Ben HaywardSeptember 3rd
2019

Universities across the UK are facing the prospect of fresh strikes from staff over claims they’ll be left £240,000 worse off due to pension changes.

The University and College Union (UCU) is preparing to ballot members at 69 universities in the ongoing dispute over pensions, reports The Independent.

According to the UCU, staff will pay around £40,000 more into their pension, but will receive nearly £200,000 less in retirement following reforms to the pension scheme.

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Universities were ground to a halt by unprecedented strikes last year with some institutions made to pay tuition fee compensation to students for lost teaching time.

As a result of the strikes, an expert group was set up to examine the pension scheme and while the group has reported back, the UCU says the issues have not been resolved.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, said: “It is no wonder they have had enough and ballots for strike action open on Monday.

“Universities have to recognise the anger and frustration that members feel about the recent changes, how the scheme has been valued and how it has been run.

“It is not good enough to come back time and again with proposals that force members to pay more for reduced benefits.”

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A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “Since 2011, the cost of providing defined benefit pensions has risen because people are living longer, and the economic environment has fundamentally changed.

“Scheme members will realise that winding the clock back to 2011 and freezing the scheme in time is just not credible.

“Compared with 2011, employers are now paying more than £400m extra per annum into USS - having increased their contributions from 16% to 21.1% of salary from October 2019. This is far more than most other private pension schemes.”

The spokesperson added: “Crucially, members will keep their current benefits, which in monetary terms are more valuable than ever given the increased cost of providing pension promises.

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“Two weeks ago UCU negotiators rejected an offer of lower member contributions. There is still time for the unions to consult their members on it.”

A Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) spokesperson said: “Despite a strong historic investment performance, USS faces lower expected returns in future from all investments - as do all similar pension funds - which means the cost of future pension promises must increase.

“We acknowledge the challenges in levying higher contributions, and have worked hard to accommodate the views of employer and member representatives - but we are in no doubt they are required to meet our legal and regulatory obligations to fund pension promises properly.”

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