Staff in most pre-92 universities are being balloted for action over massive cuts to their pensions in the Universities’ Superannuation Scheme (USS).
The cuts will see some workers lose over 25% of their income in retirement.
The proposals will end the final salary scheme which was closed to new members and shift everyone onto the poor career average scheme (on terms inferior to TPS, the scheme that covers post-92 universities and school teachers).
Worse still, for the first time a proportion of the pension will have a “defined contribution” basis. That means the risk is shifted onto individuals rather than institutions. Although the plans suggest this is a small element of the scheme, there is no doubt that if we accept this now the employers will try to increase it in future.
There has been lots of propaganda from universities about the “deficit” in USS. On current accounting rules there is indeed a deficit, but it is declining. Moreover, the rules that claim there is a “deficit” are designed to ensure that single company schemes can cover their pay-outs in the event of bankruptcy. USS — a scheme with 375 member institutions — should not have to run its finances on the ridiculous premise that all 375 of them might collapse at once!
There is plenty of spare cash to pay for staff pensions if universities chose to prioritise them. Instead, since student fees were hiked up to £9k there’s been an increasing tendency to spend on big, showy capital projects the better to impress potential “customers” at Open Days. Money is being poured into hiring senior managers to run these schemes and PR people to market them.
Students should support university staff in their struggle for a decent pension — staff should vote Yes/Yes and prepare to fight!