Imperial College will next week publish the results of the latest staff consultation regarding changes to their pension schemes.
This latest phase in the long-running dispute that saw countrywide strikes last year adds a third option to the 2018 valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Currently, “significant increases” in contributions from both employers and employees are scheduled for October 2019 and April 2020. The rises – which would see staff contributions increasing from 8.8% to 11.4% and employer contributions increasing from 19.5% to 24.2% for a total increase from 28.3% to 35.6% – would be unsustainable for many staff at Imperial.
A previous consultation held in March proposed two options, both of which are included in the current consultation. The “upper bookend” approach would increase total contributions to 33.7%, with 23% coming from employers and the remaining 10.7% from staff. Universities UK, which represents the country’s higher education institutions, has previously said this would be “unsustainable” and an “undeniable threat to investment and to jobs”.
The “lower bookend” approach would set contributions at 20.4% from employers and 9.3% from staff for a total of 29.7%. However, this approach is dependent on being able to guarantee that extra “contingent contributions” would be available in the event of an economic downturn. This is to ensure that the recovery of the USS’ deficit (£3.6 billion as of March 2018) is not hampered. However, this approach would require further negotiations, which would not be completed until summer 2020. This means the planned increases in October 2019 and April 2020 would still go ahead.
The USS has now put forward a third way. This would see increased contributions of 30.7% (21.1% from employers and 9.6% from staff) come into effect in October 2019. This would increase to 34.7% in October 2021 unless a new arrangement is agreed following another valuation in 2020. It is not clear how this contribution would be split between employers and staff.
Responses from staff were collected by the College last week. Imperial’s formal response to the consultation will be published ahead of next week’s deadline of 30 May.