Index of my Twitter threads (2021–23)

On USS, UCU, pensions, inflation, and higher education (including impact of Covid)

Michael Otsuka
32 min readJul 4, 2021


Scroll down for regularly updated links to my Twitter threads (plus some solo tweets).

Links to indexes of threads from 2020 and 2018–19. See also my other blog posts on USS, Covid, and other topics.


May 28

Numerous tweets from @ucu members saying they’ll quit the union on account of this horrible motion. But this is one reason why Socialist Appeal & SWP push such motions: to alienate non-fanatics & drive them out of the union, making it easier for them to win votes & elections. 1/2 The problem with this is that @ucu will remain the union representing the interests of HE university workers. Quitting won’t change that. It will just put these fanatics in control of negotiations & industrial action over pay, conditions & pensions. 2/2

May 27

🧵on the @ucu candidates for USS negotiator whom Congress delegates will elect. Here’s the list of candidates👇. The three who are elected negotiators become UCU-appointed members of USS’s JNC & the 2 reserves = alternates. 1/

May 26

A new blog encouraging UCU branch delegates at Sunday’s HESC conference to vote Yes for HE16 on conditional indexation (CI):

May 24

👀Take note @ucu, @UCUScotland & @ucea1: @uni_scot endorses an RPI measure of inflation to quantify the erosion of the teaching grant by inflation from 2014–15 to 2022–23.👇 1/

May 5

Why did @UCEA1 & @RKJethwa post such easily debunkable claims re deficits? Is it because they thought they could mislead & fool people? Or is it because they weren’t on top of their brief & didn’t realise how flawed these claims were? Dishonesty or incompetence? Pick your poison.

April 19

Results of the UCU Special Higher Education Sector Conference have now been posted👇, and reason and good sense have prevailed in the case of the USS motions (which is not to suggest that they didn’t prevail in the case of the non-USS motions).🧵1/

April 18

Another must read🧵👇from UCU negotiator @cupofassam. It’s because of the hard work, attention to detail & sound judgment in restoring member pensions reflected in this thread that 85% of members voted to ‘note’ the joint agreement w/UUK endorsed by a majority of negotiators. 1/

To all who condemn, as undemocratic, the late L1 motion to cancel the MAB over Four Fights because the 56% majority in favour of such IA falls short of 67%: You also oppose HE2, right? That one commits to launch of MAB over USS now even though an 85% majority has rejected that.[🧵]

April 15

I’m so impressed by my new union @ruaaup.
✅Five solid days of strikes with large picket lines which a huge majority refused to cross.
✅Fantastic organization & communication for their 1st strike ever.
✅Disagreements resolved internally rather than in public.
✅Big wins👀👇.

April 6

In this blog👇, I point out significant problems with the 1st & 3rd of the 4 demands that justify continued IA over USS, according to the @uculeft negotiators in their minority report to UCU members. In this🧵👇I spell out flaws with their other 2 demands. 1/

April 5

A new blog: “The demands of the UCU Left negotiators do not withstand scrutiny”

April 3

If @ucu members reject the joint USS statement w @UniversitiesUK because there are aspects w which they disagree (e.g., “demonstrably sustainable”), that would provide employers with license to abandon aspects of the statement on which they’re not keen. 1/

April 2

🚨🚨@USSpensions has posted a detailed & informative employer briefing (pdf dated 27 Mar)👇. I infer that they’ll deem a 26% contribution rate (18% employer, 8% member) sufficient to fully restore & recover pre-2022 benefits in a sustainable manner. 1/6

April 1

1 April 2024: Members having ‘noted’ the joint UCU-UUK agreement on recommendation of the majority of UCU negotiators, USS benefits are fully restored to pre-April 2022 levels & loss of DB benefits between 2022 & 2024 fully recovered or compensated. Contributions go down too! 1/2

Excellent blog from HEC member & past UCU President Vicky Blake explaining the significance of the option UCU members will have in next week’s consultation to ‘note’ the progress over USS outlined in the joint UCU-UUK statement.👇1/

March 30

Hard to make sense of latest from @UCULeft: “On USS, there is no decision for members to take on acceptance or rejection of the offer since it represents only a statement of intent”. Nevertheless, they recommend that the “statement of intent” be rejected!

This will hit the post-92 HE sector very hard. They’re in TPS. The linked statement says the govt will cover the 10%+ increase only “for employers whose employment costs are centrally funded through departmental expenditure”. This doesn’t apply to post-92 employers.

March 29

A new blog: “Welcome news from USS regarding restoration of pensions: A pause in industrial action is now warranted”.

March 27

The case for voting YES in answer to the following question that @ucu members were emailed on Friday: “Do you support UCU members being formally consulted over the proposals that have been reached with UUK to restore benefits and lower pension contributions?”🧵1/

🚨🚨Well-judged, well-argued, informative briefing from 2 of the 3 UCU negotiators elected as members of USS’s Joint Negotiating Committee. Please read if you’re a USS member. Key statement👇. 1/2

March 26

A thoughtful blog post by the President of @CambridgeUCU which explains why it should not be regarded as controversial to give all @ucu members a direct say, via online survey, on whether they should be consulted on the proposals on pension & pay & conditions. 1/3

March 24

Why the demands of the @ucuLeftnegotiators for @ucu would ensure that members are engaged in IA over USS for at least next 9 months: they include the extraction of an unconditional commitment from@USSPensions which they won’t provide before 2024. 🧵 1/10

March 21

UUK VCs operating in the shadows to link restoration of USS pensions with abandonment of Four Fights must be cackling with glee at how they’ve managed to divide UCU members against one another. 1/

A new blog post on “The unimplementable demands of the UCU Left negotiators”👇

March 18

.@UcuLeft👇inaccurately & inconsistently combines the offers in the 2 different disputes (4 Fights & USS) into a single offer. Note first para combines the 2, but 2nd para refers just to the 4F offer (since Unison isn’t involved in USS dispute). 1/

Can anyone point to anyone on Twitter (or elsewhere) who has provided an account of what USS demand it would make sense to launch a marking & assessment boycott next term to extract from employers?

March 17

I’m puzzled by advice of chair & official that @zenscara reports👇. Consulting on 1 but not other = consulting on USS only (since nobody supports consulting on 4F only). But how does consulting on just USS risk USS progress, especially in light of…. 1/2

February 28

🧵on this🧵👇by @cupofassam, who is vice chair of the @ucu
negotiators over @USSpensions. He’s responding to the latest attempt of the two dissenting “UCU Left USS negotiators” to resurrect their campaign to restore benefits on the basis of the 2020 valuation.

February 20

The @RussellGroup statement, to which @ucu JNC negotiator @cupofassam refers👇,fails to endorse the joint @ucu-@UniversitiesUK agreement “to prioritise the improvement of benefits”. 1/5

February 17

A really useful blog by @sylviademars, which presents the case that the decision to pause the strikes was made by someone authorized to do so. Much more sophisticated & apparently well-informed than anything else on Twitter!

Pausing of @ucu strikes for 2 weeks = a schedule of strikes in Feb & March almost identical to the 10 days that @DrJoGrady recommended👇& branch delegates overwhelmingly supported in Jan, but which HEC overruled in favour of 18 days.

February 15

Q. In whose interests is collective pay bargaining across 150 unis of the pre- & post-92 HE sector? A. The wealthier Russell Group ones running surpluses.👇Gives them an excuse to reject pay rises *they* can afford on grounds that many others can’t. 1/3

February 10

.@ucu members please take @amcgettigan’s advice to concentrate on CASH, not reserves. 1/4

February 2

Before voting in the NEC @ucu election, please read this well-informed, well-documented piece on the SWP provenance of, & influence over, @uculeft.👇Demands over pay, conditions & pensions that employers will never accept are a feature, not a bug, for the following reason… 1/

January 27

I agree with this from @jak_peake’s linked👇blog: “a number one priority has to be to make HEC far more accountable to all UCU members, not just to those who are the most vocal or the small minority (however crucial to branch organization) who turn up to union meetings.” 1/

January 18

Today’s ONS release reveals that inflation is now running 12.8% by the best available proxy for its impact on university workers, which is RPI minus the formula effect (RPI-F). This is much higher than the 9.2% rate of @ucea1's preferred CPIH measure.👇1/3

January 11

.@deepa_driver @HershMarion this latest post 👇(attributed to SeanAWallis in the emailed version) contains a number of false or misleading claims. 1/

January 10

I hope this is my final post on the ReverseUSS! proposal. This blog is short: “Indefinite strikes are too much, too late, to restore the DC threshold by April: How the UCU Left proposal is mired in a paradox of deterrence”

I highly recommend this🧵👇which reports a dialogue between a former & current @UcuLeft (UCUL) member that sheds a lot of light on why UCUL is pushing their proposal to restore all benefits by 1 April 2023, in spite of the fact that it clearly stands no chance of success. 1/

January 9

A new blog post: “Why the UCU Left negotiator proposal sets a dangerous precedent”.

January 6

A new blog: “The absurd timetable of the Reverse USS! proposal: The 11-day question which supporters of the proposal cannot and will not answer”

January 3

I have just posted a new blog👇called ‘An Achilles Heel of the “Reverse USS!” FAQs’. 1/

January 2

.@carlomorelliUCU, a member of @Uculeft who is also a former @ucu negotiator over USS, has posted a defence👇of @deepa_driver & @HershMarion’s proposal. Here’s a🧵in response. 1/

January 1

For the most part, Sunil’s brief thread👇in response to my blog simply contains assertions not backed up by reasons. There is, however, one assertion backed up by reasons, to which I will reply in tweets below. 1/5


December 31

This makes no sense👇for the following reason: pushing through changes via Sept or Dec 2022 updating of the 2020 valuation doesn’t stop USS & UUK from reversing them via shifting the goalposts for the impending March 2023 valuation.🤦‍♂️1/2

“Indeed, were the employers to concede it, the dispute would be won.” Let’s falsely assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s possible to restore everything by 1 April 2023, in spite of the impossibility of restoring DB/DC salary threshold for future accrual by then. 1/5

December 30

A new blog: “How the USS cuts cannot be reversed: A critique of the UCU Left negotiators’ proposal to restore benefits by 1 April 2023”

November 14

.@RussellGroup would you please justify your choice of an RPI index (RPIX) to back your claim that “By 2024/25, per student funding is projected to be lower in real-terms than in 2011/12” & “at its lowest point this millennium. See Figure 1 below.”👇👀1/3

November 13

Does the Truss/Kwarteng mini-budget debacle refute MMT?🧵1/9

October 28

A new blog: “Why UCU should keep its powder dry during the six months of the strike mandate over USS”

October 24

A majority of [just short of 51%] of all @ucu members in @USSpensions
institutions voted Yes to industrial action over pensions.

September 8

.@ucu strikes over USS this autumn would be more than pointless, since they won’t force the USS board & exec to agree to reap the benefits of recent improvements in scheme funding position unless & until this improvement is sustained & confirmed by a 31 March 2023 valuation. 1/5

September 5

Except for “we have lost every strike since 2006” (the 14 days of USS strikes in 2018 were a success), I agree with everything in this🧵👇. The last 40 days of national strikes have achieved nothing & the failure to explain how things will be different this time is conspicuous.

September 4

Long term interest rates have risen significantly since the 31 March 2020 valuation date, didn’t you know, mate?! 1/4

August 26

Nobody is stealing the pensions of USS members, and the compelling case for restoring the huge cuts that employers have pushed through is undermined by such rhetoric. 1/2 Similarly, the case for an increase in pay is undermined by the union’s insistence on sticking to the statistically dubious and soon to be defunct RPI measure of prices. The erosion in pay is bad enough when measured by CPI. So why insist on RPI? 2/2

July 27

.@DWP maintains👇that their draft Regulations won’t force open schemes, including “immature schemes with strong sponsors”, into “an inappropriate de-risking journey”. 1/5 Unfortunately, these warm words👆are contradicted by their doubling down on their insistence👇that “funding deficits must be recovered as soon as the employer can reasonably afford”. 2/5…

In posts below, 🤥followed by #NN indicates posts that expose or discuss false or misleading employer claims about USS pensions.

🤥#52. A VC has told their @ucu branch that @USSEmployers‘ cuts to benefits is the main reason for the dramatic reduction in the @USSpensions deficit. The graph below shows how false this claim is: the cuts had a minuscule effect on the reduction of the deficit.

July 26

If the government imposes any threshold AT ALL for legally protected strike action (and leaving to one side how high), a YES threshold (which Truss is proposing👇) makes more sense than a turnout threshold… 1/2

July 25

🤥#51. Why @USSEmployers’ call to work with @ucu to understand its “priorities for the next valuation — such as…the continued deferral of the 2.5% inflation cap for new benefits — should the improved funding conditions continue” is worthy of this👇contempt. 1/

July 23

UUK: “The review shows that we gratuitously lopped off two of your arms and a leg and that restoration of both arms would now be justified. So we would like to consult with @ucu to see what your priorities are. For example… 1/2

July 19

Communication Workers Union members achieve 75.9% turnout & 97.1% Yes vote after a 3 week ballot window. 1/2

June 23

🤥#50. Either VC support of @USSpensions cuts was based on @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers’s false claims that “the impact will be a reduction of between 7% & 15% on future benefits for most” or “likely to be between 10% & 18% for the vast majority of members”… 1/ …or VCs knew, when they backed these cuts, that UUK was grossly understating their magnitude, but they chose to remain silent rather than correct the record. Which is it, VCs? Pick your poison. 2/

June 22

🤥#49. Regarding this statement by @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers to @JosephineCumbo👇… 1/

June 21

🤥#48. .@USSEmployers’s false claim👇that “the impact [of their cuts] will be a reduction of between 7% and 15% on future benefits for most”… 1/

June 19

Why @ucu & @UCEA1 should agree on “RPI-F” (RPI minus the difference between CPIH & RPI due to the “formula effect”) as the best available proxy for the impact of inflation on university workers.🧵1/

June 18

🤥#47. Article by @josephinecumbo: “Universities accused of misleading claims over UK staff pension reforms: Younger workers could lose up to £200,000 under benefits changes introduced in April, analysis shows”

June 17

👀It’s nice to see that the infamy and obsolescence of the 2020 @USSpensions valuation is recognised in the professional pensions world & not just among university workers & union activists.

June 16

🤥#46. Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to negotiate with these truth twisters? 1/3

June 11

Another exemplary local @USSpensions agreement, this one between @leedsucu & @UniversityLeeds. Brief🧵on some positive things that stand out. 1/

June 9

The @USSpensions aspects of the joint statement👇by @sussexucu and @SussexUni are excellent, with several point on which I think it might be possible to gain @USSEmployers & @ucu member agreement more generally, which might also make a positive difference to members. 1/2

June 4

I agree w much of @Hitchcockian’s blog👇& also support an aggregated ballot. But I don’t agree that a 51% UK-wide Four Fights turnout shows that “Without even trying to, we could have secured a mandate to take unified action at every institution in the UK” in autumn 2021. 1/3

June 3

The USS aspects of this {Nottingham} agreement are good, esp: “Subject to March 2022 funding position support the improvement of member contributions or benefits (subject to consultation) without destabilising the pension scheme. This would be in advance of a March 2023 valuation.” 1/4

June 2

I strongly second @Sam_Marsh101's endorsements of Jackie Grant (of @sussexucu), @richardreeve_, & @cupofassam. In addition to the 3 of them, I’ll also be voting for Renee Prendergast […]. 1/2 I’ll be ranking Jackie 1st & Renee 2nd when I vote. I haven’t yet decided which of Richard & Mark I’ll rank 3rd and which of them I’ll rank 4th. 2/2

If @ucu conference insists on (1) conjoining the two disputes and (2) disaggregating the ballots, then the only way to make significant progress will be locally (eg👇[Sheffield’s agreement]) rather than UK-wide.

