On Thursday 10 December, Cambridge UCU joined together with the Vice Chancellor and heads of Cambridge colleges to criticise the latest March 2020 valuation of USS, the Universities Superannuation Scheme. In a strongly-worded letter to USS CEO Bill Galvin, we expressed the ‘serious concerns’ we shared about the flawed assumptions behind the valuation of the pension scheme, and the way the valuation had been foisted on members and employers without sufficiently serious consultation. Together, we are calling on USS to change course now, for all our sakes, in order to avoid lasting damage to universities across the UK.
For years now, UCU has been sounding the alarm about mismanagement by the Trustees of the USS pension scheme. It took an unprecedented round of strike action in 2018 for the employers’ representatives, Universities UK (UUK), to start listening to our concerns. The Joint Expert Panel, an important win resulting from the strike, has now seen UCU and UUK join forces in many areas under discussion. But even after another two independent expert reports, and two more rounds of strikes, USS has produced a new valuation riddled with the same kinds of errors and distortions as the old one.
Among the problems we have raised are:
- The underappreciation of the scheme’s strength;
- The unaffordable and unrealistic levels of contributions demanded of members;
- The insufficient scope of the consultation;
- The intergenerational unfairness of a valuation that hits casualised younger members especially hard.
In an unprecedented display of unity, Cambridge UCU has come together with the University and Colleges of Cambridge to insist that enough is enough. This statement emerges out of Cambridge’s Pensions Working Group, a committee with representation from employees and employers. It shows that, when different parties within a single institution look carefully at how USS has been operating, they find common ground in identifying major flaws. USS cannot and must not make the same mistakes again. It must rethink its valuation urgently if it is to win back our trust. Now it is up to other employers to follow our lead in calling for a rethink. We look forward to similar joint statements emerging from other institutions in UK higher education. Only by coming together and acting now can we protect the futures of our staff and our universities.
You can read the letter below: