Declining satisfaction levels with pension scheme at heart of university strikes

25 July 2019

Member satisfaction with the USS pension scheme has plummeted, according to the scheme's annual report.

The report from the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) says that less than a third (31%) of members reported a positive relationship, compared to 38% in 2017/18 and 53% in 2016/17. USS dropped its target of members reporting a positive relationship with the scheme from 70% last year to 50% this year, but was still some way short of achieving its goal.

Unlike previous years, this year's report does not include figures on member satisfaction. Last year less than half (48%) of members said they were satisfied with the scheme, a considerable drop from around two-thirds (66%) in 2016/17.

Members reporting a positive relationship with the scheme

2016/17

53%

2017/18

38%

2018/19

31%

Members satisfied with the scheme

2016/17

66%

2017/18

48%

2018/19

Not included in the report

In the report, USS says the fall in positive relationships is down to "the impact of the scheme valuation and views of our handling of that process". In his forward, chief executive Bill Galvin admits that: "It is clear that some members feel that we have not handled or communicated the complex issues we are grappling with as well as we might." 

The report also shows that the number of staff being paid over £100,000 is now 131 (up from 128 the previous year). The highest earner at the scheme took home between £1.75M and £1.8M last year, which is a considerable increase on the best paid staff member from the previous year who earned between £1.1M and £1.15M. 

UCU general secretary-elect Jo Grady said: 'It has been clear for some time that USS has lost members' trust and that it has taken the annual report to alert those leading the scheme to this fact suggests they are worryingly out of touch. 

'Considering the complaints around governance this year, we are extremely concerned that USS appears to be cherry-picking what statistics to include in the report. Why are the member satisfaction figures missing?

'We want employers to use their considerable influence to hold USS's managers to account. We are heading towards another round of industrial action, because universities are refusing to cover the cost of the extra contributions which USS has demanded. Instead of holding USS to account, employers are willing to make scheme members pay more for the same pension.'

Universities face more industrial action in the new academic year as UCU members of USS are being balloted for strike action. UCU says its members will not accept reduced benefits or increased pension costs. The union says that if universities will not work with the union to defend members' pensions, then they must agree to pick up the tab for any extra costs.

That ballot, and one in all universities on pay, equality, job security and workloads, opens on 9 September and closes on 31 October.

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