25th October 2013
USS and the Newsnight 'revelations'
Members may have seen the shoddy hatchet job on our USS pension scheme on Newsnight last night, repeated on the BBC website and then Radio 4 this morning, absurdly claiming that student fees might have to go up £1000 to fund the deficit. Yet the USS annual members report on which the story was based (issued two weeks ago) shows that the deficit has in fact sharply fallen over the previous year. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the fake 'revelations' are timed to undermine support for our strike next week.
So what is the reality?
- The scheme was officially 92% funded in March 2011, 77% funded in March 2012, 77% in March 2013, and 83% funded June 2013. This corresponds to an official deficit of £2.9bn in 2011 rocketing up to £11.5 billion by March 2013 but dropping to £7.9 billion just three months later.
- This incredible volatility gives a clue to the underlying problem with the official figures. Pension schemes are very long term investments and should be judged on that basis whilst the law requires that they are judged on short term criteria. The huge pension fund deficits across the country reported in the 2000's, including the USS one, are as phoney as the huge surpluses in the 1980's. USS is in good health based on real world criteria: its income exceeds expenditure on a long term sustainable basis.
- Pensions are simply deferred pay. And the proportion of University sector spending which goes on staff, including pensions, has in fact been in continual decline. It was roughly 65% when fees paid by home students were zero and has gone down to about 55% (54% in Sheffield) now fees are £9,000. If Newsnight really wanted to locate the reason for rocketing student fees they would need to look elsewhere than staff pay and pensions.
- Britain has one of the worst records in Europe in pensioner poverty, corresponding to our lead in inequality. There are 20,000 to 30,000 'excess deaths' of elderly people in winter every year in Britain - dying of cold, hunger and diseases contingent on them. This is the real pensions scandal.
For a much more in depth explanation of the USS 'deficits' please see a letter to the THE from this same scare-story season last year, 'Accounting tricks and pension deficits'.
13th September 2012
USS Special Sector Conference
Pablo Stern, Hamish Cunningham and Gill Brown attended this Conference on behalf of the Branch and report the following:
Conference re-affirms the HESC policy of May 2011 to:
- de-risk USS through the introduction of an acceptable CARE scheme for new entrants;
- close the gap between the value of the CARE and final salary sections by negotiating improvements to the CARE scheme which would secure broad comparability with TPS, including the removal of inflation caps; and
- protect the final salary pensions of existing members.
Conference believes that it is a priority to resume negotiations in order to achieve these objectives, and therefore authorize HEC to:
- suspend industrial action if the employers agree to negotiate on the above agenda within an acceptable time scale; and;
- maintain this suspension while serious and constructive negotiations are taking place and an acceptable settlement might be reached by early 2013
USS Industrial Action suspended. But keep your work life balance.
All members have received an email from UCU centrally to advise you that the UCU conference on 31st January decided to suspend our industrial action over USS. This is to allow negotiations to proceed with the employers.
The position put forward from our branch (and many others) that we should not suspend the action was unfortunately lost, so we will almost certainly not be taking action over the next few months, when our action would have had most impact.
Nevertheless we are pleased to report that the conference tightened considerably the basis on which talks were to proceed. The agreed amendments mandated negotiators:
- “Not to compromise on our rejection of an inflation cap to revaluation and to insist that conditions of agreement are not worse than those agreed for TPS”;
- To “be prepared to respond quickly and decisively if the review does not deliver improvements for our members in a timely manner”.
- To “agree a timetable where negotiations on these core issues are completed prior to the UCU conference in June 2012.”
- To exclude Andrew Cubie (the 'independent' chair) from future negotiations
NB Please note though that although our formal 'Work to Contract' action has ceased the efforts to control workload will continue and the gains will remain. A number of members have commented on how the work to contract has helped them to adjust working patterns, and these should be maintained. You should still work reasonable hours, and where relevant use the Workload Allocation Frameworks to ensure workload is reasonable and properly managed.
