Dismay at plans to make a university pension unaffordable

UNISON is concerned that many members won’t be able to afford to save for their retirement under proposed changes

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UNISON is dismayed at plans to address the deficit in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The USS pension scheme provides a defined benefit pension scheme, primarily for those in teaching and research posts and primarily in pre-1992 universities

Thousands of UNISON members are in this pension scheme.

Currently employees need to pay 9.6% of their wages into the USS – a huge amount of their take home pay – leaving many members having to decide whether they can afford to save for a pension or not.

At the moment the combined employee and employer contribution totals 30.7% of salary with employers paying 20.1% of salary for each employee in the scheme.

The new proposals to address the deficit state that at least 42.1% of salary will need to be paid in – an increase of more than one third on the current contribution level. The other two scenarios suggested by USS place contribution levels at even higher rates.

UNISON’s senior higher education national officer Ruth Levin said: “For years UNISON has voiced concerns that the scheme has become unaffordable to lower paid workers in universities and that the pension scheme needs to be reformed to reflect the needs of the higher education workforce.

“We are concerned that the assumptions underlying these new proposals do not reflect the stability of the sector and need to be revisited.

“University staff, just like other education and public service workers, should be entitled to a decent pension scheme so that they don’t retire into poverty.

“We are concerned that the high drop-out rates mean that the scheme is already unaffordable to many and this situation is only set to get worse under these current proposals.”