Bristol UCU asks Senate reps for support for USS negotiations

Dear Colleagues

We are writing to you as members of Senate but also as a member of UCU.

No doubt you are aware that UUK are proposing to end our defined benefits pension scheme by reducing the threshold from £55,000 to zero so that all contributions are put into the defined contribution section. UUK put forward these proposals on 13 November. Our negotiators had expected proposals to comprise some reduction of the £55K threshold and a lowering of the accrual rate. Thus our negotiators were astounded when proposals were put forward to completely end defined benefits.

UUK have told UCU that they are not prepared to negotiate beyond 18 December. This gives virtually no time for UCU to develop counter-proposals and for them to be properly discussed. We believe that UUK tabled these proposals without undertaking any modelling to demonstrate the impact of these changes.

We know, following FOI requests, that the University of Bristol supported a wholesale move to defined benefits, again, we believe, without modelling the impact of such a move. Indeed the CFO has responded to a member’s query by saying that “We need to wait for an outcome from the current negotiation process before any view can be provided on the implication for members in financial terms. It is simply not possible to do this at the present time without making some very broad assumptions”.

Therefore we are proposing to ask the following questions at Senate and we are seeking your support in raising these issues with our senior team.

Question 1

Universities UK (UUK) have proposed an end to the accrual of defined benefits (DB) in USS. First Actuarial estimate that an early career academic now on the lecturer scale, retiring after 30 years at the top of the Senior Lecturer scale, would receive an annual pension of £10,500 compared with £17,800 under the current scheme. This compares poorly with £25,100 from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme for post-92 institutions. Did the University fully understand the scale of these benefit losses when it called for the end of the DB scheme in its recent UUK submission?

Question 2

You will be aware that Universities UK (UUK) tabled their proposal to end defined benefits on 13 November. They have said that they will not continue to negotiate beyond 18 December. This does not provide sufficient time for UCU to prepare counter proposals and UCU are asking UUK for an extension to the negotiating timetable. Are you willing to write to UUK in support of this extension to allow proper negotiation to take place?

James Thompson
Vice-President Bristol UCU

Tracey Hooper
President Bristol UCU