The Universities Superannuation Scheme: behind the recent headlines (spoiler alert – it’s not all doom and gloom!)
There have been some gloomy headlines about the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) recently. For example, the FT claimed that USS’s annual report and accounts for 2016-17 show that its deficit has “soared” to £17.5bn. But the outlook for USS is much better than such media coverage suggests. In its response to the recent headlines, UCU pointed out that now is the time for calm reflection. We believe the scheme is fundamentally sound and that, by standing together, we can defend USS against those who seek to talk it down for their own purposes. USS certainly faces challenges, but much recent coverage has been alarmist. As USS’s Chief Executive pointed out in the annual report, the reported deficit of £17.5bn “is based on accounting rules and is not the figure that drives the benefit and contribution decisions for the scheme”.
In fact, USS performed very well over the last year. The scheme invests in a wide range of assets and achieved 20% investment growth. It now has assets in excess of £60bn. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that USS will need to dip into those assets in the foreseeable future. First Actuarial have modelled estimates of USS cash flow and found that, on the basis of the scheme continuing to operate as it does now, more money would be paid into USS by active members and their employers than would be paid out in pensions every year until at least the early 2080s.
For me, therefore, now is the time to talk-up USS. The scheme has and will, with care, continue to serve us well. Its Retirement Builder (defined benefit) sections will pay us a pension based on our earnings, not on how fortunate our investment decisions have been. The tone of recent media coverage suggests that USS cannot continue in its current form, but that tone is being set by people who are hostile to the principles on which USS is based. Those principles, and the Retirement Builder section of USS, are important to our future security. They are worth defending against those who talk them down for their own ends. With reason and solidarity, we will prevail.
AUCU WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE, THURSDAY 23 JUNE 2016
1. STRIKE DAY 3: Last-minute call for volunteers to help with leafleting at picket points between 8am and 12 noon on Tuesday 28 June… Our strike base in Dunbar Hall will be open from 745. Co-ordinators will be on hand in the hall all morning to issue placards, armbands and leaflets. No need to pre-register – just turn up on the day any time from 745.
2. TERMS & CONDITIONS: Members are invited to attend a General Meeting at 1pm on Wednesday 13 July in Macrobert 051. We have made good progress on the re-negotiations – this is our chance to report back to you and seek further comment.
3. REPS TRAINING: Last few spaces remaining on the Reps 1 training course in Glasgow, 29-31 August! The course is free and your travel/accommodation expenses are paid from UCU central funds. Book now to avoid disappointment!
4. RECLAIMING OUR UNIVERSITY: Here’s the “Reclaiming” manifesto. The deadline for submission of comments is 30 September 2016.
5. BRANCH OFFICE CLOSURE FOR ANNUAL LEAVE: Terrible timing I know, but Susan’s annual leave was arranged before the strike date was known. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. The AUCU email account will be monitored while Susan is away but there may be a short delay in responding to emails. For urgent enquiries, please contact a member of the committee.
13-17 June, 2016
Aberdeen UCU weekly News Update ...
1. STRIKE FOR FAIR PAY: The date of the third day of strike action will be announced soon. To find out how UCU stands up for pay, every day watch this short film.
2. WORKING TO CONTRACT: Members are reminded that we are now Working to Contract. More information on what this entails can be found in these FAQs.
3. REDUNDANCIES AT DUNDEE: Colleagues at Dundee UCU have voted overwhelmingly for strike action against threats of compulsory redundancy in the school of Humanities and downgrading and job losses in the School of Medicine. Show your support for them by signing their petition.
4. RECLAIMING OUR UNIVERSITY: Here's the 'Reclaiming' manifesto. The deadline for comments is 30 September, 2016
5. ABERDEEN POLITICAL ECONOMY GROUP: To conincide with the outcome of the EU Referendum, APEG is holding its second annual workshop on Friday 24 - Saturday 25 June on the theme of The Political Economy of Nations, States, and Power in Europe and beyond. Here is the Programme: APEG_Final_Prog_24-25_June_2016.docx
For further information and to book a place contact: Keith Paterson on 07793655410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be a small participant fee to cover costs.
