This page will present information and links concerning the dispute over the future of USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pensions. The latest updates from the local branch committee on the USS pensions dispute are available below, in chronological order with the most recent first.
But first, some important links and background information.
- Latest update – report from the Join Expert Panel (it has an executive summary if you are short of time) – and also see the Leeds UCU reaction in the first blog post listed below
- A ‘plain English’ history of the current pension dispute
- UCU ‘Action for USS’ page
- USSbriefs reports are excellent investigations and summaries of pension and related issues (from group of UCU members who came together to produce helpful materials about pensions and related issues). If you only have time to read one of their reports, pick this summary (USSbriefs44)
We went on strike for 14 days in February and March 2018 to protect our pensions. The employers wanted to move USS to a ‘Defined Contribution’ scheme, with no guaranteed pension benefits and lower retirement income. A typical lecturer would have lost about £10k a year in retirement and early career staff would have suffered badly (depending on vagaries of the markets). The strikes ended with an agreement to set up a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) to consider the scheme’s highly disputed valuation.
The Joint Expert Panel has been considering the evidence submitted to it. Latest news is that now (13th September) their first report has been published, which largely validates the arguments that UCU has been making for many years about the USS valuation. See our blog post about this, the national UCU response, and the @USSbriefs reaction. There will now be negotiations between UCU and Universities UK to finalise the 2017 valuation and thence any future pensions changes.
(More about the JEP: It consists of 3 UCU appointed members and three UUK appointed members, plus an independent chair (Joanne Segars) who does not have a casting vote. USSbriefs25 list the members and their past experience. As the work of the panel has progressed, short updates from their meetings have given information about the bodies who they have met, and the issues discussed, although proceedings are being held in confidence, despite calls for transparency.)
Meanwhile, USS are planning to increase pension contributions to cover the ‘deficit’. This is because in the absence of agreement, they are supposed to implement a rule called ‘cost sharing’ to make up the ‘deficit’. Our contributions would go up from 8% to 8.8% in April 2019, and employers’ contributions from 18% to 19.5%. USS have announced further staggered increases thereafter (for us, 10.4% from October 2019 and a staggering 11.7% from April 2020), and there is a formal USS consultation about these proposals currently happening. Since UCU does not agree that this deficit really exists, and the JEP concludes that any deficit is quite small, we are not happy with these proposals. Leeds UCU is currently drafting some suggested responses to the USS consultation which you might like to consider before responding to it – and please come to the Open Meeting on 11th October to discuss. Given that we’ve been offered a pay increase of just 2%, being asked to increase our pension contributions by 0.8% in April and 2.4% in a year and a bit, this means we really need a much better pay offer!
UCU will democratically decide what to do next in the autumn. There was much discussion of the pensions dispute at the annual UCU Congress and at the follow up Higher Education special sector conference on USS. We certainly hope that our pensions can be preserved without further industrial action, especially since the JEP report is so much in our favour. Watch this space…