Pension fund threatens UCU boycotters with legal action

Lecturers from the University and College Union who help to run the sector’s £30 billion pension fund are being threatened with High Court action – by the fund itself.

April 7, 2011

The UCU’s five representatives on the Universities Superannuation Scheme’s decision-making committee have repeatedly refused to attend meetings on its future in a bid to block employer-proposed changes that are fiercely opposed by the union.

Without them, the committee cannot be quorate nor rubber-stamp the plans, which include raising member contributions and phasing out final-salary pensions.

The UCU is planning further strike action against the changes in May, following two days of strikes in March.

The changes were originally scheduled to be introduced on 1 April.

Now the USS has threatened legal action against the UCU representatives, four of whom are retired or serving academics (the other is a union officer).

In an email to UCU members, Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, calls the legal letters “a serious attempt to bully and intimidate the five UCU members who represent us on the USS joint negotiating committee” [JNC].

She adds: “Lawyers acting on behalf of the [USS] board have written to your representatives, UCU members like yourself, threatening them with High Court action.

“Worse still, USS is now threatening to make your representatives, five individuals, personally liable for costs.”

Ms Hunt urges members to write to their vice-chancellors in protest.

The USS has about 130,000 active members, mainly academics and senior administrators in older universities.

The UCU representatives believe that if they attend the JNC, its independent chair, Sir Andrew Cubie, will use his casting vote to back the employers – as he did last year when two years of talks on reform ended in stalemate.

Ms Hunt calls the no-show policy “an emergency and short-term measure”, saying that the union would return to the JNC “if the independent chair undertakes not to use his casting vote again”.

She adds: “By refusing to make the JNC quorate, your representatives have played a critical role in defending your pensions. It is for this role that they are being targeted for intimidation.”

A USS spokeswoman said: “In light of the UCU’s non-attendance at recent JNC meetings, USS has sought legal advice on how best to resolve this issue. The nature of that advice is confidential.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show