A spokesperson for UUK, which represents 340 USS employers, said:
“We are saddened to hear that UCU plans to take strike action this winter. It is only through the work of our talented staff that universities are able to carry out their world-leading teaching and research, and we will continue to meet regularly with union and USS representatives.
“We appreciate this could be a difficult time for students, who may be anxious about possible disruption to their learning. Universities are well prepared for industrial action and will put in place a series of measures to protect students’ education, as well as other staff and the wider community.
“We are already working with UCU ahead of the next valuation, including sending a joint statement to the Department of Work and Pensions on pension regulation, establishing a technical group on valuation methodology, and on low cost options for employees who want more flexible pension contributions, and scheme redesign.
“However, in relation to the valuation itself, the current highly volatile economic climate has meant that the USS Trustee insists that it is unable to establish a long-term view of its funding position, or revise its prices, ahead of the next valuation in March 2023. In recent weeks, we have worked jointly with the USS Trustee to produce an accelerated valuation timeline, and we hope this will allow us to see sustained improvements in funding. At that point we will want to work with UCU to agree any changes as quickly as possible.
“It is important to remember that USS pensions remain among the most generous in the private sector. Employer payments have risen to 21.6% of salary, which is far higher than most other schemes.”
1. A joint Valuation Technical Forum comprising UCU and UUK representatives has been established to assess how the next valuation should be carried out. Ultimately, the decision on the valuation methodology rests with the USS Trustee. UUK can express a view on how this is carried out.
2. The USS Trustee consists of 3 directors nominated by the University and College Union, 4 by Universities UK, and 5 independent directors.
3. The necessary benefit changes implemented in April 2022 have helped to put the scheme on a more sustainable footing. Without the changes in April, staff would be paying much higher contributions during a cost of living crisis – from October 2022, a USS member earning £40,000 a year would have had to pay an extra £800 a year (11.8% of salary, up from the current level of 9.8%, rising to 12.5% in April 2023). All USS employers would have had to make severe budget cuts to find ways of paying 25.2% of salary in contributions, an increase of 3.6%, rising to 26.5% in April 2023.
4. The USS Trustee confirms that it was reasonable in 2021 for employers to use the USS Trustee’s example member calculations to estimate that the reduction in total USS benefits from the changes made in April 2022 would be in the range of 10–18%, while acknowledging that these illustrative examples did not, and could not, cover the full range of individual members letter-dame-kate-barker-to-ucu-swg.pdf (ussemployers.org.uk)
5. The USS employer contribution rose to 21.6% of salary in April 2022 which is three times higher than the average employer contribution rate among the FTSE 250 companies, p11, WTW Defined Contribution and Savings Survey, 2022