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Contribution increase: first impact

14 March 2019 | last updated: 15 March 2019

Branches have been sent an update on what's been happening following the recently announced 7% increase in TPS contributions and the first evidence of consequences at the University of Winchester.

In an email sent to branches, UCU head of campaigns Justine Stephens writes:

The recently announced 7% increase in teachers pension scheme (TPS) contributions is unquestionably leading to a squeeze on the post-92 sector. The increase is expected to be met by the employers, who unlike further education (FE) and schools, are not receiving any mitigating payments from the government.

UCU has been clear that we will instigate targeted campaigns at any institution which seeks to use the TPS cuts as an excuse for job cuts and which refuses to work constructively with us to address any problems the TPS increase creates.

You may be aware that the University of Winchester is the first institution to announce job cuts. The university says that the cuts are due to the anticipated increase in employer contributions to TPS, but they also cite 're-balancing' of staffing, losing jobs in non-core areas and areas of low and falling student recruitment. University managers have not provided any evidence to support their claims. UCU suspects that reference to TPS may be a smokescreen for a damaging reduction in the academic offering of the university.

Our latest information is that they are seeking 55 redundancies, which amounts to 13% of the academic and professional services workforce. The university has 7,800 students, the majority of whom are from the region - 38% of graduates stay in the region, and the knock on impact of the university's work on the local economy is £266.6m.

Given the circumstances Winchester is being prioritised. Regional and national teams are already supporting the branch on a consultative ballot which closes on Monday 18 March; the national pensions official has met members and branch officers; the regional team is supporting negotiations; the campaigns team are providing direct support to the branch; and our political team are putting pressure upon the local MP. UCU are also meeting with the other unions to discuss working together on the overall issue of public sector pension costs, and we have raised the issue with the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and the Department of Education.

Please send your messages of support for University of Winchester UCU members here.

Political pressure is being applied both directly with the government and via the Labour front bench who are supportive of our stance. It is clear that while government has decided to provide at least one year of mitigation payments to FE colleges on the basis of the importance of the sector to the government's mission, little thought has been given to the impact of massive cuts in post-92 institutions upon widening participation, given these institutions are key drivers of non-traditional recruitment.

UCU will continue to press the government to accept our case and provide mitigation funding, meanwhile - our industrial aim should be to campaign as hard and as publicly as possible in order to signal to all institutions that they should not seek to balance the books by cutting jobs, attacking contracts or other detriment.

All post-92 branches will receive a briefing on the TPS campaign shortly - the success of the campaign plan will depend upon information from you.

Please let your regional office and the national campaigns team (contactable here) know if institutions raise the issue of TPS at your institution.