second JEP report “stressed the importance of all parties coming together to shape the 2020 valuation and to tackle issues of governance with the scheme and I look forward to getting on with the talks in the new year. If we are to avoid further serious disruption at universities over USS then all parties need to work on these key issues.”

Mr Jarvis said that there was “a strong desire from all parties to work closely together on the future directions of the scheme”.

“We look forward to developing a joint approach between the union, the trustee [board] and employers to consider and respond to the recommendations from the JEP’s second report, alongside the 2020 valuation of USS,” he said. “Priorities include jointly agreeing a refreshed scheme purpose and valuation principles; reforming the governance; and exploring different approaches to the valuation methodology for 2020.”

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