USPS Pension Scheme now slashed
You will probably be aware that as of 1 December the University has imposed the Cash Balance 'flexible' pension scheme on our colleagues in grades 1-5.
- The new pension scheme is worth under half of the old scheme on a like for like basis, and even with the separate State Second Pension on top (paid for separately) their future pension accrual will be roughly two-thirds what they were getting (and what we get in USS). For a straightforward guide see 'What Cash Balance is really worth'.
- This is entirely unnecessary. If the University had put these staff into USS instead (as they were invited to do by USS) the total cost (and risk) would only be 18% of the University's total pension bill. The University will take 82% of the cost and risk for grades 6+, but not the 18% for the 'second class staff' in grades 1-5.
- The new scheme could smooth the way for privatising our services, and management has refused to reject that as a key driver.
- A UEB member put their position simply: "Why should we take a risk that we don't have to?". You might think fairness and equity, treating staff well, building the university community, and behaving as a responsible civic university would all count as reasons.
- It is ironic that the University has just been named University of the Year by THE for "a strategy based on its values and rooted in its founding principles" and the institution's "determination and grit" in focusing on its local community. In all modesty the Vice Chancellor should return the prize. Gratuitously increasing inequality and ramping up poverty for working class pensioners hardly sits well with these fine words.
SUCU has vigorously supported Unite and Unison in opposing this scheme, and the vocal support of SUCU members has been greatly appreciated by our lower paid colleagues.
We would urge you to:
- Write to the VC expressing your concerns (and copy us in at
if possible) at
or Keith Burnett, The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN
- Give full support to your lower paid colleagues in any action they take in opposing this scheme, including industrial action if they have to resort to that.
From Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary:
I’m writing to let you know that UCU members have voted to take industrial action in defence of the USS pension scheme.
The USS ballot result is as follows:
Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of a strike?
YES: 12,510 (76.69%)
NO: 3,802 (23.31%)
Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?
YES: 9,494 (58.06%)
NO: 6,857 (41.94%)
The turnout at 42% is up substantially from the last ballot. That is in spite of the vote taking place over the summer and I would like to thank you for your support of the union.
You can read our press release here: www.ucu.org.uk/5736
I hope that the employers will take a message from this result and now resume negotiations with us. But we know that we can’t count on that.
The union is now putting in place a sustained programme of escalating action short of a strike to begin on or around 10 October. We may call one day strikes too as part of the campaign to defend pensions. Both the national union and your branch will provide detailed advice about what this entails over the next couple of weeks. Our aim is simple: to persuade the employers to resume negotiations and to secure an agreement which protects both our members and our fund.
Thank you again for your support. I will be in touch again very soon.
UCU general secretary
There was a well attended General Meeting last Thursday 23rd to discuss pensions. We had a very positive debate around strike action and the options for action short of a strike, and this will be fed back to UCU nationally.
UCU is strongly urging you to vote 'yes' to strike action and to action short of a strike. But whatever you decide please do vote, a good turnout is essential.
By the way a few members have queried the size of the example figures given for the 'new member' in the ballot insert. These are surprisingly large as they use projected values in 35 years. The important point is the proportion of pension that is lost.
Pensions Strikes on Thursday 30 June
You will know that our UCU colleagues at Hallam and Sheffield College are on strike on Thursday along with school teachers and civil servants. All their pensions are also under attack as the government attempts to make inequality and pensioner poverty worse across the board.
There is a rally at the Peace Gardens at 12:00 and a march to Barkers Pool (hopefully the long way round) for 13:00. If at all possible please do come to show your support - we will be there with the branch banner of course.
Management's Email - some facts
Management's email last week on the USS ballot was skewed and remarkably short on facts. You may be aware that:
- The USS changes have not been 'agreed' in any meaningful sense. The employee representatives were outvoted at both JNC meetings by the use of the 'neutral' chair's vote, for the first time since USS was founded.
- Last year the negotiations resulted in an agreed solution, and the employers then rejected their own negotiators' recommendation. This dispute stems entirely from the employers' greed.
