University College Union (UCU) members across over 60 universities staged 14 days of strikes to defend their USS pension scheme. Bosses had wanted to shift the scheme from a defined benefit one to a defined contribution scheme.
This would make payouts dependent on the stock market – and slash the value of the pension.
The strikes have forced the bosses to back down and show the value of militant union action. Now they say they will suspend the pension threat and participate with an “expert panel” who will look at how the scheme should operate in the future. The “Joint Expert Panel comprised of actuarial and academic experts nominated in equal numbers from both sides” would be commissioned to deliver a report.
The current scheme would remain in place until at least April of next year.
The deal commits both parties to recommend “measures aimed at stabilising the fund” to provide a pension “broadly comparable” with the current arrangements.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt wrote to members explaining that the deal would assess the valuation of the scheme. And in light of that “contributions or benefits” could be “adjusted in any direction”.
The union’s higher education committee (HEC) will make a decision on the offer, following a branch members’ meeting next Wednesday. This follows a previous deal that was overwhelmingly rejected by branch delegates earlier this month – and that forced the HEC to withdraw it.
The UCU leadership has not given a recommendation to branch delegates on whether they should accept or reject the deal.