The sheer mendacity of the USS management, or rather, the Employers’ Pension Forum, has been breathtaking. The outrage ought to be greater. Dennis Leach of Warwick is doing a great job calling out the bullshit.
For example, the EPF’s Q&A document supposedly explaining changes to the scheme gave the increase in life expectancy since 1974 as 5.8 years a decade. The correct figure is between 1.3 and 2.3 depending on your assumptions.
When Leach blogged about it, they silently updated the document to memory-hole the claim.
The EPF claimed that “longevity” had dramatically increased since 2011. It hasn’t, and can anyone believe that a pension fund was unaware of an issue they’ve been whining about continuously since the 1990s?
They claimed that wages were rising at 4.4% annually in the sector. Chance, as they say, would be a fine thing. It was 2.7% over the last 20 years and actually negative since 2008.
At the same time, they claimed the economic crisis had a “detrimental impact on the value of USS’s assets”, but somehow this only happened after 2011, and as a result they need to sell all their equities. Well, maybe if you bought Greek government bonds that might be true. But USS achieved an 11% annual rate of return on its assets in the last five years. Some detriment! And these are presumably the investments the EPF wants to get rid of.
Having inflated wage growth when they wanted to inflate the cost of the scheme, they then lowballed it when they wanted to minimise the numbers of people who would lose their accrued benefits, as Oxford University’s pensions working group discovered. They had to be lying in at least one of those.
Inevitably the media is complicit. The Times managed to quote the figure of an £8bn deficit, itself dubious, as if it was £8bn recurring, every year.
I’m trying to get my head around the politics of this. There is a well-defined process by which changes to the USS are carried out. A Joint Negotiating Committee consisting of representatives from UUK and the UCU, plus a nice old boy from Scotland as chairman, works up a compromise proposal that is then submitted to the USS Trustee, and finally the Pensions Regulator.
But the new proposals didn’t come from the JNC, or indeed the USS management as such, and we know that several schools, notably Warwick, Oxford, and Cambridge, have disowned or at least severely criticised them. Instead they came from this EPF entity. Is this because the UUK side wanted to outsource its maximalist demand to someone else? Or is the EPF an actor in its own right?
Anyway, for day two, here’s a song.