USS pensions: v-cs drop request for two-year strike moratorium

UUK proposal calls for next month’s ballot to be cancelled in return for a 0.5 per cent increase in employer contributions to Universities Superannuation Scheme

August 30, 2019
Strike placards

Universities UK has dropped its request for a two-year moratorium on strike ballots over pensions, but is still calling for next month’s ballot to be cancelled.

At a meeting of the Universities Superannuation Scheme’s joint negotiating committee on 22 August, plans to increase members’ contributions to 9.6 per cent of their salary were backed by representatives of Universities UK and the independent chair, Sir Andrew Cubie. They currently stand at 8.8 per cent. The proposal will increase employers’ contributions from 19.5 per cent to 21.1 per cent.

UUK representatives on the committee offered a further increase in employer contributions of 0.5 per cent for the next two years, in return for a two-year moratorium on strike ballots over pensions. This would have limited employee contributions to 9.1 per cent – the level proposed by a joint expert panel set up by the University and College Union and UUK after last year’s strike.

Since the meeting, however, UUK has dropped the request for the two-year strike moratorium, instead only asking for the union to agree not to proceed with the planned ballot on industrial action, due to start on 9 September, in return for the 0.5 per cent increase in employer contributions. Union members walked out for 14 days over the dispute last year.

UUK said that it followed up this verbal offer in writing on 27 August. A spokesman said that the organisation was disappointed by a UCU communication issued on 29 August which stated that UUK was “insisting on a two-year moratorium on any industrial action”.

Last week, a UCU spokesman said that the employers’ offer was rejected “because it had ludicrous conditions attached about when and how we could conduct strike ballots”.

Representatives of UUK and union officials are due to meet on 4 September to discuss the offer again.

A UUK spokesman said: “We would prefer not to have to negotiate in public like this, but UCU is completely misrepresenting the employer position to union members. At the JNC [joint negotiating committee], UCU negotiators indicated they were unwilling to compromise, refused to consult their members over the alternative offer, and consequently rejected it.”

The spokesman urged UCU to consult its members on the offer.

“Our offer would result in a lower member contribution rate of 9.1 per cent – exactly aligned with the rate proposed by the joint expert panel in its first report, which employers and the union support,” he said. “The USS trustee is open to considering whether the current split in contributions can be changed, so we would urge the union to engage constructively with this offer.”  

Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, said that the comment which UUK claimed was misleading was made by the union’s national disputes committee “in response to the written offer discussed on 22 August, which included a two-year moratorium on strikes”.

“For the employers to try and suggest it is anything else is disingenuous,” Dr Grady said. “As we said last week, any serious offer will be considered by our higher education committee [which meets on] 6 September.

“We hope further talks with the employers next week will lead to something for them to consider.”

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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