It can be tricky keeping up to date with the news around the USS pension dispute. Since the start of 2019, USS have finalised the 2017 valuation and are now starting the 2018 valuation. The first JEP completed its work in September 2018 and, even though USS are reported this year saying “the scheme would be in surplus by £0.6bn if the JEP recommendations were implemented in full with no need for an increase in contributions”, USS are still not prepared to implement the JEP recommendations fully. The second JEP, reviewing longer term proposals for governance and valuation methods, has just started recruiting members. Meanwhile, Jo McNeill reported UUK are again discussing potential benefit changes as a means to reduce costs.

The main message, above this complexity, is that the action of UCU members has opened up an unprecedented debate in the pension sector. The expectation of industry insiders was that defined benefits would quickly disappear. The fact this has not happened is testament to our solidarity. Yet, we are in a critical moment in the USS dispute again. As UCU’s USS negotiator Sam Marsh’ s twitter stream suggests there are growing indications of disorganisation in the administration of these processes. To reinforce our position, UCU members need to signal in return that we are a strongly organised and active union. We encourage you to be more involved in the Union, e.g. use your vote in the current pay and equality dispute (your ballot paper must be returned by the 22nd of February). Let us make it clear that our message of resolve and solidarity is unstifled.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest developments in the USS dispute we can recommend that you explore the information provided by the UCU National Dispute Committee, who provide full minutes of their meetings. There are excellent branch briefings provided by the Pension Reps at Birmingham and elsewhere, and fuller background reading is provided by USSbriefs. There is also information provided by USS, though this can be hard to navigate unless you know what you are looking for, and UUK, which is more focused and explores issues from employer perspectives.

Let’s watch again last year’s USS strike blockbuster “Three Billboards Outside Penryn, Cornwall.

Billboard n.1 could read: “Exeter plans £470M capital spend”.
Billboards n.2 and n.3 then read: “and still backs huge pension cuts”, “How come Steve Smith?”.