Important News – USS Changes Explained

Important News – USS Changes Explained

One of the positives from the recent pensions victory is that joining the USS Pension should be more affordable, notwithstanding that we are still in a cost-of-living crisis. From 1 January, contribution rates should lower for employees from the current 9.8% to 6.1%. This means that a person on £30,000 salary should save £1,110 per year in contributions.

£215 Payback Payment

To qualify for the £215 pension payment, a scheme member must have active service in the scheme before 1 April 2024. Members need to earn £16,125p.a. to get £215 of pension. This will increase with inflation until retirement and be paid each year in retirement. This means the value of the payment for a person aged 50 now, who retires at 66 and claims their pension for 25 years, is around £13,000 if we estimate average inflation at 3%. However, if a person waits until after 31 March 2024 to join the scheme, they will not be entitled to this payment.

Accrual Rate & Inflation Cap

From 1 April 2024, the change in accrual rate from 1/85 to 1/75 will mean that the amount of money going into your pension pot each year will be higher, so your pension will be worth more. Also, the changes to inflation protection from the current max of 2.5% to the soft cap max of 10% means your pension will grow more. The change in threshold for DB/DC means that more money goes to DB meaning members get a better return when they retire.

LUCU Committee

UCU Members Get Results!

UCU Members Get Results!

Image credit Aisling O’Beirn – https://aislingobeirn.com/@aislingbeirn

Congratulations to all our members both locally and nationally who contributed to industrial action, forcing our employers to reverse pensions cuts. Your commitment has not gone unnoticed by other members of staff, who have expressed their thanks. This has been a big win for all university employees who hold USS pensions – but it would not have been achieved without our committed members, both here at Loughborough and across the sector. Go to the USS Modeller to see how much better off you’ll be following the restoration of our benefits. 😊 

Without a committed membership, we have no strength! Our next push is to build on this win by increasing our numbers. So, let’s make a noise about our success! Members talking to colleagues not yet unionised is the most effective way we can recruit. We’d appreciate it if every member would speak to at least three colleagues to encourage them to join us, using this link: join.ucu.org.uk. You can also help spread word of our win and encourage membership by liking and sharing/retweeting these social media posts: Twitter/X and Facebook. The more members we have, the more we can achieve! 

UCU Member Consultation – Recovery of USS Benefits – Please Vote

UCU Member Consultation – Recovery of USS Benefits – Please Vote

This request to vote is from UCU and is separate from the USS member consultation you were recently asked to complete on the USS website.

Following on from last week’s announcement that justice has prevailed in our long fight to win back our USS pensions, the employers’ representative body Universities UK (UUK) has already agreed to reverse the 35% cut made to the guaranteed income you will receive in retirement (i.e. ‘benefit restoration’) and to recover what has been lost (i.e. ‘benefit recovery’).  The agreement with UUK is recommended unanimously by UCU’s USS negotiators and by the Superannuation Working Group (SWG). On Friday 6 October 2023, the elected representatives on UCU’s higher education committee (HEC) agreed to now formally consult you on benefit recovery proposals.  

HEC is recommending that you vote YES (agree) to ACCEPT the benefit recovery proposals.

For your unique personal voting link please refer to the email from UCU sent around 4:30/5pm on Monday 9th October with Subject: IMPORTANT: UCU member consultation on recovery of USS benefits.

This formal consultation opened on Monday 9 October 2023 and will close on Friday 20 October 2023 at 12 noon, and UCU will announce results as soon as practicable. 

Please make sure that you have your say by voting on the USS proposal. 

LUCU Committee

Negotiations with Universities UK (UUK) over the restoration of our USS pension benefits

Negotiations with Universities UK (UUK) over the restoration of our USS pension benefits

On Wednesday 20 September 2023, the Superannuation Working Group (SWG) gave a presentation on negotiations with Universities UK (UUK) over the restoration of our USS pension benefits.

A video presentation by the UCU official responsible for USS, Dooley Harte, was recorded and is available here

The slides from the presentation are available here.

