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USS Pension and Industrial Action by UCU

A statement to Oxford staff from the Registrar Professor Ewan McKendrick

Members of the University and College Union – including colleagues at Oxford – are staging national industrial action today in response to proposals to change pension arrangements in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). I would like to assure you that at Oxford, in common with other USS scheme members, we are fully committed to ensuring that our staff have the best possible pension for the future. I also acknowledge the anger and sense of betrayal that is felt by many of our colleagues.

We also wish to state that Oxford, either on its own or with Cambridge, did not exert disproportionate influence on the process to date. As part of a pension scheme with more than 300 member institutions we have a limited ability to influence discussion and outcomes. As Universities UK has today made clear, Oxford and Cambridge votes in no way distorted the result of the UUK Pension Risk survey.

This negotiation takes place under collective bargaining, to which we are fully subscribed. There are of course differences in view about the reliability of the estimate of the scale of the deficit, but the figure agreed by the scheme’s trustee is £6.1bn. Ultimately, though, the final outcome will apply across the scheme as a whole and the USS will need to demonstrate to the Pensions Regulator that the scheme is sustainable.

There is agreement across Universities UK and throughout the Russell Group of Universities that we need a USS pension scheme that is sustainable for the long-term. It should be affordable to employers and employees, and there should be certainty that risks in the scheme can be managed without placing additional burdens on universities that would impact on our research and teaching. We also recognise the substantial financial commitment individuals make to the current scheme and that many would find it difficult to bear any further increases. 

Nothing in the current proposals changes anything that USS members have already accrued as pension rights. Furthermore, the OSPS and OUP pension schemes at Oxford already operate on the basis of defined contributions.

Universities now make a contribution of 18% of salary, up from 16%, for each scheme member and will continue to do so. An 18% contribution makes the USS one of the most generous pension schemes in the UK in terms of employer contribution, across both the public and private sectors. We are committed to ensuring that the scheme is competitive far into the future.

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