- The employers refused a ballot of USS members, but undertook instead an entirely one-sided 'consultation' which put only the employers side. The turnout was not surprisingly poor, and USS have not released the full results. We understand however that they were overwhelmingly negative.
- The UCU indicative online ballot result was far larger and much more representative than the USS feedback, and was again overwhelmingly hostile to the employers' proposals. These figures are not included in management's email.
- USS is not in deficit. The purpose of the changes is to create a big surplus which can be used reduce the employers' contributions - they want it down from 16% to 10% of salary.
- Your strong support and our industrial action have forced some concessions from the employers, but the proposals are still grossly unfair, and will also inevitably lead to the current members being forced onto the far worse conditions down the line.
UCU AGM Motion on USPS
Opposition to Degradation of the USPS Pension Scheme
This Branch notes:
- That University Council decided, on UEB’s recommendation, to impose a ‘Cash Balance’ pension scheme for USPS, which is for staff in grades 1 to 5.
- That this scheme will radically reduce the pensions of future staff, and future accrual for current staff.
- That the University of Sheffield is in a relatively healthy financial position but is leading the way in UK HE in enforcing such pension cuts.
- That JUCC (the joint trades unions) has proposed alternatives that would involve little change to the costs and risks for the University, and that these proposals were rejected without meaningful discussion.
- That the University will be offering the worst pensions to lower paid staff in the state education sector in Sheffield.
- That our colleagues in Unite and Unison are taking strike action on 3rd and 10th June in opposition to this attack on their conditions.
This Branch believes:
- That everyone deserves a decent pension.
- That there should be equitable treatment of all staff, and in particular that it is iniquitous for the lower paid staff to have worse pensions as a proportion of their incomes than higher paid staff.
- That Sheffield is a relatively poor and divided city, with working class pensioners being the poorest section within that, and that management’s actions will directly contribute to making this worse.
This Branch will:
- Continue to give full support to our colleagues in Unison and Unite in their opposition to the cutting of their pensions.
- Advise UCU members to give their maximum support within the law to colleagues taking industrial action.
Proposed: SUCU Branch Committee
Passed nem con
For Grades 6+
If you are on grade 6 or above and are in the local USPS scheme (not USS) you will have received further information from the University about your move to USS, which will probably happen on 1 June. There was a meeting hosted by HR and Finance on Monday 11 April to explain the situation and address concerns.
In contrast to the discussions around the USPS proposals for grades 1-5, the negotiations for grades 6+ have been constructive and open and we believe that this is a fair deal for members. A key point is the maintenance of the final salary link for your USPS deferred pension.
There is one rider to this though: there are individuals who could suffer detriment if they have to retire due to ill health. We have pressed in negotiations for a commitment to 'no detriment' for ill health retirement but the University has unfortunately explicitly refused this, in spite of the tiny numbers likely to be affected.
This is an overview of the situation if you have to retire early due to ill health:
- Your service in USPS counts towards the qualifying period for ill health ('incapacity') retirement in USS
- The current USS provision is good. Click here for details. For instance for full ill health retirement your pension is paid as if you had paid into USS until 65. We are not aware of any current proposals to change this provision.
- Your deferred USPS pension would be treated as if you had simply retired early, so it is abated (cut) by 6% for each year before your normal retirement age. However there is a '20 year rule' which can reduce that abatement in particular circumstances.
Please contact the Pensions Office at
if you are concerned and/or would like an individual assessment of the financial effects, particularly if you think you may be obliged to retire due to ill health in the near future.
On Friday [8-April, below] we rushed out an email to you on the proposals for the USPS pension scheme (which we only received late on Thursday), which were discussed at Council on Monday. Thank you to those of you who contacted the VC or UEB and Council members - we all had very little time.