May 31

I will be seconding this motion HE2, which @SeanAWallis will be proposing. Anything that the two of us can agree on must be a total no-brainer to transcend the ideological divide between a member of UCU Left & the SWP & an Agenda-endorsing, Starmer-supporting Labour party member.

I’ve just posted a brief, punchier follow-up to yesterday’s blog, called “The 5th recovery plan of USS: The first time as tragedy; the second time as farce”

May 30

A new blog: “USS benefits should be partially restored in light of improved 31 March 2022 funding position”

May 23

Answer to the question [“What happened to #OneOfUsAllOfUs and ‘all in it together’?”]: That ship sailed a while ago with the decision to run a disaggregated ballot & the low number of branches that met the 50% threshold. Credit to @DurhamUCU for making local progress when too few branches have a mandate to force a UK-wide resolution.

May 16

An important, damningly documented🧵on the rising level of precarious academic employment at the LSE, by @PaulCinnam0n, our @LSE_UCU branch casualisation officer.

May 11

A reminder that Oxford academics & ARPS have far more democratic control of their university than anywhere else in the UK apart from Cambridge: appointment of their VC requires approval of the 5,500 members of Congregation👇. 1/3

May 9

A new blog: “How far USS has fallen from past parity with public sector pensions”👇1/2

April 29

A new blog: “Why conference delegates should vote for Motion 23 plus responses to arguments against the motion” 1/2

April 28

🚨🚨🚨In a potential “exit strategy from the current @USSpensions dispute”, @UCUGlasgow has reached agreement with @UofGlasgow management to jointly call on @USSEmployers @UniversitiesUK to do the following 4 things👇: 1/7 …Both because it’s sound on the merits & a concrete means of UK-wide implementation of a “constructive dialogue at a local level” between branch & management rather than a statement of principles that stand no prospect of realisation, please vote for Motion 23! 7/7

April 27

If every branch sent the delegates to which they were entitled to the conference that has called an immediate marking & assessment boycott & 10 more days of strikes over Four Fights, there would have been 320 branch delegates. But only c. 200 votes were cast at conference. 1/2

April 16

Thanks, Melanie, for putting your head above the parapet. Rather than being flamed, I see that it appears to have prompted others who have been thinking similar things in private to express themselves more publicly.

April 9

🤥#45. Why @BirminghamUCU is right to describe @unibirmingham VC, & @USSEmployers Pension Forum chair, Adam Tickell’s response👇to @USSpensions members of his staff as “incorrect and misleading”. 🧵 1/

April 7

🤥#44. A new blog: “USS could lower contributions and/or increase benefits now: (i) A new valuation would not be necessary; (ii) 2020 valuation assumptions and funding principles could justify such changes in light of post-valuation experience” 1/3

April 6

🤥#43. The VC of @SussexUni is mistaken [in claiming that ‘Under Scheme rules the next opportunity to influence the contribution and benefits package is the next valuation which must be no later than March 2023.’]. Proof: Ask them to cite the relevant scheme rules which imply this. They won’t be able to! [Further tweets elaborate below.]

April 1

🤥#42. Dear @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers, In quoting here👇from the statement @USSpensions has just released:… 1/4 …you fail to note that you must therefore retract, and apologise for making, the following false claim…2/4…Not only is this claim a misrepresentation of USS’s view. It is also a breach of JNC confidentiality, for which you should also apologise. See👇. 4/4

March 31

🤥#41. I’ve written to @USSpensions CEO Bill Galvin to object that this statement [by UUK] 👇is both inaccurate & in breach of JNC confidentiality.

March 27

🤥#40. 🧵on why @alistairjarvis has no cause for regret that UCU’s proposals “differed significantly from the ideas UCU shared in the autumn which had many similarities to the reforms proposed by employers” (quoting from his same reply👇to the Open Letter). 1/

March 26

🚨🚨🚨A vindication of @ucu’s call for a moderately prudent 2022 valuation: Even on the excessively prudent assumptions of the 2020 valuation, as of 28 Feb 2022 it would cost only 25.6% (17.7% employer, 7.9% member, assuming 65:35 cost-sharing) to fund UUK’s proposed cuts! 1/

🤥#39. In his reply👇to an Open Letter, @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers CEO @AlistairJarvis writes: “It is regrettable that a @UCU proposal was formally tabled at the JNC so late in the day…”🧵documenting the impressive quantity of bad faith & mendacity packed into Jarvis’s words. 1/

March 21

🤥#38. 👀Jaw-dropping that, in an open letter to staff dated the 16th of March, @UniOfYork VC repeats👇@UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers’s misrepresentation of the @ucu proposals, more than a month after we got UUK to correct the record. 1/

March 3

Nobody is objecting to losing a day’s worth of pay for a day one is on strike. What’s being objected to is, e.g, losing 100% of pay for every further day one refrains from rescheduling the lecture you didn’t deliver on the day you were on strike (& for which you weren’t paid).