6. GRAMPIAN REGIONAL EQUALITY COUNCIL: Please find attached (GREC_-_Equality_News_GypsyTraveller_History_month_edition.pdf) the latest edition of GREC's Equality News which includes details of a special event on Wednesday 22 June to mark Gypsy/Traveller History Month - click here to book a place.
The GREC Open Day/Lunch takes place on Wednesday 29 June.
Fee waiver for Palestinian students!
Reclaiming Our University launches its draft manifesto
The core principles for our university are:
- To create an environment for free, open-minded and unprejudiced debate, which stands out as a beacon of wisdom, tolerance and humanity.
- To defend our freedom to undertake research and teaching in the pursuit of truth, against the constraints, both internal and external to the institution, which threaten to curtail it.
- To restore the trust that underpins both professionalism and collegiality, by removing those systems of line and performance management, and of surveillance, which lead to its erosion.
- To bring together research and teaching as complementary aspects of an education that carries a responsibility of care.
- To restore the governance of the university, and control over its affairs, to the community of staff, students and alumni to which it rightfully belongs.
So now it is your opportunity to read and comment on the manifesto. Please go the complete document or to any of the four themes that is closest to your heart: freedom, trust, education, and community. Your comments will be taken into consideration when finalising the Manifesto. The deadline for comments is 31st September, 2016.
More information is available at www.reclaimingouruniversity.wordpress.com
Weekly News Update, 3 June, 2016
1. Industrial action update: UCU HE sector conference as agreed the next steps in its dispute. University open days and graduation ceremonies will face disruption over the summer as individual union branches take strike action to coincide with local events. In addition, there will be an assessment boycott to start in the autumn, and external examiners continue to resign their positions on exam boards. More information on the ongoing dispute can be found here.
2. General Meeting: We will be holding a General Meeting to discuss the next stage of industrial action with you. We need your opinions and views before setting the date for Strike Day 3. WEDNESDAY 8 JUNE, 1PM IN MACROBERT 051 WITH A SKYPE LINK FOR COLLEAGUES AT FORESTERHILL AVAILABLE IN SUTTIE 210.
3. Working to Contract: As part of the current dispute, members are asked to Work to Contract. If you aren’t sure what this entails, please see the UCU FAQs and the attached document.
4. Friday Social: The weather forecast for the summer is not looking too hopeful so we have shelved plans for Lunch on the Lawn this year. Instead we are launching First Friday Festivity (sorry, I couldn’t think of another “F” – can you do better?) On the first Friday of the month, join us in the Machar after work for a chat and a drink. Starts on Friday 1st July!
Aberdeen UCU wins STUC Organising Award 2016!
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has announced that the recipients of this year’s STUC Organising Award are the University and College Union (UCU) Aberdeen Branch
The efforts of University and College Union (UCU) members at Aberdeen University to fight against compulsory redundancies, while growing trade union membership are being recognised by the STUC at their Congress today.
UCU are to receive the STUC Organising Award for their work in developing trade union organisation and structures within the academic staff at Aberdeen University that have the left the branch better placed to resist attacks on their members and at the same time raise the profile of UCU within the local trade union movement.
STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith said
“The work of UCU Aberdeen is remarkable given the financial pressures the higher education sector is under and the University management’s approach to handling these pressures.
“Avoiding a substantial number of compulsory redundancies in favour of voluntary severance while retaining membership levels displays confidence in the branch by staff at the university and they are continuing to grow their membership by mapping departments across the university and targeting areas with low membership.
“UCU Aberdeen remains committed to fighting for its membership and working with other unions on campus, the Aberdeen University Student’s Association and Aberdeen TUC to challenge the impact of austerity cuts and the Trade Union Bill on their members.
“Their next challenge is to fight against removal of facility time to allow UCU to represent their members, a fight the STUC will fully support. Trade union facility time works for employers as well as unions; it delivers more harmonious industrial relations, allows for early dispute resolution and potentially avoids costly litigation for employers as well as unions.
“We have no doubt that UCU Aberdeen will challenge this attack all the way and through their continued hard work make Aberdeen University a better and fairer place for their members to work”.
Patrick McGuire from Thompsons Solicitors said
“This award shows the importance of trade unions in protecting the livelihoods of their members and their families. In this case the work of UCU Aberdeen goes further than that by helping to maintain and improve the standards of student’s higher education at Aberdeen University and challenge austerity cuts in the institution”.