Employers reject UCU proposal for completing USS valuation

Employers have rejected University and College Union’s (UCU) proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) that aimed to conclude the scheme’s 2020 valuation, following a consultation.

The consultation drew responses from 97 employers, of which 93 stated that they did not support the proposals from UCU.

Three employers indicated conditional support and one provided support.

UCU had proposed that Universities UK (UUK) calls on the USS to issue a ‘moderately prudent, evidence-based valuation’ of the financial health of the scheme, as at 31 March 2022, to be issued for consultation in June at the latest.

It also called on employers to agree to provide the same level of covenant support as stated within their own proposals to facilitate a cost-sharing of current benefits throughout the 2022/23 scheme year.

A total of 68 institutions are currently on strike over pensions and pay and working conditions.

Commenting on the rejection of its proposals, UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “Employers have refused to accept UCU’s compromise proposals, which the trustee confirmed are both viable and implementable.

“This dispute could end tomorrow, but vice chancellors seem determined to slash the retirement benefits of staff rather than accept small and affordable increases to contributions.”

USS announced yesterday that its deficit had fallen from £12.9bn in March 2020 to £2.9bn as of the end of January 2022, with assets recovering to the pre-pandemic level of £89.3bn.

“The funding update from USS shows that the deficit on which devastating cuts to our pensions are premised has shrunk by around 80 per cent whilst the scheme’s assets have soared to more than £90bn,” Grady continued.

“The weak justification for university bosses’ attack on staff pensions has now completely evaporated.”

USS noted that, despite the improved funding, the challenge of steering an appropriate course for the long term remained.

Furthermore, it stated that asset values were “only part of the picture” and that there had been a “great deal” of volatility during the period between funding assessments.

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