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Students returning to UK university campuses this month are experiencing further disruption, including outings by their lecturers, after the union in the sector said industrial action on pension cuts was ‘inevitable’.
The University and College Union (UCU) issued the warning on Tuesday after a committee made up of employers and trade union representatives supported controversial pension proposals submitted by UK Universities (UUK), which represents the institutions, to alleviate an estimated funding deficit of £ 14 billion to £ 18 billion in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the sector’s most important retirement fund.
UCU predicted a ballot for industrial action in the fall, as it sent a no-mail to 50,000 members on Tuesday inviting them to a mass meeting to discuss the proposals, which they say will happen a typical lecturer loses about a third of their guaranteed pension benefits.
‘Employers represented by Universities UK (UUK) today voted to implement a set of regressive USS pension proposals that will reduce member benefits, discourage low-paid and insecure employees from joining USS and improve the viability of the scheme as’ a whole threat, ”said Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU.
‘Employers do not support alternative compromise proposals submitted by UCU under the constraints of a flawed valuation of the scheme in 2020. Unless employers allow a quick consultation on our proposals to revoke their decision today, the road to industrial action seems inevitable. ”
The employer and employee representatives on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) were evenly divided over the proposals, with the casting vote in favor of the reforms carried out by the independent chairman.
UUK claims that its proposals – including delaying the rate at which pensions build up, and limiting inflation increases to 2.5 per cent, will help employers and employees avoid significant increases in their contributions.
According to the UUK plan, the contribution figures of employers and employees remain at 21.1% and 9.6% of the salary of employees, respectively.
The USS trustees warned this year that contribution increases of up to 25 percent of salary may be needed to keep the dedicated pension, which pays out a guaranteed amount each year, linked to the employee’s salary, in its current form.
“The employers’ proposal retains a significant part of the defined benefits while maintaining unaffordable contribution levels,” said UUK.
“USS ‘formal assessment of the extent of the shortfall means that no change is a viable option. We understand that the benefit changes adopted by the JNC are unwelcome to scheme members, but the large increases in contributions required to keep benefits the same are unaffordable for most members and employers. ”
UUK said UCU had decided not to put a counter-proposal to the vote. “We have repeatedly told UCU during the JNC process that UUK would be willing to put UCU’s proposals to employers to get their opinion, and the offer remains in force,” says UUK.
UCU said the vote was preceded before UUK considered alternative UCU proposals and asked the union for a month-long extension of negotiations so that both employers and pensioners could be consulted.