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USS proposals for finalising the 2018 valuation

9 May 2019 | last updated: 10 May 2019

Please find below the latest position. For further background, please read the last update issued on 13 March.

  1. Members will recall that under the rule 76 arrangements, USS have said that the cost of providing current benefits will rise to 35.6% in April 2020 if an alternative agreement cannot be reached.

  2. In response to the JEP report, they subsequently proposed contributions of 33.7%, or 29.7% if the employers were willing to agree 'contingent contributions'.

  3. UUK then developed proposals on contingent contributions and also set the proposal in a critique of the valuation assumptions used by USS;

  4. USS has now formally responded to UUK proposing three options for finalising the 2018 valuation; all three options are different, however none propose any benefit changes.

  5. Option 1 - upper bookend. This option reflects the board's position that the cost of unchanged pension provision is 33.7%. This means that based on the existing cost sharing arrangements and no new arrangement emerging from the JNC, employers will pay 23% and members pay 10.7% from next April. There will be no change in benefits. There are no contingent contribution payments required or a mechanism by which they are triggered. This option means there would be no need for member consultation as the increases are less than those consulted on in regards to USS invoking rule 76 and the new contribution rates will remain in place until the next valuation in 2021.

  6. Option 2 - lower bookend with contingent contributions. USS are proposing a contingent contribution mechanism with a starting point of 29.7% employer / member contributions. This option is based on employers and members cost sharing all increases when contingent contributions are triggered. Before any contingent contributions are required members will pay 9.3%. However if they are triggered they can rise by 2% annually on a cost sharing basis up to a maximum total of 6% (2% additional contributions for members). This option would require an agreement of the JNC and a rule change which could take up to June 2020 according to USS. This would mean the scheduled contribution increase in October 2019 and April 2020 - up to 11.4% for members - will come into effect. The next valuation would be 2021.

  7. Option 3 - 2020 valuation. This option appears more aligned to the lower bookend Option 2 in that it has a joint contribution level of 30.7% (9.6% for members, 21.1% for employers) from October 2019. There are no contingent contributions. As proposed this option is based on employers and members cost sharing on the existing 65:35 basis. If the JNC proposes a different cost sharing arrangement, a further three month consultation will be needed. This is likely to mean the implementation of the scheduled rule 76 October 2019 contribution increase; 10.4% for members. This option can replace those scheduled increases, which rise again to 11.4% for members in April 2020.

  8. Option 3 also brings forward the 2021 valuation to March 2020 which means the contributions increases (9.6% members and 21.1% employers) will potentially be in place until that valuation concludes in October 2021. The proposed level of member contribution is another 0.8% on top of what members now pay from April 2019 and is the average contribution members pay in the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

  9. Finally, while the union has made substantial progress in terms of avoiding the very large increases originally proposed by USS of up to 35.6%, none of the three options represent a No Detriment outcome, which is the union's policy position. Also none of the three align with the recommendations or contribution levels proposed by the JEP.

  10. HE sector conference meets on Sunday 28 May as part of the union's annual congress at Harrogate over the bank holiday weekend where a number of decisions will be made. One of those decisions will be when UCU moves to a ballot of members on the final proposals. Members are invited to let their branch know their views on the latest proposals.

Thank you for reading this update. If you want to get in touch or ask a question, hit reply.

Paul Bridge
UCU head of higher education