In response to the University and College Union’s (UCU) benefits modeller, a spokesperson for USS employers said:
“Employers would be very willing to consider alternative, feasible and affordable proposals from the UCU to tackle the scheme’s financial challenges - so far the union hasn’t put forward any possible solution. Unfortunately, no change is not a viable option.”
“The UCU should be open with USS members about the scheme’s financial challenges and the choices facing them rather than promoting a modeller like this, which only tells part of the story. The modeller does not allow scheme members to compare possible benefit changes against the cost of maintaining current benefits through higher salary contributions. Staff need to decide if they want to pay much more - tens of thousands of pounds over a lifetime - to maintain benefits or continue to pay the same rate and accept moderate benefit change, which UUK has proposed. UCU should also be honest with USS members about the severe implications - including job losses - of employers paying much higher contributions.”
- For a university staff member earning under the salary threshold of £40,000 per annum, the UUK proposal would lead to a headline reduction of about 12% in future pension benefits (benefits earned prior to any change are secure and unaffected). Members would also receive a generous (by market standards) 20% DC contribution above the threshold. Under the lowest cost USS Trustee scenario, there would be a reduction of around 25%. To keep current pension benefits, in the lowest cost USS Trustee scenario someone on a £41,526 salary would have to pay in at least £1,660 a year more under the default employer/member cost sharing ratio - 42.1% in total, 13.6% for members, 28.5% for employers, which is far too high for employers and would have devastating consequences across the sector in terms of jobs, teaching and student experience. Another way of looking at this is acknowledging that we will all have to work a little longer to get the same level of pension as before to reflect that on average we are living a little longer and guaranteed pensions have become much more expensive.
- It is too early to say how exactly pension benefits will change. Several factors will influence this, including the approach taken by the USS Trustee, the support measures employers can provide, and the response of scheme members and the union. It is important to remember that pensions built up to date are safe and can’t be changed retrospectively.
- As well as missing key information about increases in contributions to retain current benefits, the UCU modeller also exaggerates the impact by failing to give a view on the overall impact on a member’s pension. Before any changes are made, we can reassure colleagues that robust information will be provided to employees to provide clarity on the impact on the overall pension, so they can respond to the consultation with adequate information.
- In its recent consultation, UUK proposed even more valuable employer covenant support measures which go beyond the commitments asked for by USS. This improved support package from employers is designed to get the best possible benefits for the current level of employer and member payments into the scheme. These commitments are significant and could hamper the sector’s future ability to invest in staff, courses and facilities.