University of Glasgow willing to increase future contributions to resolve USS dispute

A statement from the university and the local UCU branch offers agreement on the need to protect and possibly enhance employee pension benefits at future valuations

The University of Glasgow and the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU) released a joint statement on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), agreeing that the priority at the next valuation should be member benefits and not lower contribution rates.

The university said it is prepared at the next valuation to increase its contributions and calls on employer representatives to seek agreement on this “depending on the financial health of the sector”.

The statement is an agreement on “a future exit strategy from the current USS dispute” – and marks a significant intervention in the protracted debate about the future of one of the UK’s largest private pension schemes.

Glasgow’s principal, long-serving Prof Sir Anton Muscatelli, is a preeminent economist and a employer-appointed member of the USS board.

The statement affirms the university’s view that should the next valuation reveal an improved financial outlook for the scheme, “any upside… should be used to improve member benefits and not reduce employer or employee contribution rates from current levels”. The university confirmed it supported the current employers’ national negotiation position of a maximum affordable contribution rate of up to 23.7 – but would consider reviewing this at the next valuation.

The university says employers should “provide enhanced covenant support through the future valuation process and recognise that this should apply in a negotiated way to any benefit proposals formally presented through the JNC [Joint Negotiating Committee] by either UUK [Univerisites UK] or UCU”.

Employers have hitherto proved hesistant to give blanket promises of offering the weight of their covenant support to union-backed proposals.

Earlier this month, UCU revealed that 27 university branches had a renewed mandate to continue strike action over cuts to the USS pensions. Many branch polls returned a ‘yes’ vote but failed to surpass the 50% turnout threshold for industrial action ballots. Glasgow UCU branch was among those to meet the legal threshold – and the university could now face 10 days of strike action in the next six months.

There are more than 32,000 students enrolled at the university. Its published accounts show that Glasgow has an annual budget of more than £800 million and an endowment worth more than £200 million.

Last year, the vice-chancellors of Cambridge and Oxford universities penned an open letter with local union branches on the need to reform the USS.


Read more: UCU conference votes to continue strikes and marking boycott

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