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Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President discusses the proposed changes to the USS pension scheme, what it might mean for you and shares detail on how we intend to keep you informed.

I recognise that staff are understandably concerned about the proposed changes to the USS pension scheme and also the potential strike action. I also appreciate that many of you will be unsure about what the proposal actually means for you. 

We intend to work hard to help you to understand the implications of the changes and to keep you informed about the situation as it develops.  

To help with this we are holding a series of roadshows to explain the background to these changes and provide more detail on what is being proposed. These will take place on:
 
Monday 5 February 2-3pm Research Beehive 2:21
Thursday 15 February 11am-12Noon Research Beehive 2:21/22
Thursday 22 February 2-3pm Research Beehive 2:21/22
 

Registration for these events is now open

Our pension’s webpage contains details of the latest position, the key facts, the proposed changes and key dates. We will be updating this page regularly as further information becomes available, and the details of the proposals are clearer. As required by law, there will be a formal consultation between mid-March and mid-May with a further round of consultation events, we will communicate more details as soon as they are available.

We find ourselves in this position for a number of reasons.  Firstly, we are all living longer. This is a good thing, but the increase in life expectancy is faster than the increase in the pension age.

Secondly, interest rates have been lower than the rate of inflation for more than eight years now and there is no sign this will change. These combined factors have left a £7.5bn deficit in the pension scheme. We are not alone and these issues have impacted the pension sector globally. 

I thought it might be useful to recap on some of the key facts, now available on the pension webpage, in terms of what this will mean for the USS Scheme: 

  • The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) between Universities UK and UCU has voted to propose a number of changes to the USS pension benefits. 
  • The 2017 USS valuation has confirmed that the scheme deficit is £7.5bn, an increase from £5.3bn as at March 2014.
  • Given the valuation, either the contribution rates need to increase or the Defined Benefit (or guaranteed benefits) part of the scheme need to reduce or a combination of the two.
  • To secure the same defined benefits provided currently to members employee contributions would need to increase from 8% to 13% and employer contributions from 18% to 27%. 
  • UUK representatives on behalf of all USS member institutions have met with UCU representatives over 30 times during 2017 to find a way forward which would minimize the impact on both employers and employees. This engagement was through the Joint Negotiating Committee, as well as other formal and informal meetings. 
  • Details of the UCU proposal can be found at www.ucu.org.uk. Their proposal would have required an increase in employer contributions to 23.5% and member contributions to 10.9% of salaries as well as reducing benefits by increasing the annual income builder from 1/75th to 1/80th.
  • Unfortunately there is no guarantee that this would be a long term solution and we might be faced with further cost increases at the next valuation in three years’ time. 

We have tried to make the proposed changes as easy to understand as possible, in terms of what this might mean for you, again this information is now available online. 

 

Understandably UCU, who represent the members, are not happy with these proposals and have balloted members to take industrial action. The University has been notified by UCU that the first phase of this will be taken in the form of two days’ strike action, on Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February 2018.

At the moment, we don’t know how many of our staff will take strike action so it is difficult to gauge what that impact will be.  While we appreciate the strength of feeling in relation to the pension changes that has led to this, we need to minimise disruption for our students who are already expressing concern and we have set up a working group to do this.  Our students have received an email from our academic registrar, explaining in more detail the position and arrangements we are putting in place and we will continue to keep them informed.

It is also important to realise that the decision to take industrial action is a national issue which cannot be resolved locally by the University and it is disappointing that it has got to this stage.  

We are going to work hard to provide as much information as possible so that you can make informed decisions as we go through the USS consultation and I sincerely hope that the national negotiations are able to find a resolution quickly.    

Professor Chris Day - Vice-Chancellor and President

 

 

 

published on: 2nd February 2018

 

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