Go back

Pension talks set for early 2020 in attempt to end strike

Image: Fiona McIntyre for Research Professional News

Discussions between both sides of the pensions dispute to be held next year

Union members and employers will meet in the new year for talks to try to avoid further industrial action in 2020.

On 23 December, the University College Union (UCU) and vice-chancellors’ body Universities UK (UUK) confirmed they would meet early next year with representatives from the Universities Superannuation Scheme. They will discuss ways to address the recommendations made in the USS Joint Expert Panel’s second report, published on 13 December.

Talks between the groups were recommended in the latest JEP report and will be facilitated by JEP chair Joanne Segars. The 13 December report covered issues including governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology for the fund  and the long-term sustainability of the USS.

The talks come after eight days of strike action took place at 46 universities across the UK from 25 November to 4 December over pensions. The pensions dispute centres around who should pay for increased contributions to the scheme, and whether there should be an increase in contributions at all.

The UCU said the talks offered “a real opportunity to deliver a fairer valuation process” that could reduce costs for employers and members, and avoid further industrial action that could take place in the spring. Ballots are being held at 36 universities to try to increase support for strike action across disputes over pay and pensions. Pay negotiations are subject to a different process and while UCU has agreed to meet with the University and College Employers Association, a new salaries settlement will not be under discussion.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, said: “The second JEP report stressed the importance of all parties coming together to shape the 2020 valuation and to tackle issues of governance with the scheme and I look forward to getting on with the talks in the new year. If we are to avoid further serious disruption at universities over USS then all parties need to work on these key issues.”

UUK said it welcomed the fact that talks would take place. Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said: “There is a strong desire from all parties to work closely together on the future direction of the scheme. We look forward to developing a joint approach between the union, the trustee and employers to consider and respond to the recommendations from the JEP’s second report, alongside the 2020 valuation of USS.

“Priorities include jointly agreeing a refreshed scheme purpose and valuation principles; reforming the governance; and exploring different approaches to the valuation methodology for 2020.”

Full details and dates for the talks will be released after Christmas.