UCL-UCU: Update on USS Legal Action - online meeting at 13.00 today

3 March 2023

An update on the USS legal action

In January, we voted to support this case and make a donation of £3,000 from branch funds. But more money will be needed for the case to make it to court.

A court date has now been announced on 13 June! We urgently need your help to end the cycle of disputes over the USS and change it for good. 

We would not normally ask, but we would encourage colleagues to consider donating to this cause.

The message below is from Ewan McGaughey (KCL) and Neil Davies (UCL and Bristol), who are leading the legal challenge.

There is a meeting today at 1pm on Zoom (see description below) for colleagues who are interested in joining. 

UCL UCU Executive Committee



UCU Rising

Dear colleague,

Because of the support of over 8,000 donations, the USS legal action has got a date at the Court of Appeal on 13 June to hold the USS directors accountable. 

We now need to raise the remaining £210,000 to proceed with the case. Please share and donate here, so that we can go all the way!

The case argues that the April 2022 cuts must reversed because the ‘deficit’ was concocted through a nonsensical assumption of 0.29% growth for 30 years; the cuts were discriminatory; USS must instead cut its super-inflated operating costs, not our pension; and USS must divest fossil fuels and have a credible plan compatible with members' interests. And the USS governance is broken, because on its board unelected City cronies appoint themselves: we need a majority-elected USS board. 

What has the case achieved? Since it began, the failed CEO Bill Galvin resigned. USS began reporting surpluses, not deficits, because it changed its growth assumption to 1.8% p.a. (yes - that's all it took for multi-billion surpluses). USS has gone into greenwash overdrive. And perhaps by wild coincidence, the university manager lobby, Universities UK, put out a joint statement with UCU in the last fortnight saying:

  • a new valuation "would allow for a return to a comparable level of future benefits"; 

  • they can "achieve a reduction in costs for members and employers"; 

  • they "agree on the urgent need, with the USS Trustee, to examine the case more fully for divestment from fossil fuels and that a greater visibility of climate crisis action and mitigation should be a feature of long-term USS planning"; 

  • and they "agree to working in partnership on USS governance reform". 

We know that your action, your support, matters. So does the tremendous collective action around the UK, and the work of UCU's tireless negotiators. Change comes if we set out a vision, and have a strategy to win. 

We have more to do: we are not satisfied until USS actually reverses the cuts, reverses its cost inflation, and has a real fossil fuel divestment plan including a credible shareholder voting policy to eliminate toxic fossil fuels from all companies. Our case has been endorsed by both the Higher Education Sector Conference and the NEC of the UCU, but we still need to fundraise. The average pledge is £42 - that's less than half a day’s pay, in return for your pension back - worth about £200,000 for each of us! 

Please donate and share. UCU has 120,000 members, USS has 212,000 active members - and if each person gave just £1, the fund raising would be done. So we need give finance and publicity to the case! 

The organisers of this campaign, Ewan McGaughey and Neil Davies will do another call this Friday at 1pm on Zoom to answer questions and discuss the case - please join. 

Finally, we are going to win this case because we are doing what is right: social security and a clean environment are universal human rights. Many of us are worried about the 30% real-terms pay cuts since 2010 and the lack of a pay deal; the failure to implement structural reform to end the gender, race and disability pay gaps; the failure to protect job security; the lack of democracy in higher education. We must change those things too. In this case we are showing together how we can do it: by sticking together, with a vision and a strategy. We are absolutely determined to restore our pensions, hold the directors to account, and use our money for social justice on a living planet.

Ewan and Neil