UUK have now published an analysis of responses to the employer consultation on the recommendations of the USS Joint Expert Panel. 127 employers responded, between them accounting for 94% of active USS members. (UUK says they “represent” those members, which is doubtful.) 118 of those employers – 93% – were “generally supportive” of the JEP’s recommendations, and a similar number (116) were willing to accept an employer contribution rate of 20.1%, as would be required to maintain status quo defined benefits under the JEP recommendations.
However, 44 employers – disproportionately larger ones and those with more substantial assets – said that this support was subject to “important conditions and caveats”, including “a longer-term review of USS”, which may well be as ominous as it sounds. Employers – including Cambridge, whose response is now online here – are keen to avoid implying their acceptance of permanently increased contributions, and any prospect of having to guarantee the Scheme with new financial commitments (even merely conditional ones). Moreover, their support for the JEP recommendations “is entirely subject to acceptance of the position put forward by the JEP from the USS Trustee”.
The analysis UUK has published gives a general sense that they and the employers they represent are seeking to avoid visible conflict with the interests of USS members while refusing any material commitment to supporting USS. The acceptance of a 20.1% employer contribution rate in the immediate term is a major gain (at Acas in March, 19.3% was supposedly the absolute maximum they could afford), but in all other respects UUK is passing the buck to the USS Trustee. Given the intransigence of the Trustee’s defence of the November valuation hitherto, and the implied refusal of the employers to back their notionally increased risk appetite with any substantive commitments, things might be about to get quite messy.
— Sam James, Cambridge UCU President