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
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. We have recently learned that our own University was among a minority that wanted a full shift to Defined Contribution. A typical lecturer would lose about £10k a year in retirement and early career staff would suffer 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 published their first report in September (see link above), 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.
UCU will democratically decide what to do next in November. 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…
Members of UCU University of Leeds branch passed the following emergency motion at our AGM on 16 May 2019: This branch notes that: The 2018 USS dispute was suspended with an agreement that Defined Benefit pensions should not be scrapped and that a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) should be set up to reconsider the USS valuation.This Joint Expert Panel reported in September 2018 (see http://www.ussjep.org.uk/report-of-the-joint-expert-panel/) and largely vindicated the UCU position on the USS valuation.The University of Leeds broadly supported the JEP recommendations, including the levels of contributions proposed. (see https://www.leeds.ac.uk/forstaff/download/downloads/id/1536/uss_leeds_response_to_uuk_consultation_re_jep_october_2018)To Maintain current benefits, USS have already imposed a default increase in our contributions from 8% of salary to 8.8% in April 2019, with a further increase coming in October if an agreement on valuations cannot be reached. If the JEP recommendations were implemented in full, there would be no need for further contribution increases or benefit reductions.The position of UCU nationally is ‘No Detriment’ i.e. that there should be no further increases to our pension contributions and no reductions to our pension benefits.The USS board issued a statement on 9th May (see https://www.uss.co.uk/how-uss-is-run/2018-valuation/2018-valuation-updates/9-may-2019) saying they are now consulting with university employers about three new options that they have identified, …continue reading
Tuesday 9 April 1-2pm: USS Pensions Open Meeting: with UCU Pensions Rep Mark Taylor-Batty and UCU national USS negotiator Sam Marsh Mechanical Engineering LT B (2.37) (Open to members + non-members – bring colleagues!) Our pensions rep Mark Taylor-Batty and Sam Marsh (one of UCU’s elected national negotiators on USS) will give an update on the current situation and lead discussion with members. Please bring your questions too! We have deliberately timed this meeting to fall after the next USS negotiation meeting between UCU and UUK. You can help to publicise this by printing and distributing this leaflet. Backgroundː The employers’ body Universities UK (UUK) has recently conducted a consultation of member institutions regarding the USS 2018 pension scheme valuation. UUK has written to USS with a summary of the institutional responses which they have published [here]. The University of Leeds put its consultation response online yesterday, which is [here]. We (UCU) have many and growing concerns in the sector over the governance of the USS pension scheme, and poor communications from the USS executive. You can read the latest statement from the UCU National Disputes Committee which was convened after Congress 2018 to steer the USS dispute [here]. We …continue reading
Members will have seen in last week’s all-staff communication the reminder that our USS pension contributions will be going up from 8% of Salary to 8.8% of salary, as from your pay slip at the end of April. We will be receiving letters from the USS this week with further details. We have communicated this known forthcoming contribution a few times in updates on pensions in the last few months. This is the first of a series of increases in contributions that were triggered last summer as a result of a failure to agree the 2017 valuation – the source of the big pension strike this time last year. Further increases will take place if no agreement is reached – and you will see these mentioned in the USS letter and by following links from the all-staff email – but please note that there are no employers who desire these further increases and the pressure is on to come to a conclusion and agree a way forward to avoid them. Members will recall that the Joint Expert Panel was established on the back of our strike, and its first report came out last September. Partially in response to that, USS …continue reading
This post follows on from the email we received from UCU HQ yesterday, and seeks to explain that as part of a plain language summary of where we are. As we approach the end of an incredible year for the union, it is time to reflect on what we have achieved and how we take this strength forwards into a new year. 2018 saw us come together for the unprecedented “Great USS Strike” 14 day action to defend our pension scheme, through which we highlighted significant issues with the assumptions at work in the way USS has been valued and how our employers were responding to this. Our incredible, solid strike action won us a number of things, including the creation of the Joint Expert Panel which was convened to examine what is really going on with our pension scheme, and to interrogate whether the changes proposed by Universities UK (UUK) were justified. This, and associated negotiations and meetings, has been a complex process with multiple players. The Joint Expert Panel came up with some recommendations that indicated we needn’t pay too much more for our pensions, and can keep the same pension structure we had, instead of the changes that …continue reading