Council discussed the proposals and decided that further reflection and discussion was needed. A special meeting of Council will now be arranged 'as soon as practicable' with the aim of reaching a final decision on the proposals at that point. The union side was not allowed to address Council, but Council did get a copy of the slides of our presentation to UEB. It is unclear at this point if the staff side will be allowed to present our case and the alternatives to the special Council meeting. We will keep you posted.
USPS Pre-Council Update
We are writing to you about the final proposals going to Council on Monday 11 April, ratified by UEB, which would halve the pensions of staff on grades 1-5. This is a scandalous situation which is entirely the choice of this University's senior management.
This does not directly affect UCU members but the SUCU Committee and previous UCU branch meetings have strongly supported our lower paid colleagues in this. Is slashing the pensions of the low paid staff really part of this University's 'Mission, Vision and Identity'?
We will be discussing this at the next SUCU branch meeting, but in the meantime we urge you to read the information below and:
- Urgently write to the VC expressing your views, and other members of Council and UEB as you wish.
- Give your lower paid colleagues your maximum support, particularly in the future if they are forced to take industrial action to defend their pensions.
- This is a deliberate and gratuitous attack on our colleagues. There will be little or no cost saving to the University and little effect on overall risk as the sums involved are a small fraction of the overall University pension costs, let alone the University's budget.
- Keeping the 'cash balance' proposals in the face of the evidence looks very like a face saving exercise. The University has spent a great deal of time and money on this review.
- If these proposals are passed then the Vice Chancellor's attempts at holding the University community together are lost. If senior management will slash the pensions of the lowest paid staff what would they not stoop to? Whose conditions could be regarded as safe? Who could have any confidence in such a body if it shows such bullying and hypocrisy?
- The consultation process has been grudging, with the key document holding the source analysis and data being withheld from union reps until 4 March. This is not surprising as it is very helpful to our case.
- At no point does the bowdlerised information to staff or the paper to Council plainly indicate what future pensions would be worth compared to current USPS, surely the most important single factor. Future pensions would be halved for a similar employee contribution, unless high inflation makes them even worse, on the University's own figures.
- The union side is proposing that all staff have the same pension scheme, USS. This is the best way of keeping parity and fairness, and the cost is minimal. The financial risks of USS have been absurdly exaggerated in order to rule it out for lower grade staff. It is a fact that even the union's proposals in the current USS dispute involve zero increase in employer contributions.
- The only objection at UEB to the union's case was that a cash balance pension would be 'more portable'. It would certainly be much smaller and lighter, and if the accrued benefits were actually transferred they would be 'abated' even further. A portable pittance.
Click here for the union side presentation to UEB on 5 April.
Click here for the Joint Union letter to Council.
The University Proposals:
Click here for the University's paper on USPS for Council on 11 April.
The report includes the following:
- Recommends the adoption of the cash balance scheme as originally offered but with some higher contribution rates and a 5% inflation cap. The new scheme would start on 1 July 2011 for new members and the current scheme closed on 1 September 2011.
- The effect on future pensions is glossed over. But the unions' presentation to UEB on Tuesday clearly spelt out, using Mercer's (the University's consultants) figures, that the effect would be to halve the pensions of grades 1-5 for a similar employee contribution. So this is a fully conscious decision of the University senior management.
- The cost is stated as being up to £5.3M (sect 1.11). This is £0.5M more than putting all existing and expected new staff into USS, which is the unions' proposal. This also was spelt out to UEB, again using Mercer's figures.
- Other institutional risks, again as presented by the unions to UEB, are ignored, eg the damage to staff morale, the loss of the 'University community', the reputational damage to the institution in the city and so on.
- The consultation with individual members of staff indicated an overwhelming rejection of the cash balance proposals.
- The paper to Council explicitly states that industrial action may ensue. (1.7)
- The paper also confirms that staff on grades 6+ will be moved to USS, probably on 1 June. There is no guarantee at this point that they will not be disadvantaged if they need to take early retirement due to ill health. This is an issue which the joint unions are tackling.
Discussions continue with the University about their proposals for the local USPS pension scheme, ie NOT the USS scheme.
