You would have seen that the University and College Union (UCU) issued a set of new proposals for the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on 26 January 2022: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/11997/UCU-submits-new-pension-proposals-to-avert-UK-wide-strike-action ]
These new proposals would see retirement benefits protected in return for a small increase in contributions for both members and employers ahead of a new evidence-based valuation of the scheme. A USS consultation of scheme members concluded on 17 January 2022, and UCU understands that a significant majority preferred increasing contributions of members and employers in order to protect benefits over the alternatives, including benefit cuts. Moreover, USS confirmed on Thursday 20 January that its assets have jumped to over £92bn, more than £25bn higher than the previous valuation.
Last year UCU tabled proposals that would have protected benefits, but Universities UK (UUK) refused to provide the same level of covenant support to underwrite UCU’s proposals as they provided for their own.
UCU’s proposals are as follows:
- that UUK call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation of the financial health of the scheme as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June (at the latest)
- that employers agree to provide the same level of covenant support as for their own proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme year, starting 1 April 2022 at 11% member/23.7% employer until 1 October 2022, and 11.8%/25.2% thereafter
- that employers agree to pay a maximum of 25.2% and members a maximum of 9.8% from 1 April 2023 so as to secure current benefits or, if not possible, the best achievable as a result of the call on USS to issue a moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation.
On the 10th February, the USS trustee confirmed that UCU proposals can be implemented: UCU – USS trustee confirms UCU proposals can be implemented
However, there has been subsequent concern that UUK have misrepresented the UCU proposals to Vice Chancellors:
Although UCU members of the Surrey branch did not meet the ballot threshold for strike action to take place, it cannot be underemphasised from the ballot result the substantial anger that our members have with regard to pensions. It is important to draw the concerns above to the attention of every Vice-Chancellor, including those from Universities where strike action is currently not taking place.
We are therefore writing to ask whether you would support UCU’s proposals instead of UUK’s plan. Under UUK’s plan university staff would see an approximate 35% cut to their guaranteed retirement income based on a flawed USS valuation conducted in March 2020.
Surrey UCU branch committee