There was also a question and answer session but this was not recorded for confidentiality reasons. Members present used the chat function in Zoom to ask a number of questions. UCU have answered these questions in a document which is available here.

The SWG continues to engage UUK and USS on restoration of pre-2022 benefits, augmentation/recovery and combined contribution rates and further information on these will be issued when we receive those updates.

If you have not yet completed the USS members consultation, please read this article on our website and then complete the consultation before it closes on 24th November.

USS Consultation – how we can act to restore our pensions

USS Consultation – how we can act to restore our pensions

The following article is long, but very important if we are to secure the restoration of our pensions.  We are extremely close to finalising this win, but we are not there yet.  Please read the information below and respond accordingly to the USS member consultation, to ensure the changes we want go ahead. In the red text boxes below, you will find UCU’s suggested considerations when you fill out your own consultation form. Further details on how to complete the USS Members Consultation can also be found towards the bottom of this article.

Additionally, we share details of the response Loughborough University is making to the employer’s consultation

Members’ Consultation

USS has launched a consultation with members about the future of the scheme, and in particular what level of benefits members would like to receive.  It is important that as many members as possible feed their views into this consultation to strengthen our negotiators’ position.

Please note that it is essential for members to respond individually to this consultation, because in previous consultations, where members cut and pasted a set of responses, we know that these were disregarded by USS and UUK. 

Below, we have provided explanations regarding the changes to help you understand the questions and, in white text on red backgrounds, suggestions to help you formulate your own responses. The consultation includes questions on the issues that are highlighted below in bold, and there is an opportunity to make additional comments. There is not a question that asks specifically whether you support a contribution rate of 20.6% versus UCU’s preferred 26% rate.

Please consider recommending a rate above 20.6% in the comments box to help our negotiators gain agreement from Employers to adequately support their employees’ pensions – instead of using the review of USS as a mechanism for reducing their costs.  Employers reducing contribution rates too far dramatically increases the risk of future valuations leading again to benefit cuts, necessitating further industrial action, and repeating the exhausting cycle we have seen in recent years.

Salary threshold increase

You build up benefits in the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Retirement Income Builder, on your salary – up to the salary threshold. If you earn above the salary threshold, you’ll contribute to the defined contribution part of the scheme, the USS Investment Builder too.

From 1 April 2022, the salary threshold was reduced from £59,883.65 to £40,000, and the inflation cap on the annual increases applying to that threshold was changed from 10% to 2.5% (as described below). If the April 2022 changes had not taken place, it is likely that the salary threshold would currently be around £66,400.

At the moment, the salary threshold is £41,004, and it increases every year in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation to a maximum level capped at 2.5%.

It’s proposed that, from 1 April 2024, the salary threshold increases to between £66,400 and £73,040 (the final level to be determined by the rate of CPI inflation to September 2023) and that annual increases continue in line with CPI inflation but to a higher cap of 10%, applied as follows:

  • Where CPI inflation is 5% or less, the increase is matched.
  • Where CPI inflation is more than 5% but less than 15%, the increase will be 5% plus half of the percentage increase above 5%.
  • Where CPI inflation is 15% or more, the increase applied shall be 10%.

This change would broadly put the salary threshold at the level it would have been were it not for the 1 April 2022 change, and would mean that a greater proportion of benefits is built up in the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Investment Retirement Income Builder, for members whose salary is higher than the current salary threshold. This also means that these members would build up less savings in the defined contribution part of the scheme, the USS Investment Builder. If a member’s salary is below the current salary threshold, the increase to the salary threshold will not impact that member’s benefits.

Please consider expressing support for an increase to the salary threshold at the level it would have been were it not for the 1 April 2022 pension cuts, and expressing support for a return to a 10% inflation cap in order to protect the value of our pensions.

Accrual rate increase

In the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Retirement Income Builder, you build up benefits at a rate of 1/85 of salary each year (up to the salary threshold) and 3/85 of salary as a lump sum received on retirement.

It’s proposed that, for benefits built up from 1 April 2024, the accrual rate will increase to 1/75 of salary and 3/75 of salary for the lump sum.

