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UCL-UCU: Report of UCL UCU Emergency Meeting, Monday 26 March 2018

26 March 2018

Motion 1: No suspension or e-ballot without confirmation of regulatory acceptance

No decision on suspending the action and balloting members by UCU should be made until any offer between UCU and UUK is confirmed by the USS Joint Negotiating Committee, the USS Trustees and the Pension Regulator. 

Explanation: We must not permit our action to be stood down and then find a potential agreement is undermined by any of these bodies. This would be catastrophic.

(This motion was passed.)

Motion 2: Replace 'broadly comparable' with a no detriment clause

UCU negotiators should submit a Counter Proposal to UUK that includes the text of UUK's proposal with the following amendment. In the bullet point beginning 'The panel will make an assessment of the valuation', delete from 'measures aimed at...' and replace the text so that the whole text now reads as follows:

  • The panel will make an assessment of the valuation. If in the light of that contributions or benefits need to be adjusted in either direction, both parties are committed to agree to recommend to the JNC and the trustee, measures aimed at stabilising the fund to provide a guaranteed pension whereby employees neither pay more nor receive less than the current arrangements. To achieve this the employers will either pay more into the pension scheme, extend their temporary line of credit, or reach an agreement with the government to support the scheme.

This Counter Proposal should be put to UUK and negotiated over before UCU moves towards settlement.

(This motion was passed.)

Explanation: This wording change confirms that in the eventuality of a deficit being declared, sufficient in the normal course of events to lead to changes to the scheme design, that employees would suffer no detriment as a result of any changes. The simplest way to achieve this outcome is that the current benefit structure would be maintained. If accepted, the change would prevent us having to repeat this year's industrial action next year, and protect the scheme at least until the next valuation round beginning in summer 2020.

Note that for most of USS's history, changes were made which led to the employers sometimes increasing their contributions and sometimes reducing them. Indeed, colleges paid 18.55% into USS between 1983 and 1997, after which they reduced their payments to 14%, taking a 'pension holiday' for many years. Even now, the current 18% employer contribution is still below this historic figure. The cost of this 'pension holiday' to USS is estimated to be a reduction in assets of £5bn at least. 

Only in 2011 and 2014 did changes in USS arrangements lead to detrimental changes in employee contributions or benefits.

Note also that procedurally, this Counter Proposal is independent from the position of the USS JNC, Trustee or Pension Regulator, as it is concerned only with how a potential future deficit would be addressed between UUK and UCU.

Motion 3: That the UUK proposal be put to members, with caveats

UCL UCU recommends that the current offer be put to members with clarifications about concerns raised by members in a ballot alongside confirmation that UUK has the authority to implement the offer.

(This motion fell.)