1. Grades 6+ Members of USPS
Apologies for the shortage of information on this in the past few weeks - the situation has been quite fluid and is only now becoming resolved. It seems now that USS will indeed accept all current members of USPS who are in grade 6 or above. As already advised this would require a rule change in USPS to enable this for some members, so it should be taking place in the next couple of months. HR will be sending you a detailed letter explaining the definite situation for you, so this is just a note to keep you updated. Some points:
- Your accrued years in USPS will stay in USPS by default, but importantly the University has agreed that there will be a protection of your final salary link for your deferred USPS pension. In other words the pension from your accrued years in USPS will be calculated on your final salary at the University not on your salary at the point at which you leave USPS.
- If you wish you could transfer your USPS accrued pension into USS, but for most people it would not be advantageous.
- For retirement due to ill health your USPS years count towards the qualifying period in USS. In practice this means you will be better off with the transfer to USS, in the hopefully very unlikely event that you do need this benefit.
We would stress that this is just a summary to keep you informed, and the note from HR will be authoritative and in far more depth. The University Pensions Office will then help you with detailed figures if you need that.
2. Pensions for Grades 1-5
There have been intensive negotiations with management and frank exchanges of views regarding the future pensions provision for grades 1-5.
The University has made some significant concessions on the proposed Cash Balance scheme, but these reduce the disadvantage rather than making it a good scheme. The trades unions asked for some other modelling of the proposed scheme which show bad case scenarios rather than the best case one, and these broadly confirm the accuracy of the unions' statistics and modeller.
One issue that has only recently become clear is what happens in April 2012 when auto-enrolment starts (ie the default is to be in the pension scheme rather than out of it). Significant numbers will join at that point and incredibly the University wanted the scheme members to pay the University's share of the cost of these extra members, ie they wanted no extra cost to the University when the number of members goes up.
That is one of the two main reasons behind their proposal to cut lower paid staff's pensions. The other is that the University wants to reduce its investment risk, ie getting lower returns, and wants the scheme members to pay the full cost of that. Both of these aspects involve the University dodging its responsibilities and squeezing the lowest paid to do so. This is against any notion of natural justice as well as the University's proclaimed ethics. It is also in sharp contrast to their fair and reasonable approach in the discussions around the pensions for grades 6+, and indeed on other important issues.
The Trades Unions have an alternative proposal which we wish to explain to Council and UEB: That all University staff should be in USS. Then there would be genuine parity between staff. The University's financial risks would be managed though not eliminated, but there would be a sharp reduction in the 'soft' risks of loss of staff loyalty and commitment, loss of University cohesion, and reputational damage. It would cost the University only £0.5M pa, with another expected £0.9M in April for the extra staff joiners. And note the University has made a £21M unexpected surplus in the six months to Jan '11.
NB The joint unions produced a very helpful leaflet a couple of weeks ago summarising the USPS proposals. The University's recently proposed increase in the inflation cap to 5% means the pension quoted in 'The Result' would not be as bad as stated there. Instead it would be roughly £4,000 in the example, or about the equivalent of 1/200 of salary per year worked (instead of 1/80th now). The 'best case inflation scenario' remains the same though, with a halved pension.
Do please note that this message is an update 'as of now'. The Joint Union Committee very much hope that UEB and Council will think again and allow open discussions on the way forward.
USS Industrial Action FAQs
What action will we be taking?
The plan is that unless the employers make serious concessions then all the pre-92 universities who voted for action, including all the Russell Group universities, will be taking two days strike action. English universities' first strike day will be Tuesday 22nd March.
Hopefully strike action will not be necessary, but if it is needed it is vital that it is well supported. You will be taking action to defend the pensions of future employees as well as yourself.
Who should be involved in the action?
All members of UCU, as all members could be affected by the changes in USS whether or not they are actually members of USS currently.
What were the ballot results?