This change would re-introduce the accrual rate that was in place before 1 April 2022, and would mean that a higher rate of benefits would be built up in the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Investment Builder, than now.

Please consider expressing support for increasing the accrual rate to 1/75th of salary and 3/75th of salary for the lump sum.

Higher cap on future pension increases

In the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Retirement Income Builder, the benefits you build up each year are “banked” and increased before and after retirement in line with Consumer Price index (CPI) inflation subject to a cap of 2.5% (deferred to 1 April 2026 but applying to benefits built up from 1 April 2022).

It’s proposed that the cap increases to a maximum of 10%, to be applied as follows to benefits built up from 1 April 2022:

  • Where CPI inflation is 5% or less, the increase is matched.
  • Where CPI inflation is more than 5% but less than 15%, the increase will be 5% plus half of the percentage increase above 5%.
  • Where CPI inflation is 15% or more, the increase applied shall be 10%.

This change would re-introduce the cap on increases that was in place before 1 April 2022, and would mean that the more benefits built up in the defined benefit part of the scheme, the USS Retirement Income Builder, the higher the rate of inflation protection applied to them would be, if inflation is higher than 2.5%.

Please consider expressingsupport for a return to the cap on increases that was in place before 1 April 2022, to a maximum of 10%, in order to maximise the protection to our pension values.

Contributions above the salary threshold to the defined contribution (DC) part of the scheme, the USS Investment Builder

Currently, 20% of your salary above the salary threshold (8% from your contribution above the salary threshold and 12% from your employer) is paid in to the defined contribution part of the scheme, your USS Investment Builder.

Whilst it is proposed that the overall 20% of salary above the salary threshold to the USS Investment Builder remains unchanged, the JNC will confirm, later in the year, whether the proposed share of member and employer contributions within that 20% will change. The JNC will determine this share of contributions into the DC part of the scheme, the USS Investment Builder based upon the overall rate determined by the Trustee for the benefits proposed.

Please consider expressing support for employers’ continuing to payat least the current 12% rate of contributions, rather than reducing their contribution rate in favour of members paying a greater percentage into the DC part of USS.

Completing the USS Member Consultation

You may complete the USS members consultation form here: Log in – Member – USS Consultation 2023. To access the form, you will need you USS member number and your national insurance number. This consultation closes on 24th November. 

Employers’ Consultation

We are pleased to report that branch officers had two meetings with senior managers to discuss their response to the USS Employer Consultation prior to producing the statement below.  They have agreed to share it with UCU members in the interest of transparency.

Please find below the statement that Loughborough University has sent to USS as part of the Employers’ Consultation, where they provide their views on a resolution to the pension dispute. 

We are broadly supportive of the assumptions in the valuation but would welcome further consideration of specific elements. Whilst the valuation, and likely outcomes, are positive, on-going work streams and the subsequent Investment strategy review may potentially be limited by the decisions made at this stage, and we would therefore like to see prudence in utilisation of the surplus in order to maintain headroom for future decisions. 

We support the return to pre-April 22 benefits, with contributions of 14.5% and 6.1% for employers and employees, respectively. We would support the surplus being used to provide additional stability for future valuations and contribution rates – for clarity, we mean we do not support further contribution rate reductions at this stage given there is still medium-term uncertainty. However, whilst we do not support a rate above 20.6% at this stage, we would not assume that any changes introduced by the on-going stability workstream would be funded by immediate recourse to benefit reductions i.e. we would consider some increase in rate, ahead of benefit reduction, should clear stability measures be needed and agreed. 

We would support augmentation of benefits if these can be applied equitably and simply, and understand actuarial work has been carried out to cost options in this space. We would welcome swift resolution of the 2022 triennial valuation process to reduce contributions as early as possible for colleagues and institutions, with January 2024 being theoretically achievable, this taking priority over augmentation if necessary. 

