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Update on 2010 national pay award and USS

22 February 2011

A message from Guy Gregory, Personnel and Staff Development Director, on the outcome of the 2010 national pay negotiations and proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Pay and job protection

National talks have been under way for some while and have focussed on the level of the 2010 pay award and the trade unions wish to establish a national agreement to protect jobs. Employers made a final offer of 0.4% and have consistently maintained that a national agreement to deliver job security is not workable or practicable given the autonomy of higher education institutions. 

UCU rejected the offer and went into dispute with the employers. There has been a series of meetings with UCU under the national dispute procedure facilitated by ACAS but no progress has been made in these talks. The pay offer has been accepted by Unite, Unison and the GMB.

Thus the negotiations have concluded and employers are now free to implement the 0.4% award. This has been agreed and we will pay the increase to all staff with February pay, backdated to 1 August 2010.

We have been informed by UCU that it will now ballot its members about taking industrial action in pursuit of its claim for a higher settlement and a national agreement on job protection. We understand the ballot will close on 2nd March.

The central issue currently between UCU and employers has been the demand for a national agreement on job protection. The employers have maintained consistently from the start of talks that such an agreement is not on offer at national level. The reason for this is twofold.

Firstly, each individual institution, when facing the need to reduce costs, needs to be able to respond to its specific local circumstances and to engage on these particular issues with the local trade union branches. National provisions would not provide the local detail and flexibility needed. At Bristol, for example, we have engaged fully with the joint trade unions and staff about the need to cut costs and the ways this might be approached. While we have not been able to avoid a reduction in staff we have modified our approach in the light of trade union and staff input, and this has been particularly effective at a level of detail that a national agreement could not possibly encompass.

Secondly, there is a well established and specific legal framework within which an employer contemplating redundancy has to work. This framework sets down minimum timescales and the need to consult with trade unions and the staff affected. What has to be disclosed is also fully set out. Case law has established considerable guidance that conditions how an employer has to manage a redundancy process. Specific remedies are open to trade unions and individuals if an employer does not follow a lawful process.  Thus there is already extensive process protection.


Proposed changes to USS

If you are a USS member you will be aware that there was a consultation exercise during November and December with regard to proposed changes to the scheme.  As a result of that consultation the employers have suggested some modification of the proposals as follows:

  • Re-joining provisions – extend the period within which a previous member can rejoin the final salary scheme from six months to two years.
  • Provide a two year transitional period within which those in equivalent local schemes (UBPAS in our case) can join the USS final salary scheme if promoted or transferred to a USS eligible post.
  • Increase the revaluation caps that apply to 'index-linked' benefits from the proposed rate of 2.5%.

UCU do not consider that the modifications go far enough and have notified us that it intends to ballot for industrial action. This is a separate ballot from that mentioned above but it will also close on 2nd March.

At Bristol we remain committed to the provision of effective pension schemes for all staff. We are, however, concerned about the long-term risks and costs of maintaining our final salary schemes. We have already negotiated changes to UBPAS to manage the risk and cost and, although we have no direct control over USS, we do believe that changes are necessary to manage and control the increasing financial liability the scheme represents.

I will keep you updated in relation to both the above issues as things develop.


Guy Gregory, Personnel and Staff Development Director


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