The dispute between the University employers (UUK) and their teaching staff (UCU), shows no sign of resolution. Indeed, with students breaking for their Easter holidays, impulsion for a settlement has now reduced. There would have been little teaching done over the next four weeks, with or without a strike.
The only tangible progress I can see, since the breakdown of negotiations over the UCU/UUK agreement earlier this month, is a proposal to set up a joint board of experts.
In this context, “experts is taken to mean actuaries, though Mike Otsuka in his blog today, points out that actuaries are effectively solicitors if they can do more than reflect the entrenched views of two sides in dispute.
Perhaps this is what my boss, Hilary Salt is referring to in this rather gnomic tweet,
A joint expert panel to review the actuarial valuation. Actuaries and @ActuarialProf @actuarynews should welcome others into the echo chamber of pension scheme valuations:
UCU – New offer sent to UCU members in USS pensions dispute https://t.co/dJilatqrLw
— Hilary Salt (@RedActuary) March 24, 2018
I am not sticking up my hand to be on any panel, let alone an expert panel (though Mike might). In any event – I am conflicted. But it is hard not to agree with about setting up this panel, expressed at the conclusion of his blog.
I think it would be better to carry on as before, in trying to push back the limits of the existing valuation in order to provide space for a proposal involving benefits that both sides can agree upon.
If we don’t continue with those efforts, we may be in for a nasty surprise in ending up with either a defaulting back to the 23 January UUK proposal of 100% IDC, which goes out to consultation, or else the following: a JNC imposition of the ACAS-mediated agreement, by UUK and chair’s casting vote.
There is no silver bullet in the setting up of another committee, there is considerable risk of one side putting itself into a corner. A solution that emerges from a “deus ex machine” will not last unless there is total confidence in that “deus”.
Perhaps thoughts should turn to this question – “if not Acas- who?”