The enhanced covenant support measures can have a significant impact on employers, and we would welcome consideration on how this could be mitigated in light of this positive valuation. For example, what would the impact be of giving more headroom in the debt-monitoring/pari-passu metrics? 

We are unclear why the confidence level has reduced from the level in the 2020 valuation, which was described as being the limit of regulatory compliance. Nevertheless, we see this as a positive and reasonable change that the level has reduced to 70%/69%. We note this is still higher than that used in the 2017 valuation. 

Whilst we welcome the impact of the self-sufficiency measure being reviewed as part of the stability workstream, we question whether the definition of self-sufficiency — particularly the requirement to permanently maintain a high funding ratio — is fully explained and justified and would suggest that UUK requests modelling which explores the impact of this condition (especially the extent to which it drives the relationship between gilt rates and the surplus/deficit).

LUCU welcomes this response from Loughborough. It aligns with the important principles that our UCU pension negotiators are arguing for on our behalf: the need for the pension scheme to move away from excessive prudence in its valuation methodology, a return to pre-2022 benefits, the restoration of benefits lost since 2022, and as early as practicable.

However, there is one important area where, following guidance from our USS pension negotiators, we depart from management’s response, and this concerns the level of contribution rates. While Loughborough management remains open to higher contribution rates should they be needed to secure fair pensions, they remain unconvinced that the future risk of a deficit means that higher contributions from employers are needed at this time. Consequently, they favour a total contribution rate of 20.6%. UCU negotiators are clear that a 20.6% contribution rate risks the scheme falling into deficit within c. 3 years, and USS agrees with this. For this reason, UCU negotiators want employers to commit to a higher contribution rate of 26%.

Although Loughborough management would not choose to prioritise benefit reduction over making higher contributions should a deficit arise, it is important for members to consider that there are hard-line VCs who may adopt this position if presented with a pension deficit.  An overall contribution rate of 26% will ensure that the pension benefits we enjoyed before the cuts in 2022 can be restored and can be sustained in the longer term. Tremendous progress has been made on the pensions’ front thanks to members’ action, but we still don’t have a complete ‘win’ yet. We need to give our negotiators the backing to ask for higher contribution rates in order to ensure the sustainability of our pensions.  

Even in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, we urge members to support the higher rate of contribution when they respond to the USS consultation: this will help avoid the need to re-fight the same battles to protect the value of our pensions in just a few years’ time.  Though we too would be paying more into our pensions if the contribution rate is set at 26%, we would still be paying less into our pensions than we do currently and for much better benefits. 

Please feel free to share this communication with your colleagues who are not members of UCU, because it is vital that all members of USS are informed about the consultation and the importance of engaging with it.

Thank you,

LUCU Committee

Tripartite statement regarding industrial disputes

Tripartite statement regarding industrial disputes

24 March 2023

Loughborough University, Loughborough UCU and Loughborough Students’ Union have been meeting regularly during the current industrial disputes to explore what is at issue and to consider how progress might be made.

While our perspectives are diverse, the collaborative way of working that we have developed has enabled us to address effectively and constructively those issues which have a local dimension. We have also discussed what is at stake nationally.

Our position on the several strands of the disputes is summarised here:

  • PensionsWe believe that an evidence-based valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) should be completed as soon as possible. This assessment of the scheme’s assets and liabilities, and its future performance, should be ‘moderately prudent’. Any positive adjustments resulting from this new valuation should prioritise the improvement of members’ benefits over reductions to employer /employee contribution rates from their current levels. We welcome the recent developments in relation to this.
  • Pay. We acknowledge that this is the most challenging of the current issues. The regulated undergraduate student fee that is universities’ most significant income stream has barely changed in a decade – and it remains frozen during this period of high inflation when institutions’ costs, such as energy, have increased sharply. The income of university staff has lagged similarly in this time, with a series of below-inflation pay awards – and current high prices are undoubtedly having a significant impact on staff, too. While the 2023 pay award has been implemented, we remain mindful of staff’s situation. We also join other voices in encouraging a longer-term review of the university funding model (a review that should be creative and not focus only on raising students’ fees).
  • Working conditions (pay inequality, casualisation, workload)We recognise that addressing these questions is crucial to the well-being and sustainability of the sector. Universities must offer a fair, decent and healthy working environment to all. At Loughborough, while further work remains to be done, good progress is being made on these fronts – and we encourage employers and unions at all HE institutions to tackle pay gaps, casualised contracts and high workloads in a similar spirit of partnership.

