Universities have urged union representatives to work with them on pension scheme reforms, which have been the subject of a long-running dispute.
In August, Universities UK (UUK), the body that represents higher education employers, made a commitment to explore alternative scheme designs and take steps to reduce the number of employees opting out of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
The University and College Union (UCU) is set to ballot its members this month to see whether they want to strike over cuts to USS members’ guaranteed annual pensions.
The union has claimed that changes made to the pension scheme between 2011 to 2019 have meant that a typical member will be around £240,000 worse off when they retire.
USS pension dispute
UUK said that higher contributions set to come in from April 2022 will mean that a member earning £40,000 would have to pay an additional £860 in pension contributions in 2022 for the same benefits, with contributions set to rise further every six months until 2025. The changes have been imposed by the USS trustees.
Today, UUK said it wanted to work with union reps in three areas:
- The formation of a “taskforce” including employers, union and USS representatives to explore alternative models for the pension scheme which could offer better value for money and benefits
- The development of high-quality, lower-cost pension options that would give the staff flexibility to pay in less than the current mandatory rate of 9.8% salary, and still benefit from a generous employer contribution
- To carry out a governance review with independent experts to ensure the scheme serves the interests of members and employers.
A UUK spokesperson said: “We’re creating a better and more inclusive pension scheme which is affordable for early career staff, exploring how scheme redesign could offer enhanced pension benefits and better value for money for members and employers, and establishing an independent review of scheme governance.
“We expect that the UCU, which represents all scheme members, will want to play a full part in these important discussions and decisions. There are many issues like these where employers and their staff agree that change is necessary and by working together quicker progress can be made.”
The UCU has been contacted for a response.