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Important USS Update

Update from Deepa Driver, RUCU Pensions Officer


Dear members,

There have been lots of developments within USS, so we wanted to update you with the latest information.

For all our new members, Reading UCU took strong action last year, as part of wider UCU national action, to save the guaranteed status (Defined Benefit – DB) of the USS Pension. As a result of this successful action we retained our guaranteed DB pension and a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was set up between the employers (UUK) and the union (UCU) to agree terms that would hopefully stop the need for such drastic action to take place again.

Unfortunately, at the end of the first phase of the JEP, the USS Board refused to implement the JEP recommendations in full. Instead, they came forward with a ‘contingent contributions’ proposal (put simply, contingent contributions are further payments from the employers (and maybe us) that would be triggered if USS deems that the position of the fund has worsened with respect to certain parameters).

USS has also invoked a Scheme rule requiring members to pay additional contributions from 1st April onwards. Here is a short 3-pager explaining why your pensions officer feels USS are unjustified in asking us to pay these increased contributions, and please also find an outline of the ‘story so far’ here. 

As a result of the USS ‘contingent contributions’ proposal, an employers’consultation has recently taken place, within which each institution was asked to feedback its responses to three questions. The University of Reading has now shared their institutional response (with more information on the intranet here)

We note that the University has stated that it ‘broadly supports’ the JEP recommendations. However, it is unfortunate that the University has placed its full weight behind the contingent contributions proposal. As a consequence, we do not believe that the UoR response is as rigorous, as cognisant of staff interests, or as nuanced, as the position of other Universities such as Sheffield and Oxford.

Here is  UUK’s  summary of employers responses

As RUCU Pensions Officer, I will be writing a response to the University of Reading with comments and suggestions, and this will be shared with members in due course.

We are now at a crucial juncture. The JEP is currently running its second phase. First, the JEP are conducting a review of USS governance. Several issues with governance have been brought to their attention. Next, they will move on to other issues with the valuation including test 1 (which was not dealt with adequately in the first round of the JEP).

Meanwhile, the April contributions increases are starting to take effect on members’ pay packets.  Employers are now negotiating their position with USS over the proposed trigger contributions but it is worrying that many employers are insisting that such contributions be cost-shared with members. For more information, please see the RUCU Pensions Officers report

Members may also find the USS analysis at USS Briefs useful, including the latest submission to the JEP regarding governance, written by your RUCU Pensions Officer, Deepa Govindarajan Driver (also the Chair of the National Disputes Committee). Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the branch, myself (Deepadriver@protonmail.com) or the NDC (ndc@ucu.org.uk) with your thoughts.

Please also pass this content on to colleagues who are in the USS Pension, but who may not be UCU members and perhaps also encourage them to join us in taking collective action on serious issues including pensions, precarity, equalities and pay.

Thanks all

Deepa Driver, RUCU Pensions Officer

 

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