Is this the JEP (Joint Expert Panel) you voted for?
In April 2018, UCU members voted yes in the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) ballot. Voting yes affirmed that DC (Defined Contribution) was off the table, and ended a strike which was badly affecting our students.
Voting yes also delivered the promise of a Joint Expert Panel (JEP). The UUK (Universities UK)–UCU JEP promised an independent review of the current valuation of USS — including the possibility of addressing misleading assumptions about the deficit.
You gave your mandate to the union General Secretary to end this dispute, and to safeguard your interests and common good.
But now leaked documents reveal that the JEP is not what we were promised. It will:
- Not be elected by union members.
- Not be accountable to you, the membership.
- Not be transparent, as the panel will be subject to a confidentiality clause.
Worse still, hopes raised by General Secretary Sally Hunt that the JEP could challenge the valuation used to justify cuts to our pensions have been dashed. Additional leaked comments by Bill Galvin, Group Chief Executive Officer of USS, have reinforced USS’s claim that the scheme valuation we have been contesting throughout this dispute is legitimate and not negotiable.
Is this what you voted yes for?
No! To get what we were promised, we propose:
- Elections to the JEP. UCU members can self-nominate to serve on the JEP. UCU has ruled that it will produce a shortlist. UCU will then appoint from that list. We believe, instead, that members must make the final decision by an electronic ballot. Doing so will promote democracy.
- Accountability of the JEP. How can appointees be accountable? UCU members cannot be excluded from the decision making process. UCU members of JEP must regularly report back to the membership.
- Transparency. Confidentiality clauses that deny representatives the ability to consult with you, the membership, prevent us from having influence over the negotiations. Members must have access to JEP documentation and reports of discussions to ensure transparency.
Sally Hunt and Alistair Jarvis (Chief Executive of Universities UK) pledged that the JEP would not only build trust, but deliver confidence, accountability and transparency. We voted yes, and ended the strike, accordingly. The current formulation and remit of JEP will not deliver this pledge. We must demand a JEP that will.
This paper represents the views of the authors only. The authors believe all information to be reliable and accurate; if any errors are found please contact us so that we can correct them. We welcome discussion of the points raised and suggest that discussants use Twitter with the hashtag #USSbriefs22; the authors will try to respond as appropriate. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.