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USS board intimidate UCU representatives

April 6, 2011

Five UCU members who represent all USS members on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee are being intimidated.

We remind you of the result of the pre-Christmas ballot:

Question: Do you agree to the employers’ proposals to change the USS scheme?:

Total responses at Leeds:

No: 966
Yes: 57

This was commensurate with the national response:

No 30,318 (96.3%)
Yes 1,162 (3.7%)

UCU has been willing all along to meet the employers at ACAS to discuss this impasse over our pensions. Their refusal to go to arbitration led to the most well-supported strikes in our union’s history two weeks ago.

Now the employers have escalated the dispute with a direct attack on UCU representatives.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the joint USS board have written to the UCU reps on that board and have threatened them with High Court action. These five reps are also threatened with being made personally liable for costs. The reason given is UCU’s refusal to attend the USS Joint Negotiating Committee, preferring arbitration.

Why has UCU refused to attend the USS Joint Negotiating Committee? In the past, we have seen the independent chair use his casting vote to vote in favour of the employers’ proposals, despite the overwhelming opposition of members of the scheme, as evidenced above. If our representatives attended the meeting, it would act de facto as a vehicle for imposing discredited proposals that scheme members have overwhelmingly rejected. If we walk through those doors, the scheme is rubber stamped, and members’ concerns would go unheard.

UCU are prepared to return to the JNC if the independent chair undertakes not to use his casting vote again. Read the exchange of letters over this issue here.

By refusing to make the JNC quorate, your representatives have played a critical role in defending your pensions. This is why they now face significant intimidation.

UCU members are recommended to read the letter from Sally Hunt emailed to them yesterday, 5 April.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick permalink
    April 6, 2011 1:39 PM

    Just when you think the employers can’t sink any lower…

  2. An academic permalink
    April 6, 2011 5:28 PM

    1. This is not the employer’s fund. It is our fund, set up jointly between the union and the employers.

    2. This is not a public sector fund. It is a private fund.

    3. The financials are some of the strongest of any pensions fund in the world.

    4. The scrapping of the default retirement age means that the fund de facto will not be in crisis over the longer term. Members will work longer, contribute to USS longer, and draw down pensions later.

    5. The employers have not consulted properly.

  3. Claire permalink
    April 8, 2011 2:34 PM

    I’m a USS member, not a UCU member. I didn’t get asked to vote in UCU’s loaded and closed question pre-Christmas ballot. I did get the oppotunity to put my concerns across in the USS consultation. As fas as I’m aware UCU is part of the Board and JNC in deciding what’s best to keep this private scheme sustainable (it’s not ‘strong’ because of issues like longevity). Try information sources outside of UCU campaign material when it comes to USS. Then enter the real world and appreciate that these proposals mean that we will still have a final salary scheme (one that my husband and children working in the private sector are most envious of).

  4. April 8, 2011 3:10 PM

    Dear Claire. You were entitled to vote in the UCU’s ballot – we sought all USS members as best we could, including putting very clear instructions for you on this blog. The scheme is strong (it one of a rare example of private schemes where more money is flowing in than is flowing out. USS’s long term health has improved in recent months thanks largely to the abolition of the mandatory retirement age, changes to indexation arrangements and a huge £4.5 billion increase in the value of its assets ) and longevity is a misplaced argument (see this article). Yes, at present you and I will continue to have a final-salary scheme if we don’t take a career break, under the employers’ proposals, but it is by no means certain that this will remain the case (see the JNC chair’s recent statement). The ‘real world’ approach would indicate that in the medium term all final-salary pensions in USS will be converted to CARE if this dispute is lost. The next JNC meeting has been delayed as a result of thousands of people writing to VCs to complain about the intimidation we cite here. UCU have made proposals for keeping our private scheme sustainable, take the time to look at them. Please realise that the UCU’s actuary advice is closer to the USS actuary’s advice than the employers’ actuary advice – what might that tell us?

    If people in the private sector are envious of our pension scheme, they perhaps should get unionised to improve their schemes, not criticise those who have managed to achieve something that represents what they are worth. Remember this is our money, our salaries, our pay. If my house, which I’d paid for with my own money, was being threatened by a bulldozer, would it be a valid argument to say “well it’s a bigger house than mine, so I’m envious of it and so I’m happy to see part of it destroyed”. This is the attitude you seem to be advocating.

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