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UCU says panicked reactions on state of USS pension scheme are unhelpful

31 July 2017

UCU said panicked reactions to a snapshot reading of the health of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) would do little to resolve the problems the scheme faced or how best to deal with them.

The union said universities needed to continue to provide a pension scheme that would attract and retain high quality staff. Earlier this week, USS announced that it wanted to be the sector's pension of choice: "Our ambition is to be the sector's pension scheme of choice - to maximise the benefits of scale, mutuality and specialisation in our investment solutions and administrative services, so that our members have the best possible arrangements for their retirement." 

UCU said that analysis of USS and the other scheme for university staff, the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), shows there are better benefits on offer through TPS. UCU said the time had come for USS to look again at the methodology behind how it values the scheme, especially if it wanted to remain the scheme of choice for staff working in universities.

UCU said a recovery plan was already in place for the scheme and an independent report commissioned by USS concluded that universities with USS schemes would remain strong and stable for at least the next 30 years. 

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'USS members are used to efforts by some commentators to spread panic when looking at a snapshot analysis of the health of the scheme. These panicked reactions do nothing to resolve the problems the scheme faces or help work out how best to deal with them.

'USS stated this week that its ambition was to be the university sector's pension scheme of choice. Yet, after two damaging rounds of cuts, that left members paying more for reduced benefits, the Teachers' Pension Scheme now offers superior benefits.

'A recent extensive independent study commissioned by USS themselves concluded that the sector will be strong and stable for at least the next 30 years. The problem here is that while the fund is growing and sustainable, the overly prudent approach adopted by USS is leading the fund down a spiralling path of unsustainable benefit cuts.'