We do not underestimate the complexities of these multiple issues and the challenges involved in finding fair outcomes. However, it is crucial that lasting resolutions are achieved, so as to prevent further disruption to the lives of both staff and students.

We strongly encourage all those involved in the disputes to continue working toward our shared goal: student and staff satisfaction in a Higher Education sector fit for everyone.

Loughborough University
Loughborough UCU
Loughborough Students’ Union  

Urgent Survey on UCU Rising Disputes

Urgent Survey on UCU Rising Disputes

We have just received word from National UCU that they will be sending all members a survey this afternoon to ask for views on the proposals to settle the disputes with UCEA and UUK. We are told that the survey will close in approximately 48 hours, on Friday 17th March. We recommend completing the survey before Friday as no end time was stated.

For more information on the proposals please see here: www.ucu.org.uk/12834

If you have not received your ballot within the next hour, first search ‘yoursay’ in your inbox and junk and if you still cannot find the email, please contact UCU here.

LUCU Committee

UCU Rising Picket Dates and More

UCU Rising Picket Dates and More

Firstly, thanks to all those who attended our picket on the 1st February. It was great to see so many people out in support of the UCU Rising dispute. Following on from the picket we held a productive meeting to plan the rest of our action where many members contributed to an engaging discussion. It was really inspiring to see so many members getting involved and volunteering to take actions. A summary of the outcomes agreed by members at the meeting is below.

Targeted Picketing

It was agreed that we would target picketing to 6 days (one per week of the strike action), please attend as many of these pickets as you can. As always friends, family and supporters are more than welcome on our pickets:

Strike DayPicket TimePicket Location
Thurs 9th Feb8:30-10:30Shirley Pearce Pedestrian Crossing
Thurs 16th Feb8:30-10:30Shirley Pearce Pedestrian Crossing
Wed 22nd Feb11:30-14:00Holywell Gate
Wed 1st March11:30-14:00Holywell Gate
Thurs 16th March8:30-10:30Main Gate
Mon 20th March8:30-10:30Main Gate

London picket details will be communicated in due course.

Although we are only picketing on the above dates, please remember that the following dates are also strike days.

February: Fri 10th, Tues 14th, Wed 15th, Tues 21st, Thurs 23rd, Mon 27th & Tues 28th.

March: Thurs 2nd, Fri 17th, Tues 21st & Wed 22nd.

Teach Outs

We have also had several people volunteer to host Teach Out sessions. We hope these sessions will be hybrid meetings and will confirm details nearer the time. Anyone else interested in hosting a teach out session on any of the strike days please get in touch with the branch. Presently this is our plan:

  1. 22nd Feb at 2:30pm at the LSU (tbc) – Two members will host a teach out on the subject of Unions and the Media.
  2. 16th March at 11am at Charnwood Arts (tbc) – A member will host a teach out on Colonialism and Anti-racism – followed by a members meeting.

Resources for Staff

Please regularly check our website for updated versions of strike resources for staff such as out of office messages, email templates you can send to students or use on learn and slides for students.

LUCU Committee

London Campus Picket

*** Times to be confirmed***

Lboro UCU London members and supporters, please join us on the picket line at the main entrance of Lboro London campus on Wed 1st Feb to fight for what we deserve. Contact Loughborough London Rep, Matt Vidal for times. The longer the picket line, the shorter the dispute. #ucuRISING #LboroFamily

Lboro Campus Picket

Lboro UCU members and supporters, please join us on the picket line at the main gate of Lboro campus from 8:30am – 10am on Wed 1st Feb to fight for what we deserve. The longer the picket line, the shorter the dispute. #ucuRISING #LboroFamily