Sustainable pensions, passionate debate 3

October 14, 2010

The overwhelming rejection of proposed changes to the USS by scheme members in the UCU is not surprising. The biggest change would be the introduction of a two-tier system, in which a career-average structure would replace the final-salary scheme for all new entrants. While the final-salary scheme would continue for existing members (at least for the time being), they would not retain these benefits if they had a break in employment of more than six months.

It is hard to see any good reason for these sweeping changes. Current uncertainty about higher education funding and the withdrawal of many final-salary schemes in the private sector offer no justification. The wider public is largely unaware that the USS is a funded scheme (unlike most public-sector pensions) and that the risk is spread over nearly 400 institutions, so as to fall ultimately on the last one left solvent. In 2008, the triennial actuarial valuation of the scheme led to a decision by the USS to increase contributions. No other changes were deemed necessary. Why, then, are these changes being put forward now before the next valuation, due in 2011?

I will be unaffected by the proposals since I am a USS pensioner. During my time as the first pensioner director of the scheme, I found, not surprisingly, that many pensioners retained an active interest in USS affairs. We will not be among those consulted over the changes, but I am sure there are many among us who feel as strongly as I that they should be rejected.

Those of us who have benefited from USS pensions owe it to our successors to support them in their opposition.

Angela Crum Ewing, Reading.

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