USS Joint Negotiating Committee reaches decision on pension reform

USS pension reform discussions have progressed, with the Joint Negotiating Committee coming to a decision based on latest proposals for change.

At its meeting on 23 January 2018, the USS Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) reached a decision about scheme reform, by the casting vote of its independent chair, in support of a revised proposal from Universities UK (UUK).

Two proposals were considered at the meeting:

  • UCU’s proposal, as tabled in December 2017, which offered some changes to benefits and raised employer and USS member contributions, and
  • UUK’s proposal, a revised version of its proposal from November 2017, which had been modified during subsequent negotiations (see summary features below). JNC voted in favour of this proposal, via exercise of the independent chair’s casting vote.

The USS trustee must now consider the JNC’s recommendation and, if accepted, a consultation period will begin. Associated resulting changes to the scheme are subject to member consultation and will apply only to ‘future benefits’ i.e. benefits which are yet to be accrued. Members’ benefits which have been built-up to date and before any contribution/benefit changes are implemented are protected by law.

Details of the proposed reformed scheme

Elements of the proposed reformed scheme, subject to USS trustee acceptance and member consultation, include:

  • Future benefits will be delivered by USS Investment Builder, i.e. a defined contribution (DC) scheme, while keeping open the option of returning to defined benefits (DB) or a hybrid model should the financial outlook improve.
  • Death and incapacity benefits will continue on a defined basis as they are now (i.e. scheme members will be assured a specific level of benefit) so that employers continue to provide protection in the most difficult of circumstances.
  • A range of funds in which members can choose to invest their savings, with employers paying the costs of investment charges, unlike with many other schemes.
  • A lower-cost saving option, where members can pay contributions of 4% rather than 8% of salary, while still benefitting from an 18% employer contribution.

Employers will now hold a consultation with all members on the possible impact of these changes on individuals. This is expected to run for 60 days from the second half of March 2018. Any resulting changes would not come into force until 1 April 2019.

At Leeds

While the negotiations have taken place at a national level, at Leeds we have been clear that reform is necessary in order to provide a scheme for members that is sustainable and stable, as well as being valued, portable and fair.

Earlier this week, UCU announced that 55.3% of Leeds UCU members voted in its related ballot on industrial action, with a majority voting for both strike action and action short of a strike (ASOS). The national average of UCU member participation in associated local ballots was 58%. At Leeds, approximately one third of academic and academic related (professional and managerial) staff are members of UCU and were therefore entitled to vote in the ballot.

UCU has published an intention to announce 14 days of strikes and other action to start in February, although the University is yet to receive formal notification.

We continue to commit to sharing information with colleagues and will support a full USS member consultation in the spring.

Further information

UUK statement and updated Q&A (both 23 January 2018)

For Staff In Depth USS section – this page is updated as the situation develops. Please check back for updates.