Your FAQs about the 4 Fights & USS dispute

Questions about our industrial action ballots – submitted by members, and anwered by your branch committee.

What is the ‘four fights’ dispute about?

The ‘four fights’ are about pay, the gender and ethnic pay gap, workload as well as casualisation in Higher Education. Staff in universities have experienced years of real terms pay cuts, combined with rising workloads. Structural inequalities and discrimination mean that those least able to pay the price bear the highest cost. Since the economic crisis in 2008 the real terms pay of university staff has declined by 20%. The gender pay gap across the sector is 15% while disabled and Black and Minority Ethnic staff continue to experience serious pay discrimination. In 2019-20 33% of academic staff were employed on fixed term-contracts. These were the workers who were ‘let go’ when the pandemic struck.

What is the USS dispute about?

USS members used to enjoy a final salary pension that provided a guaranteed payment based on final salary linked to length of service. The employers have been intent on cutting  our pensions. Only union action as protected what we have.  The employers’ preferred option is a pension with no defined benefit, but for now they are cutting existing provision incrementally. The latest proposed cut is substantial – see the UCU modeller to see what the employers’ plans will cost you. The USS dispute is simple – it is about protecting the pension provision we have now, but which employers want to slash. Our pensions have been cut enough – and we know that when they’re gone, they’re gone. Cuts will not be restored. This is a moment for USS members to draw and line in the sand and say ‘enough, and no more’. The employers’ cuts are unnecessary and unjust.

Continue reading “Your FAQs about the 4 Fights & USS dispute”

Cutting through the spin on USS #2

This UoN UCU’s response to UoN’s post about USS – UoN text in black, UCU response in red

Reporting latest developments on USS pension, UoN failed to accurately report what happened at JNC and UCU actions. We take this opportunity to rectify information and put some of the statements reported in context.

The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) has decided to progress the employers’ proposal for changes to the USS pension scheme to consultation with scheme members and representative bodies.

The decision means that scheme members could avoid significant increases in their contributions, which the USS Trustee has said it would otherwise be required to implement, going up from the current 9.6% to 18.6% of their salary from as soon as April 2022.

USS argued that to keep benefits unchanged, contribution rates need to increase to somewhere between 42% and 57% (cfr. 26% pre-2018 dispute). This is based on a flawed valuation of the scheme in March 2020 (see below) and essentially is a rip off.

Continue reading “Cutting through the spin on USS #2”

Cutting through the spin on USS

Reporting a Russell Group statement of principles for the USS pension scheme (5 July 2021), UoN management referred to:

… UUK alternative proposals to maintain USS as a hybrid Defined Benefit/Defined Contributions scheme with no increases in contributions to the scheme by members, backed up by employers offering further, stronger covenant support measures.

Is this the whole truth? No.

It’s spin.  “Maintain USS … with no increases in contributions … by members” fails to point out that the UUK proposals will lead to a much worse scheme for members.

This is how UUK, supported by management at the University of Nottingham, wants to cut your pension:

  • now, your pension grows by 1/75th of salary for every year you work; UUK proposals would cut this to 1/85th – cutting pensions by 12%
  • now, every pound you earn up to £59,800 adds to the secure defined benefit element of your pension; UUK proposals would cut this threshold to £40,000
  •  now, inflation can’t erode the buying power of your pension unless it exceeds 5%; UUK proposals would cut this protection to 2.5%

To see what impact these proposals will have on your pension, visit the modeller provided by UCU here.

UUK represents the interests of employers in USS negotiations. UCU represents the interests of everyone who is eligible to join USS. UCU opposes these damaging UUK proposals.