February 28

🤥#37. See the GIF below for how much worse the UUK cuts to future accrual are than @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers’s headline “12% cut” claim👇.

Who benefits most from @BorisJohnson’s latest “reforms” to the funding of higher education. In words (@Wonkhe analysis)👇. 1/2 In pictures👇. 2/2

February 27

Thanks to @UniversitiesUK @USSEmployers’s cuts, a @USSpensions for someone starting out in the pre-92 sector will be less than half the value of a TPS pension for someone starting out in the post-92 sector.

February 20

A personal thanks, for this thoughtful, perceptive thread👇, which has brightened an otherwise dark mood this weekend.

🤥#36. This article👇[listing the most one-sided elections in recent history] needs updating… 1/

February 17

A CORRECTED blog👇: “The additional damage done by UUK’s CPI cap on USS’s most recent inflation projection: A 22% loss at retirement age becomes a 27% loss, and a 29% loss at age 86 becomes a 37% loss” 1/2

February 15

A new blog: “A simple means of ensuring that rates are capped at 25.2% and 9.8% from 1 April 2023: A formal mechanism to achieve UCU’s third proposal”

February 14

🤥#35. 🚨🚨🚨A new blog: “A rebuttal of Alistair Jarvis’s reply to Jo Grady: Point by point responses to his objections to UCU’s proposals”

🤥#34. Thanks, @JosephineCumbo for posting this statement. Would you please convey the following questions to @USSEmployers (which of course they can read over Twitter, & respond directly to me, but you appear much more effective than I in eliciting answers from them!): 1/ … Why did @USSEmployers originally publish such highly misleading material on the consultation webpage AFTER JNC, & wait till Sunday afternoon before deleting that from their webpage & replacing with something similar to the email to VCs? 6/6

February 13

🤥#33. 🚨🚨🚨@ucu members please check your inbox for @DrJoGrady’s email. Some further thoughts. It strikes me that UUK are determined to ignore and stall, to the point that it would not be possible to complete a consultation with employers until after five days of strikes. 1/

February 12

🤥#32. A new blog on “UUK’s escalating misrepresentation of UCU’s proposals (Pt II)” 1/

February 10

🤥#31. A new blog on @USSEmployers @UniversitiesUK’s serious misrepresentation of @ucu’s proposals

🤥#30. .@alistarjarvis & @adamtickell would you please explain why, by contrast, it was possible to launch a formal consultation on your 2 year delay of the CPI cap, prior to @USSpensions confirmation that part of the cost of this could be absorbed into a longer recovery plan?

February 9

🤥#29. Indefensible on the part of @USSEmployers @UniversitiesUK & @AlistairJarvis. The double standard (consulting on their own proposal w/o @USSpensions confirmation of costing of 0.2%) & misinformation are astonishing. VC’s ought to be upset by their poor representation.

February 7

🚨🗳️🚨DON’T throw away that fat envelope containing your ballot for NEC & other @ucu officials. NEC is especially important, as they call the shots over strikes in the USS & Four Fights disputes. This linked document👇lists my own voting preferences. 1/2

February 5

Employers are now paying 23.68% for a much better DB pension (TPS) than DC returns on those 20% contributions are expected to yield. So it makes perfect sense to go on strike against a huge cut in their pension to save employers a relatively small amount in contributions. 1/2

February 4

A new blog on the reports on the consultation that @USSpensions has just published: “Consultation responses reveal strong majority support of UCU’s preferred approach”👇.

February 3

It is reasonable to claim that @USSpensions is now in deficit if and only if it is reasonable to claim that the prudently adjusted expected return on assets (i.e., the discount rate) is now LESS THAN CPI-0.23%. Therefore it is not reasonable to claim that #USS is now in deficit.

February 2

A new blog: “UUK’s mouse of an improvement is a wholly inadequate repair to the damage of their inflation cap”

January 29

🤥#28. 🧐🤔@USSEmployers is this👇a misprint? Or is it really your position that @ucu’s proposals should mirror the views of employer? Isn’t that your job, not ours? We represent members, not employers.

🤥#27. Hi @USSEmployers. Would you please provide the rationale for your claim👇that @ucu’s proposals depart from the default 35:65 cost-sharing arrangement, which applies in the absence of JNC decision to change benefits and/or contributions? 1/2

January 27

🤥#26. Concluding paragraphs👇of linked👇blog “UUK appears to be acting in breach of their duty of good faith”.

January 26

🚨🚨🚨@ucu submits new pension proposals to avert UK wide strike action. 1/

👀FOI request from @JohnRalfe1 reveals that @USSpensions
currently has a full state guarantee — which is, however, apparently contingent on 4 @officestudents employees remaining active members
. [See also tweets below, starting with this one, which show why the guarantee remains even if these employees do not remain active USS members.]

January 21

👀Orwellian red-underlined command from the govt’s latest HE guidance👇. Even if this is assessed as too risky, based on best evidence & analysis, we must pretend that everything is now as it was before the pandemic. Ignorance is strength.

