a brief collection of the EPF’s lies on #uss

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.

5 Comments on "a brief collection of the EPF’s lies on #uss"

  1. In about 30 years time, we’ll get the documents on this and it will turn out that someone, probably in the Tory party, decided that every final salary pension in the public sector needs to be eliminated. Because well, socialism. And so this happens to be the starting point…


  2. I’ve been wondering why this case was so inept. It’s as if the EPF was collectively too angry, too out for revenge, to think straight. Today it makes a bit more sense: I just discovered that the chair of the EPF HE group is . . . Professor Anton Muscatelli, of Glasgow University. Followers of union-busting student-bashing dick-swinging university management will remember him from a few years ago, when he spent about six months in a face-off with students and staff over a programme of cuts which he wanted to impose. He didn’t get (all of) his way. Perhaps this is his attempt to get his own back?


  3. There are complicated explanations of the tactics used and a simple one: the USS stakeholders (ultimately, the government) want to cut academic employee pay by around 10-15%.

    I am stunned that the UCU and other “worker side” advocates don’t point this out: that the USS proposals are in effect a 10-15% cut in annual pay. That’s what at stake.

    It is like the previous switch from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution ones in the private sector: the well compensated propagandists of the right have focused on the change in type of pension, which is important, but far less so than the “coincidence” that at the same time pension contributions by employer were cut by 10-15% of pay or more, reducing the value of the pensions to half or a third. The change in type of pensions was used to mask, very effectively, a massive cut in the pension.

    PS: I think that *final salary* defined benefit pensions are a lurid scam in the university sector, because it is designed to benefit time servers at the expense of those who spend some time abroad or in the private sector. A career average defined benefit pension would be more equitable, if the total pensions paid out were the same.


    1. Yeah; I’m not totally convinced by the “FS is totes feminist” thing. After all, for an FS to pay out better than a CA, you’ve got to be promoted to glory at the finish, and how likely is that if you’re structurally disadvantaged?

      You’re completely right that as with all pension schemes, it comes down to how much cash the paying-side will put in every year. If it’s a funded scheme, it’s how much it collects in interest, dividend, rents, or capital gains out of the rest of the economy. If it’s PAYG, it’s how much the contributions are. Everything else is a detail.


  4. I’d very much like to see the numbers about the gender impact of FS vs CA. Note though that a significant number of female academics spend the age 25-45 on shitty short-term and/or part-time contracts because they are caring for children or parents, and only then get the chance to get a permanent full-time post and start getting promoted. I’m presuming that FS is going to give women a better pension than CA. Should do, anyway.

    In other news, I would be happy to see FS modified (to the mean of the last 7 years’ income?) to prevent annoying last-minute pension-fund busting promotions.


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