As you will have seen from the Vice Chancellor’s message on Wednesday, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has issued a new valuation.
The goal of the valuation is to assess the scheme’s assets and liabilities as of 31st March 2020. As the Vice Chancellor pointed out, pension funds are legally required to conduct valuations every three years. USS last undertook a valuation two years ago. Consequently, this valuation, the date of which coincided with perhaps the most uncertain point of the pandemic, is not required to take place for another year.
USS has used a valuation method very similar to that proposed in September 2020. In its response to these proposals, Universities UK (UUK), the group which speaks on behalf of universities like Loughborough, described the valuation method as “extremely unhelpful”, “unreasonable”, “unrealistic”, “incredibly conservative” and “unjustifiable”. UUK concluded that USS was making “extreme and unwarranted” proposals. Remarkably, the proposals issued on Wednesday are actually more extreme than those which prompted these unrestrained remarks.
The branch is engaging with management colleagues here at Loughborough. A report will be provided at the forthcoming AGM and members will have the opportunity to pose questions to our Pensions Rep, Matthew Inglis.
We are writing about the email
sent by the Vice Chancellor on Wednesday 13 November regarding the strike.
The VC is quite right that he
engaged with staff, and that he has made a public call for limiting employee
contributions to 9.1%. Most Vice Chancellors have not done this and we
appreciate the VC has made himself unpopular with some of them. Further, we
acknowledge the frustration for our VC that some of the universities where the
ballot turnout did not exceed the 50% threshold have less proactive, less
sympathetic Vice Chancellors. Moreover we take his expressed concerns about the
financial implications of increased contributions by the university seriously
and in good faith.
However UCU’s position is that no
one, not employees and not employers, need have their contributions increased.
Rather at the root of the dispute is the valuation method. The debate is not
“who should fund the increases” but whether or not increases are
The resolution to the 2018 strikes
came from the establishment of a UUK/UCU Joint Expert Panel, which was tasked
with reviewing the valuation method and proposing a way forward. If the
methodology recommended by the Joint Expert Panel in their first report had
been implemented, then neither employer nor employee contributions would be
A couple of other points. The VC’s
email mentioned that “employees currently contribute 9.6% of salary” but we
highlight that this is only true since 1st October 2019. It was 8% before last
year’s strike, then went to 8.8% and now has gone up to 9.6%. The email also
noted that the USS Trustee includes UCU representatives but two clarifications
are in order. First, UCU has nominees not representatives: these nominees are
legally independent of UCU, and their actions are not controlled by UCU.
Second, in recent weeks one of the UCU nominees, Professor Jane Hutton, was
dismissed by USS after raising concerns about their valuation method.
we note that our VC is in engaging in meaningful discussion with LUCU committee
and is making constructive proposals about how we might resolve the situation.
We are grateful to have such a proactive and sympathetic Vice Chancellor at
Loughborough who engages meaningfully with the branch and we do not take this
for granted. We will be in touch again to canvas members’ views on the options
as we see them.
The branch think it important that staff who are considering strike action understand what is legally required and understand the guidance being issued in relation to both the proposed strike action between Nov 25th and Dec 4th and action short of a strike that will continue thereafter.
We believe some managers are making suggestions which are not in keeping with current guidance.
You are not required to give of strike action to management, or to students – although when asked afterwards if you did take strike action, you are required to provide this information.
It is recommended that colleagues give notice on the morning of the strike that they will be absent, as they would if they were going to be absent due to sickness. This is the case whether it involves lectures, seminars, or project supervision. This gives managers the same time frame to notify students of changes. Even though, again, there is no need to do so.
The branch is concerned that some of recommendations from some managers are asking to ensure the ‘smooth running of the programmes’ after December 4th is a request to ignore the action short of strike, thus to act to minimise disruption lessens and undermines the impact of the strike itself.