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Support negotiations for alternative proposals for the future of USS

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Dear Professor Simon Gaskell
Thank you for your email 22 Oct 2014 where you outlined your views on the current USS pension dispute (copied below).

It is unfortunate that you have overlooked the most important fact. The valuation of the USS fund itself is highly contested. As the letter in the THES of October 23rd from a number of leading statisticians and financial mathematicians makes clear, the employers’ valuation of USS and its predicted future income and pay-outs are based on a set of dubious assumptions. They state, 'each assumption is inadequately justified and ... cumulatively they are unreasonably pessimistic and incoherent. The predicted salary increases assume a buoyant economy while investment returns assume a recession.’
Such views are widely shared.
I think we can all agree that the changes suggested by the Employers for the future of USS, if implemented, will be highly detrimental to all existing staff. Further, they will also severely undermine the attractiveness of employment in the UK HE sector (and Queen Mary), which is likely to lead to a further 'brain drain' of staff and newly qualified scholars to better remunerated opportunities outside of the UK.
We ask you in your capacity as a leading voice within the Russell Group and Universities UK to reconsider your position and make a public statement calling on the Employer Representatives on USS to enter into negotiations with the staff representatives to agree an alternative set of proposals for the future of USS ensuring that the scheme remains a healthy one for existing members and an attractive one for new staff starting work at Queen Mary. Through this, you will make clear that you truly value the staff contributions to the success of Queen Mary and also will help ensure that our students continue to be taught by the most qualified staff.


Message that was sent to QMUL staff by Professor Simon Gaskell, on 22 October 2014:

"Dear Colleague

"You will have received an update recently from Professor Bill Spence, as Acting Principal, which informed you of discussions that are underway regarding potential changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). I am writing now to inform you that the first meeting of a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) will take place today to formally discuss the future of the Scheme and how it might need to change.

"The JNC comprises equal representation from both the University and College Union (UCU), representing all employees in the Scheme, and from the USS employers. It is the remit of the Committee to agree on a set of proposed changes to submit to the USS Trustees.  Any proposals accepted by the Trustees are then subject by law to consultation with all members and potential members of USS before final decisions are made.

"UUK, as the representative of the employers, has drawn up a set of proposals that will be subject to negotiation through the JNC. UCU also have the right to submit proposals for the Scheme’s future.

"QMUL is one of 67 HEIs who are represented by UUK. In discussing USS, QMSE has been clear on the principles it wishes to see adhered to in discussions.  Firstly, this is not a cost-cutting exercise and we do not expect our contribution to USS as employers to reduce. 

"Secondly, we want the best outcome that can be achieved for staff in terms of employee contributions and pension entitlements. We want our staff to have access to an attractive pension, and indeed this is in our interest as an institution that looks to recruit the highest calibre staff from across the globe.

"Thirdly, we want to arrive at a position of maximum sustainability for the Scheme. We think it is important that both staff and employers settle on a proposal that gives the greatest amount of predictability on costs and benefits for the future.  Although we know it is not possible to give absolute certainty on all elements of cost and outcomes, we think it would be unhelpful if we end this process with a position that will necessitate further revisions to the scheme in the foreseeable future.

"We recognise that we are currently at a stage in the process where there is the potential for a variety of proposals to be put forward for consideration by the JNC and, after agreement, for consultation with employees. Given that we are at this stage, I regret the fact that UCU have already balloted for industrial action before advancing their own proposals for discussion via the JNC.

"QMSE is, of course, committed to updating you on progress as it comes to us. Further information, including the timetable for the negotiation and consultation process and details of the proposals submitted by UUK, is now available on Connect.

Kind regards

Simon Gaskell

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