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USS pension justice - we earned it

UCU Rising: USS pensions justice has prevailed

5 October 2023

USS pensions: justice has prevailed

Today I am very pleased to announce justice has prevailed in our long fight for USS pensions.

The employers' representative body Universities UK (UUK) has agreed to reverse the 35% cut made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and to restore what has been lost.

In the joint statement, UUK and UCU agree to full benefit restoration to pre-April 2022 levels by Monday 1 April 2024, which is worth between £15bn and £17bn, as well as an addition one-off pension payment of around £900m to make up for the benefits that USS members have lost since April 2022.

The agreement also paves the way for new contribution rates to be introduced as soon as January 2024. The USS trustee has estimated that total contribution rates need to be 20.6% for benefits to be restored, and this will likely bring employee contribution rates down from 9.8% to 6.1%, with a decision by the USS trustee expected in November 2023. The trustee has shown it is sustainable to restore benefits and to keep the new contribution rates for at least two pension valuation cycles (six years). UUK and UCU also committed to continuing to work together to ensure the stability of benefits and contributions; this will be done through the stability working group that UCU, UUK and USS trustee jointly sit on.

The agreement is recommended unanimously by UCU's negotiators, and will now be put before UCU's elected representatives on the higher education committee (HEC) who meet on Friday 6 October. If HEC agrees, then a full members' vote will take place to ratify this agreement.

UCU members: you have made history

In 2018, employers attempted to close the defined benefit part of USS pension and to move everyone to defined contribution. They tried to take what you earned and what rightfully belonged to you, thereby removing you and your family's security. The chorus of employers, politicians and commentators told you that this was inevitable. You fought back in huge numbers, and you protected your pension and your retirement.

In 2022, employers forced through completely unnecessary cuts to your USS pension, using a flawed pension valuation conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The same chorus of employers, politicians and commentators told you that this had to happen, and that winning back our pension would be an impossible task. Again, you refused to give in and now look at what you have achieved.

When I stood for election as general secretary, I made it clear that it was only by the whole union pulling together that we would win this USS pensions dispute. After 69 days of strike action, years of campaigning, protesting and lobbying, we have got us to this moment. Today is a historic victory for UCU. It should also be motivation for every single worker in the United Kingdom who has seen their pension slashed.

This is just the start for our union. Today we have pensions justice. But we need to carry on working hard, every day, to deliver justice on pay, working conditions and job security. We will not stop until we create a higher education sector that properly values all its staff and students. 

UCU and proud.

In solidarity

Jo Grady
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 5 October 2023