These are available in full from the UCU website, at www.ucu.org.uk/heballots2011. The results for the University of Sheffield in the pensions ballot was 58.7% in favour of strike action, and 71.8% in favour of action short of a strike. The national results were 64.5% and 82.2% respectively.
Could the dispute have been avoided?
Yes, an agreement was reached between UCU and the employers' negotiators last July which would have satisfied the stated requirements of both sides. However the full employers forum rejected the agreement. It appears they have a hidden agenda.
Was the ballot legal?
Absolutely. Unfortunately the ballot period was much shorter than it should have been due some employers, including ours, raising petty technical objections, eg the name of a department or job role. A ruling last week by the Court of Appeal (NURMT v Serco & combined cases) means that such flagrant misuse of the law to deliberately block a democratic vote by union members will now be no longer legal. It is shameful that our University chose to take this route.
Are the post-92 institutions involved, such as Sheffield Hallam?
They are having a separate ballot over their 'TPS' pension scheme, which is also under attack. If they vote in favour of action, which is likely, UCU will consider how best to co-ordinate the actions nationally.
What about the ballot on job protection and pay?
That was a national ballot, with 52.6% in favour of strike action and 73.5% in favour of action short of a strike. UCU is deciding how to take this dispute forward. Although the issues are not the same it is clear that the attack on pensions and pay and the refusal to agree a job protection framework are all part of the same attempt by the employers to drive down staff costs, apart from the salaries of VCs and top managers of course.
The University’s Mission: To Increase Pensioner Poverty
(From the Spring 2011 SUCU Bulletin)
Britain is top of the charts in Western Europe for both inequality and pensioner poverty. Official stats indicate that on average 25,000 elderly people die of cold and malnutrition in this country in a normal winter. The response of government, industry and now Universities to this scandal is to cut pensions even more. A particularly insidious trend is the imposition of inflation caps, which mean high inflation eats away at pensions until a decent pension becomes a pittance. The proposals for both USS and USPS include caps.
Most UCU members are in the national USS pension scheme, and some of you will have come to the Emergency General Meeting on 27th January to hear the latest news. Briefly:
31,000 responded to the USS ballot, with 96% against the proposals. Only 5,000 responded to USS’s consultation and it seems they were also overwhelmingly against, though USS has not released any data officially. In any event the USS Consultation Working Group recommended:
- Improve (eg 10%) or remove inflation caps.
- Extend the gap in service allowed before being forced off the final salary scheme, from 6 to 24-30 months.
- Allow staff in other associated final salary schemes (eg USPS?) to still transfer to the final salary scheme for another 24 months.
- References to the CPI (Consumer Price Index) to be removed – this is the lower value preferred by government.
The Working Group recommended no changes to the employers’ proposals on:
- Normal Retirement Age
- Redundancy provision
- Career Average (CARE) at 1/80th for new joiners. With two tier schemes employers invariably force everyone onto the inferior scheme within a few years, so this probably means you.
By the time you read this the employers may have responded, but it is clear that the fundamentals of the proposals will be unacceptable even if they accept the recommendations. You will probably now have got a ballot from UCU asking for your support for industrial action. The SUCU Emergency General Meeting on the 27th January passed a motion urging all members to vote in favour of action. It is vital that our negotiators have a strong vote of confidence;
PLEASE VOTE YES TO ACTION
It is worth stressing that this whole conflict was completely avoidable. A compromise had been agreed between UCU and the employers’ lead negotiator, but the employers themselves then rejected it. Our case may be just but that’s not enough: action will likely be needed for justice to prevail.
Which brings us onto the USPS scheme, run by the University of Sheffield itself for mainly lower grade staff. The University plans to cut their pensions accrued from 2011 by two-thirds or more, depending on inflation. The current average pension paid by USPS is under £3,000 a year, but the University seems to think this is far too much.
