USS Update, July 2022

Dear colleagues,

An update about the USS pension scheme.

1. Legal action

The High Court and the Court of Appeal

The USS is run on our behalf by 12 directors. In April, Ewan MacGaughey and I went to the High Court to ask a judge for permission to take legal action against the USS directors on behalf of the company that runs the scheme via a legal strategy “derivative claim”. Helpfully the judge described the conditions when he would be able to let us proceed, perhaps the most important of which is that pension scheme members were analogous to shareholders in a company, and were entitled to bring “derivative claims” against directors. Less helpfully, the judge set very stringent conditions to allow the case to proceed, which he concluded we did not meet. As a result, he did not give us permission to continue the claim, for more details see here. We believe there are good grounds to challenge and overturn the judge’s conclusions and get permission to proceed.

To win permission, and obtain permission for a full trial, we need to take the case to the Court of Appeal. This will require more funding, to cover both our costs, and in the event we are not successful, the USS’s costs. We have applied to the High Court judge for permission to appeal, and in the likely event we are turned down, we plan to appeal directly to the Court of Appeal.

Outside of the courtroom, there has been substantial movement from the USS on a number of areas in our claim. For example, shortly after the High Court hearing the USS announced that the deficit has largely disappeared. Thus, there is the possibility that the benefits we accrue each month could be improved. Furthermore, the USS has made a series of announcements on climate change; however, the substance and consequences of these statements are unclear.

Crowdfunding

We are very grateful to everyone who has supported the case. We will need more funding to take the case to the Court of Appeal. We are currently negotiating with UCU about their support for the case. Our discussions with UCU may have implications about the amount we will need to raise in the crowdfund. So we would be grateful if you could please wait to donate until we have finished those discussions with UCU.

2. National Negotiations

UCU and UUK continue to negotiate about the future of the scheme. It is possible there will be further developments over the summer.

3. Joint Statements

Thank you for your support in the industrial action early in the year and for raising concerns directly with Bristol’s senior management. In March Bristol University and the local UCU branch published a joint statement on the USS. Bristol was among the first institutions to publicly publish its position, and this was in response to our concerns. Subsequently we have seen similar statements published by around half of the UK Universities. In general, the consensus appears to be any improvement in scheme funding should be used to restore benefits.

We will be in touch when we know more about funding for the legal action, and with updates when we get them.

Otherwise we hope you have a relaxing break!

All the best,

Neil, Jamie, James and Chin Yang (UCU Pensions Working Group)

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