Congress condemns attacks on university pensions

Davena Rankin
Davena Rankin

#stuc2018 Congress condemned proposals by university principals and Universities UK to attack the Universities’ Superannuation Scheme (USS) and withdraw the defined benefit aspect of the scheme, replacing it with defined contributions.

Delegates congratulated the UCU on their successful strike action and heard that this has forced the employers to establish a joint committee of experts to evaluate pensions provided through the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

UNISON NEC Member, Davena Rankin added her congratulations to the UCU and said that the strength and diversity of their picket lines across Scotland and the Rest of the UK was fantastic.

However she pointed out that within higher education the attack on the USS pension scheme is not an isolated attack.

“We are seeing Universities increasingly withdrawing from the local government pension schemes and their own stand alone pensions schemes.

“Instead they are offering an inferior scheme where employer contributions are slashed from 20% to just 2% and in most cases these inferior pensions are only offered to those who earn the least on campus.

“This means that the annual contributions to their pension pot is only worth 5% of what is an already small wage meaning poverty pay will be followed by poverty in retirement despite staff making pension contributions for decades.”

She warned that if Universities UK are allowed to get away with their attack on USS the race to the bottom will gather pace.

However, this wasn’t just a strike about lecturers’ pensions, added Davena. In some universities USS is the only Pension on offer to staff regardless as to whether you are a porter or a professor, a cleaner or a researcher, an administrator or a lecturer.

UNISON did consult its members as to whether or not they wanted to join with the UCU in taking industrial action and Davena asked whether it was a coincidence that the day UNISON announced that we would be moving to a formal ballot for industrial action, Universities UK tabled their second improved offer.

Davena called for UNISON to be allowed to fully engage with our sister campus Trade unions in negotiations with Universities UK over the future of the USS, adding that despite thousands of our members being part of the USS UNISON has no negotiation rights.

“We hope that this will be changed going forward. My members deserve to have direct representation during the negotiations of their pensions” said Davena, calling for unity and a collective response to defend all our pensions in higher education which are under sustained threat.

“We can’t allow the employers to try and divide the trade unions which is why UNISON will continue to press Universities UK for greater engagement in the USS negotiations moving forward and will continue to lobby for a presence at USS Board level.”

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