UCU, Unison and Unite have a modeller on our websites which uses real inflation and annuity rates and current values so people can see the effect of the University’s proposals in real terms. If someone had been on the University’s proposed scheme for the last 40 years and was retiring now their pension would be one eighth of their salary as a reward for their loyalty, instead of one half of salary with the current scheme. Seriously. It is hard to understand how our colleagues in HR, Finance and UEB could have put forward such an appalling proposal.
The situation for members of USPS in grades 6 and above (some of whom are in UCU) is still not certain, but the proposals as they stand would exclude them from USPS and mean a transfer to USS. The devil is in the detail of course and discussions continue on this.
At the time of writing it is looking possible that under the threat of industrial action by the Unison and Unite unions the implementation, planned for April, will be delayed to allow proper negotiations to take place and hopefully reasonable proposals to emerge. However if this doesn’t happen and there is industrial action UCU will be urging its members to show maximum solidarity.
27th January EGM USS Pensions Update
Real Terms USPS [NB NOT USS] Modeller showing massive pension cuts
The AgeUK website is good on pensioner poverty
On the 11th November Alan Carr from UCU HQ was the guest speaker at an Open Meeting attended by over 220 people. Alan spoke about the need for Unity and Strength in this crisis and gave attendees a brief summary of the proposal and breakdown to negotiations. This summary can be ready in detail by using the Powerpoint link below.
Alan encouraged Members and Non-members to take action by:
Meanwhile, USS and UK pension schemes are moving back to surplus
According to a recent report from the Pension Protection Fund, UK pension schemes, including USS, are moving back into healthy surplus, giving the lie to employers' claims that the scheme desperately needs their reforms. The report revealed that the aggregate balance of 6,653 UK defined benefit pension schemes, including USS, had moved from a £20.4 billion deficit at the end of September to a £13.5 billion surplus at 31 October. The rise is chiefly due to the recovery of equity markets. USS accounts reveal that the value of the fund increased by £8.5 billion in the last financial year. As a result of this continuing improvement, USS is now heading back into surplus and is likely to reach this by the time of the 2011 valuation. This news further undermines the employers' case for pressing the need for their reform package and makes it imperative that they come back to the table to discuss the future of the scheme anew. As USS is refusing to ballot scheme members, the only way you can make your views know is to vote in UCU's online referendum.
UCU USS Referendum Campaign Poster
The USPS Pension Scheme
You will be aware that the University wants to abolish its final salary USPS scheme, mainly used by grades 1-5, and institute a 'cash balance' scheme. This loads virtually all the long term risk onto staff members, with any high inflation slashing the eventual payout. Some points which may be of interest:
- Currently only just over a quarter of eligible staff (grades 1-5) are in the current scheme as it is 'opt-in', unlike USS (grades 6+) which you are enrolled in by default. USPS will change to being 'enrolled by default' in future, due to legislation.
- If all eligible staff joined the current (final salary) USPS scheme it would cost the University an additional £1.8M pa. This is about 0.5% of turnover, or roughly the salaries of the people sitting on UEB.
- The University paid no money into the USPS scheme for two periods between 1989 and 2000, totalling about 8 years. The scheme is now underfunded and the University is obliged to make up the gap.
- The University has given the minimum notice and legal minimum consultation period, and got information to scheme members on the last possible day. They have however added one week to the 60 day minimum period due to the Christmas closure, which avoids any possible legal challenge.
- If any major changes were made to the proposals there would have to be a further 60 day period of consultation, by law. The University insists the consultation is genuine but it plans to implement the changes in April, and therefore plans to make no major changes in response to the consultation.
- There is a 2.5% pa cap on growth of each individuals 'pension pot' in the new proposals. If the actual growth of funds were greater than this, and long term that is almost certain, there would be a fund surplus. It would be possible to then increase the cap. However as noted above the last time this happened the University chose to pocket the surplus.
- About 300 staff in grades 6 and above are in USPS, having chosen to stay in when promoted.
Sheffield UCU's Response
Equality Impact Assessment
Joint Dispute Letter sent to Sheffield University
USS: The UCU's and Employer's Proposals
UCU Pensions Presentation July 2010