January 19

🤥#25. 🧵on the misleading nature of the “[unaffordable] cost escalator” metaphor👇in today’s @USSEmployers statement about @USSpensions. 1/

January 12

🚨🚨🚨 @USSpensions consultation on @USSEmployers cuts closes at 5 pm Monday the 17th. A new blog👇urging members to respond to at least Q5 & Q6.

January 4

Concluding paragraph👇of linked👇new blog post: “The overwhelming case for retaining current USS pension benefits until April 2023: The modest [and affordable] rise in contributions for 12 months is a small price to pay to avoid large cuts to pensions”.


December 31

Last year, my most viewed tweets👇were all about Covid, except for the most viewed one, which was about Jeremy Bentham. This year, they’re all about @USSpensions, & @USSEmployers’s attempt to slash them, except for the most viewed one.🧵

December 24

🤥#24. Remember @USSEmployers’s claim the impact of their cuts “is likely to be between 10% & 18% for the vast majority of members”? Turns out only someone on a VC salary🤑will experience a cut to future accrual as low as 10%. E.g., the VC w highest employer pension contribution👇. 1/

December 20

🚨🚨🚨@ImperialUCU & @imperialcollege have issued a very welcome jointly agreed statement about the @USSpensions dispute. The following two statements go farther in the direction of @UCU’s perspective than any other @USSEmployers’s to date👇. 1/4

December 15

🤥#23.…which assumes *PREVAILING CPI RATES*, which sit below any 2.5% cap…” How it started for @USSEmployers 😀👇. 1/3

December 13

👀Graphic illustration👇of the intergenerational unfairness of @USSEmployers’s cuts to the @USSPensions pensions we’d earn from April. The younger one is, the greater the cut in future accrual. The upward slope of the lines is almost entirely due to the 2.5% hard CPI cap. 1/

December 12

🤥#22. .@USSEmployers’s 10–18% figure👇assumes that, relative to current inflation protection, their 2.5% CPI cap would erode the value of future pension promises by 0.35% p.a. if inflation runs 2.5% on average. 🧵on why 0.35% is a huge understatement. 1/

December 6

🤥#21. Another disingenuous tweet👇from @USSEmployers, since it’s on account of their refusal to provide more than the most minimal covenant support of current benefits that the escalation in contributions from Oct 2022 is so steep. 1/3

December 2

.@martinwolf_: “In the case of the USS, the right option is to make conservative, but NOT INSANELY PESSIMISTIC, assumptions and conclude that [the scheme] is healthy.” I.e., NOT THIS👇.

December 1

🤥#20. 🧵explaining what’s so wrong with @USSEmployers VC Alistair Fitt’s claim on @BBCr4today that “Modelling published by the @USSpensions trustee themselves shows that impact [of UUK’s proposed pension cuts] is likely to be between 10% & 18% for the vast majority of members.” 1/

November 29

🤥#19. This👇is false for the simple reason that @USSEmployers could bring the cost of current benefits down by extending the same covenant support to current benefits that the are providing on behalf of their large cuts to benefits.

November 28

🤥#18. The blog👇by @sussexucu, does an excellent job of presenting @ucu’s case regarding @USSpensions and exposes multiple misrepresentations on the part of @USSEmployers. Please share with your branch members & senior managers. Great graphs too.

November 26

A huge thanks to our students in the @lsesu for their overwhelming support of @LSE_UCU staff who will be going on strike.

November 22

🤥#17. In @ucu’s dispute letter to @USSEmployers VCs👇, we noted that, if the UUK cuts go through, a typical academic, aged 37, would experience a 35% cut in the guaranteed DB pension built up in future & the cut would remain at 23% if extra DC income was converted into DB pension. 1/3 . @USSEmployers head of pensions Stuart McLean sent an email to VC’s denying these figures, calling on @ucu to behave responsibility, & claiming that the consultation modeller would provide “an accurate and impartial explanation of the potential impact” of UUK’s cuts.👇 2/3 Guess what? When one plugs the details of this 37 year old academic into the official consultation modeller, the cut in their guaranteed pension turns out to be 40% & remains at 29% even when DC cash is converted into further DB pension income.👇 3/3

November 20

🤥#16. An excellent blog post, which contains point by point corrections of various inaccurate or misleading claims that @USSEmployers have been making.👇

November 13

🤥#15. Hey, @USSEmployers Twitter account manager, you might want to ask Stuart McLean to fact check this thread👇. 1/ …🚨🚨🚨@USSpensions reveals that their own estimate of the extent to which UUK’s proposed 2.5% hard CPI cap would erode the value of our pensions is HIGHER than that of the consultation modeller, which is based on a lower estimate that @USSEmployers called for! 1/ On @USSpensions’s estimate, the hard cap would erode the value of our pensions by 0.58% per annum, in comparison with the inflation protection of current benefits.👇By contrast, the modeller assumes a lesser 0.5% annual erosion. 2/

🤥#14. Imagine that @UniversitiesUK were to cut our pay by 25%, but then say, hey, if you’re closest to retirement, this is just a 1% reduction in your salary over a lifetime, so what’s all the fuss about?

November 5

🚨🚨🚨While we wait for it to go back online, @sussexucu pension officer Jackie Grant & I have been analysing the assumptions of the official @usspensions consultation modeller. We’ve found that it generate the same 22% cut at age 66 & 30% cut at age 86 as @ucu’s modeller!👇1/ [This is a continuation of the thread below posted on Oct 21. Graph👇from a tweet lower down in the thread.]

