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Agreement paves way for full restoration of university pension benefits by April

5 October 2023

UUK has agreed to reverse the 35% cut made to the industry’s Universities Superannuation Scheme pension and restore what has been lost.

In a joint statement, UUK and UCU agree to full benefit restoration to pre-April 2022 levels by Monday 1 April 2024, which is worth between £15 to £17bn, as well as an additional one-off pension payment of around £900m to help make good the money members have lost since April 2022. The agreement also paves the way for new contribution rates to be introduced as soon as January.

The scheme trustee has estimated total contribution rates need to be 20.6% for benefits to be restored. This will likely bring employee contribution rates down from 9.8% to 6.1% with a decision by the USS trustee board expected in November. The trustee has shown it is sustainable to keep the new contribution rates and improved benefits for at least two valuation cycles (six years) [1].

UUK and UCU also committed to continuing to work together to ensure the stability of benefits and contributions at future valuations. This will be done through the stability working group that UCU, UUK and the scheme trustee jointly sit on. 

Tomorrow, UCU’s higher education committee will vote whether to ratify the agreement, which is then subject to an ongoing consultation of scheme members and proposals that will be submitted to the USS joint negotiating committee on Monday 30 October 2023. 

UCU members have taken a total of 69 days of strike action in defence of their USS pensions since 2018. This includes 14 days of strike action in 2018 over threats to close the defined benefit element of the scheme and 55 days since 2019 over contribution increases and benefit cuts. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said ‘Four years ago our members were told that winning back their pension was an impossible task. When standing for election, I made it clear that it was only by the whole union pulling together and never giving up that we would win this dispute. Many doubted us.

’69 days of strike action, years of campaigning, protesting and lobbying have brought us to this moment. Today is a historic victory for UCU members. It should also be motivation for every single worker in the UK who has seen their pension slashed. Our members can be rightly proud. 

‘This is just the start for our union. We have pension justice. We now move on to delivering justice on pay and job security. We will not stop until we create a higher education sector that properly values its staff.’

[1] USS data refers to the range of contribution rates 20.6%, 25.2% to 26% for stability analysis over the next two valuations. The data reports that maintaining benefits to pre-2022 levels over the next two valuation cycles is most likely sustainable for this range of contribution rates.