Last December, during the pension debate, your employer recommended via Universities UK that USS should assume a 2.4% pay settlement for 2015-16 for the purposes of calculating pensions liabilities (read ‘deficit’). They then turned to you and insisted on a ‘full and final offer’ of 1%. How do you feel about that?
Your pension is going to be reduced based upon an assumption of pay growth over the last year that is higher than it actually was, and over an assumption of pay growth for this year that is much higher than they insist on paying. Want to know how that can be? Read on.
Your pension was downgraded based on a fallacious construction of a projected ‘deficit’ in the pension fund. Within the actuarial assumptions employed to define this deficit were projections about pay growth that no employer was going to support in reality. Quoting from these calculations, general pay growth was assumed to be:
“CPI in year 1, CPI +1% in year 2 and RPI + 1.0% p.a. thereafter”.
Year 1, here, is 31 March 2014 to 31 March 2015, and year 2 is 31 March 2015 to 31 March 2016.
To complicate matters (go down a paragraph if you just want to get to the bottom line), “CPI in year 1” and “CPI in year 2” do not refer to actual CPI during those periods. Rather “CPI” refers to their ‘market derived’ long term price inflation of 3.6%, minus a 0.2% ‘inflation risk premium’, minus an assumed RPI-CPI gap of 0.8%. Therefore “CPI” = 2.6%. “RPI” is the ‘market derived’ inflation minus the ‘inflation risk premium’. So the current “RPI” assumption = 3.4%. The ‘inflation risk premium’ is assumed to reduce linearly over 20 years from 0.2% to 0.1%. So by 2034, RPI is assumed to be 3.5%.
So USS’s assumed general pay growth for 2014 to 2015 = 2.6%, for 2015 to 2016 = 3.6%, and for subsequent years = 4.4% to 4.5%.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your employer stood by these figures in reality, rather than simply using them theoretically to argue down your pension? Because that is exactly what they did, what they have done, what they are likely to continue doing. And your family’s security and comfort in retirement on the back of your hard work has already been eroded because of these fictions.
So, USS is now assuming that this year (March 2015 to March 2016) we will receive a general pay increase of 3.6%. But the employers insist upon the ‘full and final offer’ for this year is 1%.
As part of the deflation of your pension, they assume your pay will grow by 4.4% to 4.5% in subsequent years. They will not give you that, but in 2017 they will most likely use those inflated figures to argue a further change to your pension. Unless you are prepared to take action.
Nota bene: The 2015-16 below-inflation pay increase of 1% is the last increase to the pensionable ‘final’ salary of those on final salary before the scheme closes in April 2016.
Let’s spell all this out a little further – your pension is going to be reduced based upon an assumption of pay growth over the last year that is higher than it actually was, and over an assumption of pay growth for this year that is much higher than they insist on paying. That is to say, your employer insists that it is ‘prudent’ to assume that they might somehow retrospectively go back and upgrade ‘full and final’ offers on pay for the last two years to the figures they insisted on for calculating a theoretical deficit. You couldn’t make this stuff up.