Based on UUK-approved assumptions of the official USS consultation modeller

November 2

🤥#13. In this video👀👇, Edinburgh’s Vice Principal refutes @USSEmployers’s claim that the rise in employer contributions to preserve current benefits is unaffordable… 1/

October 29

.@ucu GS @DrJoGrady has sent a letter👇to @USSpensions
CEO Bill Galvin outlining a legal challenge to the manner in which the trustee has applied the cost-sharing Rule 64.10.👇

October 21

🤥#12. In his 18 Oct letter to @ucu GS @DrJoGrady, @AlistairJarvis
repeats this false £860 claim.👇He writes: “a university staff member earning £40,000 per annum would be paying an additional £860 in pension contributions next year for the same benefits”.
1/ [And click here for a five tweet reply to USSEmployers’s response to this thread.]

October 19

Here’s my @ucu branch’s live tweeting👇of a presentation of mine today on our dispute with @USSEmployers over @USSpensions. 1/2 And here’s a link to my slides for the presentation👇. 2/2 [And click here for a seven tweet subthread in response to USS’s claim that they compensated for the extraordinary conditions of the March 2020 valuation.]

September 16

I was pleased to learn that @ucu Motions 5 & 6 were remitted by overwhelming margins at last week’s sector conference. In this blog post, I explain why I opposed (and favoured remitting) both motions.👇1/2

September 8

.@uculeft has just posted the following blatant misrepresentation of Motion B4 on their website, which I’ve underlined in red👇. Test of their integrity: If they’re merely an outlet for propaganda, they will not issue a retraction and correction. 1/

September 7

There is a blindingly obvious way to fund social care, which is with inheritance tax.” See two tweets below for @zoesqwilliams’s clear, simple & sound justification for this claim. 1/3

September 5

🤥#11. This is a 2.6% increase. After providing not even a nominal increase last year[], employers have just implemented a 1.5% increase in the pay points. But, by the logic below👇, they should have refused, on grounds that this costs c. £75 mn per year = c. 1,700 full-times roles. 1/

September 4

🤥#10. .@USSEmployers could you please clarify the red-underlined in your statement from yesterday [claiming that members would be charged 13.6% from April 2022 to retain current benefits]?👇1/

September 3

“that might lead” [to pension cuts]. Not “that will lead”. @USSEmployers still have the option to revoke their proposals & retain current benefits, as they did in 2018, in response to industrial action.

🤥#9. “@UCU did not put forward a formal proposal;” .@USSEmployers, once again you’re saying something demonstrably false👇. @UCU placed our proposals on the agenda of a formal JNC meeting on 13 August for discussion. Check item 3.2 of your JNC papers & then retract this tweet. 1/

🤥#8. It’s odd that “everything possible” does not include a willingness of @USSEmployers to increase their pensions contributions from 21.1% to 23.7% in October, despite the fact they’ve already budgeted for this increase.

September 2

I’ve just voted YES, I support @ucu industrial action over @USSEmployers’s 21% cuts to the future accrual of members.

At a general meeting, the@CambridgeUCU branch passed the following excellent motion👇in favour of exploring conditional indexation for @USSpensions. 1/2

August 25

🤥#7. .@USSEmployers boast👇that @USSpensions has priced their covenant support measures as the equivalent of a c. 14% increase in pensions contributions. Sounds great! But… 1/

July 21

🤥#6. New[s] flash: @USSEmployers have the chutzpah to spin their falling somewhat less far short of their previous commitments to @USSpensions as “even greater levels of support”. 1/2

June 27

In this superb FT article, Martin Wolf uses the folly of the @USSpensions valuation to explain what’s wrong with the regulation of DB pensions in the UK. He draws on the work of [recent] @UCU JNC member @wkw_uk to demonstrate this.

June 11

I’ve recently learned that I’ve been elected to the @UCU national negotiating team over @USSpensions! 1/4

June 5

🚨🚨🚨The SAUL pension scheme announces that it is in SURPLUS — 109% funded — as at 31 April 2021. It was, however, in deficit — 94% funded — as at 31 March 2020 triennial valuation date. 1/

June 3

Those who are genuinely interested in ensuring that USS members have a decent pension in retirement will want to *explore* the possibility & promise of conditional indexation. If you’re one of them, please read this thread.👇 1/2

June 2

Well done @lsesu for this brilliant proposal of £2,700 cash Covid compensation for each student, funded out of an increase in the interest rate on student loans that hits only the highest earners. I hope you have the support of @LSEnews on this.

May 28

🤥#5. .@USSEmployers this statement is demonstrably false & should be corrected👇. 12% captures the reduction in accrual rate from 1/75 to 1/85 but completely ignores the further significant headline detriment arising from the imposition of a 2.5% CPI cap on revaluation. 1/2

Even when one takes the expected extra cash from DC into account and converts all cash into USS DB pension, the cut arising from the @USSEmployers proposal remains 23% for the 37 yr old lecturer starting at £42k mentioned in the FT piece.

