Lines dividing the UCU and UUK positions regarding the 2020 USS Trustee valuation are regrettably becoming clearer. In an email sent yesterday, Jo Grady wrote that, rather than attempt to pressure the trustees into reforming their reverse-engineered and unjustified valuation, UUK ‘is proposing massive cuts to USS members’ retirement benefits and is consulting [our employers] on whether to not to endorse them’.
In particular, and among the changes UUK have proposed in response to the valuation, is a cut to the defined benefit element of the scheme with a proposal to replace a portion of the scheme with a defined contribution option for lower paid staff. Details of the difference between the two can be found here but, in short, this change would result in an unacceptable two-tier system of deferred payment.
Both the UCU Branch Officers and the University of Kent Executive Group recognise the danger posed by the USS Trustee’s 2020 valuation to the viability of the scheme, and we have released a joint statement to this effect. Specifically, the joint statement calls for an endorsement of the 2019 Joint Expert Panel recommendations for reform, a key aspect of the UCU’s position since the publication of its second report.
As members will know, the University of Kent has recently undertaken a survey of USS eligible staff in order to shape its institutional response to the UUK consultation. The Executive Group’s response to UUK will play a significant part in determining the latter’s policy, as we understand our VC is influential in their decision-making. Branch officers will be meeting with management on the 30th to discuss the survey results at a sub-JSNCC meeting, and we welcome any comments from members in advance of that meeting.
It is important to bear in mind that, as is made clear at the bottom of the joint statement, this letter does not signify an alignment of our positions in any greater respect than is set out in the letter, and we may still take issue with the University’s course of action in the future.
Furthermore, we are still in dispute with the University management around their refusal to rule out compulsory redundancies this year: this joint statement should in no way indicate a softening of our conviction to ensure a successful ballot and that no one loses their job.
Nevertheless, this statement, which has been endorsed at both regional and national levels of the UCU, is a clear and unambiguous call for the revision of the USS governance and revision of its valuation, and the Branch Officers hope that it paves the way for more Universities to express their dissatisfaction with the USS valuation and Trustee’s governance.