Joint Expert Panel report: our initial view

Pushed for time? Here are the headlines…

  • The expert panel, with both UCU and UUK elected reps, are unanimous in their view that retaining a Defined Benefits (DB) pension is both affordable and viable.
  • The report is critical of the management of the USS pension scheme – this is also the unanimous view of the employee and employer elected panel members.
  • As these views are unanimous, it may offer common ground for UCU and UUK to work from in future.
  • We think the JEP represents significant progress compared to the offers that have been on the table over the last 12 months.

Earlier this month, following a period of almost a whole year, we were very pleased by the release of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report on USS: http://www.ussjep.org.uk/report-of-the-joint-expert-panel/

In this post, we share with you what we think are some of the key points from the report, highlight a key point of debate within the union, put the report in the context of the pensions dispute over the last 12 months, and suggest some possible next steps.

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Eight things you could write in response to the USS consultation on increased contributions

Why are we being consulted on increased costs now?

The USS Consultation on contribution increases is now open! This consultation is happening because the USS JNC failed to reach agreement on pension reform in 2017.

The incredible industrial action that took place earlier this year over the 2017 USS valuation resulted in the creation of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) which is seeking to make recommendations for favourable benefit arrangements for the future.

Our expectation is that the outcomes of the JEP will kick these cost-sharing measures into the long grass. It’s still really important though that as many UCU members take part in this consultation so as to let USS know what we think of their awful proposals!

Here are eight things you could write when responding to the consultation

1. You have lost confidence in the administration of the scheme.
(Read the recent USSBrief’s contribution if you need convincing on this point!)

2. You do not consider the case to have been made for increased contributions, and consider it an appalling lack of judgement that the trustee has implemented them without awaiting the report of the Joint Expert Panel.

3. You do not believe that either UniversitiesUK or USS have been acting in the best interests of your university, and are of the opinion that a re-run of the consultation last year which established employer views on the valuation is essential.

4. You believe the scheme has failed to engage effectively with its stakeholders. In particular, that the stakeholders of the scheme have not been given sufficient actuarial information, particularly with regards projections of the funding level over the next 20 years.

5. You are concerned that the trustee has selectively released actuarial information, withholding important data of interest to both employers and members and refusing direct requests for information.

6. You believe that the poor judgement of the trustee and its executive has been a major factor in avoidable industrial action in Higher Education, with direct implications for the education of students, the international reputation of UK institutions, and the livelihoods of its staff.

7. You call on the trustee board to rethink urgently its approach to the funding of the scheme, particularly with regards to its flawed and harmful Test 1, and reconsider the required contribution rates.

8. You would be prepared to take further industrial action in defence of your pension and will do so if the case for any future changes is not made beyond a reasonable doubt, including with much greater levels of transparency.
It’s so important that all USS members contribute to this process otherwise your voice will not be heard!

You can contribute to the consultation now. You’ll need your USS member and national insurance numbers (member numbers can be found on your USS statements and consultation letter recently received).