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​Shadow education secretary raises concerns over pension changes for "brilliant university staff"

5 December 2017 | last updated: 6 December 2017

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner MP has outlined concerns over planned changes to university pensions that could see a typical staff member over £200,000 worse off in retirement.  

She said she feared plans to slash staff pensions would lead to "a brain drain that the UK can ill afford'. She said she wanted "our brilliant university staff to stay in UK higher education and to continue working for the public good".

She called on UCU and Universities UK (UUK) to negotiate "for as long as it takes" to achieve a resolution to the dispute. She said the last thing students needed was to be caught up in a prolonged dispute in the new year.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: 'I am deeply concerned by the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which would leave hundreds of thousands of staff in many of our biggest universities significantly worse off in retirement.

'Decent pay and working conditions for those who work in education are vital to the success of the National Education Service that Labour is planning. We want our brilliant university staff to stay in UK higher education and to continue working for the public good. A race to the bottom will only create a brain drain in this crucial sector that the UK can ill afford.

'The last thing students and their parents need right now is a prolonged dispute in which they get caught in the middle. I would urge both sides, aided by USS and ACAS if necessary, to agree to sit down and negotiate for as long as it takes to agree an equitable solution.

'USS is the largest private pension scheme in the UK and it is vital to our economy as well as to the education sector that it continues to enjoy the confidence of its current members and their employers, so I also urge the Pensions Regulator to provide the headroom if needed for negotiations to take place. A sensible solution which protects the scheme's members and ensures that USS remains an attractive scheme for the future must be everyone's priority.'

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'We welcome, and share, the shadow education secretary's concerns over what UUK's hardline proposals would do to staff pensions, and the damage they could cause to our universities and the UK economy. We are prepared to meet any time to negotiate a way out of this.

'Like her, we do not want to see industrial action in the new year, but UCU members will not be bounced into accepting a poor deal on their pensions.'