Email to Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts- Working towards resolution of USS dispute

Dear members,
In the wake of the mediated talks with ACAS on pay and conditions that have started today, we have sent the following email to the Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts to ensure he uses his power as VC to secure a positive outcome for staff in the USS dispute.

Dear Koen,

We are writing regarding the industrial disputes and strike action that are threatening the integrity of this semester’s teaching and research at the University. There has been positive news on the pay and conditions dispute, with UCEA agreeing to mediated talks at ACAS that began today. Resolution of both disputes is essential to returning our campus to normal operation; thus, we want to ensure that the USS dispute is also moving in a positive direction.

The UCU demands over USS to encompass the following aspects:

  1. The resetting of future accrual to the levels that we saw before the recent cuts,
  2. A retrospective uprating of benefits accrued at the lower rate since April 2022,
  3. Adoption of a modestly prudent methodology for future valuations of the scheme, beginning in March 2023 and continuing onwards.

With the 2023 valuation expected to show significantly lower future service costs than currently being paid and a large surplus (and hence no deficit recovery payments), the objective in (1) is likely to be an immediate consequence of the 2023 valuation and your commitment on the 24 March 2022 to call for an improvement to pension benefits rather than seeking reductions in contributions.

The objective in (2) is (with the possible exception of the DB threshold) possible should the JNC and trustee agree, and can be funded out of a surplus arising in the scheme (for example, out of a 2023 valuation). As such, it is likely to cost the University nothing. Given that the benefit cuts were predicated on a 2020 valuation that this university, and Universities UK as a whole, rightly thought overly prudent, I trust there will be support from you for this outcome.

The objective for (3) is to break the cycle of disruption caused every three years by a triennial valuation methodology that has been described as ‘reckless prudence’. It aims to deliver a true resolution to this dispute, rather than kicking the proverbial can down the road for another few years. The UK Higher Education sector has experienced industrial action over pension cuts every two or three years for more than a decade. Updating a flawed methodology would put an end to a disruptive cycle.

We would be happy to discuss these points with you to ensure that this university is well placed to react quickly to positive developments that could resolve these disputes.

With kind regards,

Sam Marsh & Matthew Malek, on behalf of the SUCU Committee

Monday 13th February 2023