May 24

An excellent point👇. In justifying ramping up of confidence levels to 73% & 78%, @USSpensions referred to ‘volatility and uncertainty in outlook based on market conditions at the [31 March 2020] valuation date’. 1/2 Given much lower volatility & uncertainty at 31 March 2021, there’s a strong case for issuing a new, more up to date March 2021 valuation, w confidence levels brought back in line w 67% adopted for 2017 & 2018 valuations. 2/2

🤥#4. Difficult to reconcile A with B, wouldn’t you say, @RussellGroup & @USSEmployers? A. “@RussellGroup universities unanimously believe the current contribution rates are fair and affordable for all parties…” 1/2

May 23

Email from @USSpensions CEO to @USSEmployers on Friday👇indicates the following:

May 17

🤥#3. A new blog post called “Why does @UniversitiesUK continue to make false or misleading claims about life expectancy?”

May 10

In a webinar now in progress, @USSpensions has just claimed that they have performed well compared w DB schemes similar to USS. They fail, however, to mention how poorly they’ve performed in comparison w the scheme MOST similar to USS, namely SAUL👇. 1/2

May 7

God help USS members if these arguments👇are ‘the same as’ the arguments that @UCU is pressing against USS. The problem with the Ohio teachers’ scheme is one of genuine underfunding, as it’s only 76% funded on a ‘best estimate’ basis of a 7.45% discount rate. 1/

April 26

A new blog: “Why Trinity’s departure and the abandonment of Test 1 render a shift to 100% DC problematic”

April 23

A new blog: “Why it makes no sense, under the dual discount rate, for any USS employer to advocate 100% DC”

April 19

Orange bar = percentage of Russell Group university’s income from tuition fees👇. (Turquoise = total income in 000s of £s.) From👇(with some uni names I’ve typed in).

April 17

👀Extraordinary account👇of how Johns Hopkins Univ faculty forced their President to retroactively restore $100mn cut of all their retirement contributions in 2020–21, via $5k financial audit which revealed projections of huge Covid losses to be unfounded.

April 15

Employers in @USSEmployers who maintain that we must find a way to operate within the costings of the valuation: Please bear in mind how prohibitively expensive it would now be to switch over to 100% DC pension pots!👇1/5

Drawing on years of experience as an @AonRetirementUK actuary for @USSEmployers, but now able to speak more freely in retirement, @kevinwesbroom has just posted this highly informative & insightful take on the latest @USSpensions valuation.

April 14

🤥#2. .@USSEmployers maintains that all sides — @UCU & @USSpensions as well as employers — must show flexibility & willingness to move. It is, however, *very difficult* to discern any genuine movement on the part of employers in their recent proposals.🧵1/8

.@TrinCollCam had you known that your exit from @USSpensions would wreak havoc on the covenant & drive up contribution rates by 14.1% of salaries👇, would you have still abandoned USS? Any regrets? #BoycottTrinity

April 12

Re this👇, here is a guide for those @ucu members who would like @USSEmployers’s proposed 25% [cut] in the value of our pensions to go through. 1/

April 11

🤥#1. A thread on why I share our @UCU GS’s reaction 👇 to the recent @USSEmployers proposal to cut our pensions by lowering the DB/DC threshold from £60k to £40k, reducing accrual from 1/75 to 1/85, & capping CPI revaluation at 2.5%. 1/

April 4

If you object to vaccine passports to enter pubs & restaurants as a violation of your freedom, what do you think of the greater restriction on your freedom of the closure of pubs & restaurants in order to restrict the spread of Covid (e.g., as at present)?

Click here & read upwards for an explanation of what’s wrong with a Heriot-Watt UCU branch motion on USS.

March 28

.@ucu has recently released its ‘4 Fights’ claim for 2021–22👇. (The 4 Fights are pay ≠, job insecurity, workload, & pay devaluation.) The biggest change from last year is that RPI+5% for all spine points has been replaced with +£2,500 for all points. 1/6

March 25

In this message posted on 23 March👇, SAUL publicly confirms reports that their 31 March 2020 valuation will record yet another SURPLUS in their technical provisions funding of past DB accrual. 1/7

March 23

Excellent account & illustration by @Sam_Marsh101 👇of the extreme pessimism of @USSpensions’s latest valuation, which is driving the cost of contributions sky high. 1/2

February 19

In a strongly worded statement, unions of head teachers have joined teachers’ unions in condemning full return to school campuses on 8 March as “a reckless course of action” 1/

February 4

🚨🗳️🚨DON’T throw away that fat @ucu envelope containing your ballot for NEC members & honorary treasurer. NEC members in higher education form the HEC which calls the shots over nationwide industrial action over USS & pay & equalities. 1/

January 3

.@ucl’s outgoing & incoming heads have issued a statement👇that stands out for its acknowledgement of how bad things are in London, its responsibility to the wider community, & of what needs to be done. 1/

January 2

In the summer, when @UniversitiesUK employers made their plans to call students back to campus to resume classroom teaching, daily new cases were running in the 100s, not the thousands. Throughout the month of July, they never exceeded 1,000👇. 1/

January 1

My eight most ‘viral’ tweets in 2020.🥳👇

Links to indexes of threads from 2020 and 2018–19.

This is the featured image for this post. It is from the blog to which I link on May 9.



Michael Otsuka

Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers. Previously on UCU national negotiating team for USS pensions.