UCL News


UCU ballot on potential strike action

30 June 2011

UCL has been notified by the University and College Union (UCU) that it is currently balloting its members over the proposition that they take industrial action in relation to 'detrimental changes to USS and retaining comparable pension benefits.

Portico ' It is important to provide you with background on these issues as well as UCL's position in relation to them and any proposed industrial action.

What are the changes?

Current USS members will continue to build up benefits on a final salary scheme basis. From 1 October 2011 there will be some changes which will apply for future service only:

  • an increase in the employee contribution rate to 7.5%,
  • a normal pension age of 65 (for those under 55 at 1 October only) rising in line with the State Pension age, and
  • a cap to pension increases for service after the 1 October implementation.

New entrants to USS from 1 October onwards who are not re-joiners (i.e. have less than a 30 month break with a USS employer) will enter a new section of the scheme, based on career average earnings. The employee contribution rate for the new section will be 6.5%.

Why the need for change?

All pension schemes must ensure they are viable and the Pensions Regulator requires any scheme in deficit to agree a recovery plan. Due to uncertainty and volatility in investment returns and increased life expectancy, USS needs to address its deficit.

How do the changes compare to other schemes reform?

The changes to USS are extremely moderate. Many other employers have closed their defined benefit schemes to future accrual or closed them entirely. For existing members retaining a final salary pension is an exceptionally good benefit and USS is likely to be one of the last schemes in the UK doing this.

What will happen now?

The USS Trustee Board agreed the execution of a Deed of Amendment at their meeting of 9 June and the changes to USS will take effect from 1 October 2011. These changes are now agreed and irreversible. There are no proposed further changes.

Concerns about the proposed industrial action

We understand that the UCU is proposing 'a major programme of sustained and disruptive industrial action targeting such areas as admissions, assessments and examinations for the next academic year.' Any ballot for industrial action that targets students is a serious concern, and minimising potential damage to students remains of paramount importance. The sector's scarce financial resources and future fee income cannot be used to fund an unreformed pension scheme; USS needs to remain sustainable, attractive and affordable for all: employers and members, current and future.

Impact on staff

We understand that the ballot proposes strike action as well as action short of a strike. Any member of staff who decides to take part in strike action or action short of a strike and therefore does not fulfil the requirements of their contract, will consequently not be entitled to be paid under that contract. This means a staff member will not be paid 100% of a day's pay (calculated at 1/260 of his or her salary) on each day he or she takes such action. If you are a member of UCU, we urge you to vote against taking strike action

Please read USS changes for more detailed information.

Nigel Waugh, Director of Human Resources