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The University and College Union at The University of St Andrews

UCU StA response to the Principal’s Letter

Sorry for the long delay (update problems with the website).

Below is the letter Tom Jones wrote last week in response to the Principal’s letter:

USS member update 14.3.18


First, some points to bear in mind:


  • UCU has argued consistently that it aims to preserve a fair and secure pension for staff in which employer and employee share the risks and the costs.
  • The USS industrial dispute was caused by UUK’s proposals to move from the current arrangement to a defined-contribution scheme, laying waste to member benefits.
  • UCU argued in this valuation round (as it did in 2014 and 2011) that the projected deficit is exaggerated by the valuation methodology.


On Tuesday 13 March UCU rejected proposals issuing from negotiations with UUK that had taken place under the auspices of ACAS. Branches from all over the UK reported that their members found the proposals unacceptable. Why?


UCU entered the ACAS negotiations with a clear set of proposals. UCU negotiators pushed UUK as far as they could, and presented the proposals to members. The concessions won from the employers are the result of our strong industrial action. But members judged that UUK had not moved far enough: the proposals maintained the reduced level of risk, reduced the defined-benefit cap, reduced the accrual rate, and increased the employee contribution. They also proposed capping the rate at which benefits are indexed so that they would likely lose value against inflation. In combination, these reductions meant the proposals compared very badly to the current scheme or comparable schemes such as the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. They did not come close enough to UCU’s opening position. In rejecting the proposals, UCU members have authorised their negotiators to seek a better resolution, through continued ACAS talks or other means. We will continue our action to give our negotiators the support they need to come back to members with a better offer.


The Principal wrote to all staff on Tuesday. In that message, she recognised the seriousness of the dispute and the difficulty of reaching a resolution within the current timetable (the Pensions’ Regulator requires a plan to be in place by 30 June). She has suggested working with employers and UCU to extend the timetable so that an independent valuation of the fund can be carried out. UCU St Andrews is facilitating engagement between the Principal and UCU’s negotiating team so that this possibility can be explored.


It may be that a new valuation of the scheme helps to make that fair, secure pension in which risk is shared between employer and employee more achievable. But whatever happens in the coming weeks, UCU’s negotiating goal will remain the security of its members, and the defence of this important element of the remuneration of UK university staff, now and in the future. Throughout this dispute we have seen the power of collective action and of union democracy. Let’s press it to a positive conclusion with those same principles of collective action.

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