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UCU calls for more universities to join fight for fair pensions

4 February 2021

UCU is calling on employers in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to join it in demanding a change of approach to the ongoing 2020 valuation of the pension scheme.

The call comes after the Oxford UCU branch and the University of Oxford wrote a joint letter to USS chief executive Bill Galvin, raising concerns over the scheme's valuation. The Oxford letter followed a similar joint letter by Cambridge UCU and the University of Cambridge. 3,874 people have also signed a letter of complaint to USS.

UCU welcomed the approach taken by both universities and said more employers should work with their local UCU branches to challenge USS's approach.

The letters from Oxford and Cambridge echo UCU's previously stated concerns over USS's valuation approach. The union has criticised USS for cherry-picking recommendations from a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) which was set up by UCU and employer representative Universities UK after unprecedented levels of strike action over detrimental changes to USS in 2018.

Other concerns raised over the valuation include an underappreciation of the strength of the employer covenant and contribution increases which are pricing low paid members out of the scheme.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'We have no confidence in the approach USS has taken in valuing university staff pension pots and Oxford and Cambridge universities are right to join with their respective UCU branches in raising the alarm. These are two very large institutions with a huge share of the scheme's liabilities and we expect USS to take their criticisms seriously. We also want to see other universities engaging with their UCU branches and demanding improvements to the 2020 valuation before it is too late.

'Even after the biggest wave of strike action in higher education, and the creation of the JEP, USS continues to rely on flawed assumptions that underestimate the strength of the scheme and the higher education sector. UCU members are not willing to stump up even more of their wages because the scheme is being undervalued. Universities must join us in pressuring USS to act before more members are forced to drop out or suffer cuts to their benefits in retirement.'

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