Your USS Pension – What’s Going On?

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Meeting
Tuesday 26th September, 4.30-6.00
Appleton Tower Lecture Theatre 3

Colleagues,

UCU National Pensions Officer Christine Haswell will be visiting the University on Tuesday to discuss with us the current USS Pensions Consulations.

One of these (1) is between USS and the Universities (UUK) regarding the assumptions which will be used to calculate the current position. The USS Trustee is asking the universities to comment on its proposed assumptions for this calculation. The consultation closes on September 29th. You may have seen reports of huge deficits in the press and it does indeed look like there will be a stated deficit of somewhere around 5 billion Pounds should the current method of calculation be accepted.
However this has been controversial. The basis of the calculation is something called “Test1”. The maths is complicated but the essence of it is the requirement by the Pensions Regulator for these to be done with some regard for prudence. UCU doesn’t disagree with the need for such prudence but argue that USS are being so prudent that they will undermine the pension scheme.

USS are basically arguing for the derisking of the investments of the fund from equities and property into a portfolio consisting of the much safer bonds consisting of Treasuries and company bonds. UCU counter that this would mean a reduction in earnings by the fund of 2% per annum, which compounded out to the 30 year horizon which the fund looks at, is what produces the deficit. There’s a good explanation of this at (2).

USS’s position is that either contributions need to increase by 6.6% of our salaries to fund the consequences of this derisking, or further (as in on top of those in 2011 and 2016) cuts in benefits will be necessary. The employers have been very clear in saying that they will not increase contributions from their current 18% and I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be increasing our contributions from 8% of salary to 14.6% of salary.
UCU hired its own actuaries, First Actuarial, to analyse the position of the fund if this level of pessimism was avoided and look at where we’d be if we simply stayed in a mix of bonds, equities and bonds. They found that given a reasonable assumption (with margin for prudence included) of the extra growth this entails, this would be sufficient to pay the fund’s liabilities (our pensions) in the future. Arguably they are essentially predicting a current surplus. The to and fro of this debate is explained at (2).

It looked for a while as if the employers would be given only USS’s pessimistic assumptions to consider, but one of our colleagues, Sam Marsh, started an online petition at (3) to demand that USS show its workings and that the figures by our actuaries be considered. That’s been successful, but I’d strongly advise that you still sign the petition because it will demonstrate that USS members are not simply shrugging their shoulders, but are engaged in this crucial debate about their future incomes.

Finally, you’ll have recently received a message from Sally Hunt regarding our own consultation on industrial action to defend our pensions. Those of you who know me will understand that I’d absolutely say that we should take such action only as a very last resort. However, after years of our pensions funds being cut and chipped at, I think we’ve got there.

The more alarmist of our colleagues are saying that there may even be a plan to move us from a defined benefit scheme (shared pension fund and shared risk) to the defined contribution schemes now all too common elsewhere. Up to now I’d have been skeptical enough to ridicule this idea. Now I’d have to take an agnostic position because it no longer looks impossible. Certainly running down such a large fund in bonds would be easier than with one invested in equities.

For that reason I’d recommend a “Yes” in the industrial action ballot, to give our negotiators a stronger position; that you sign the petition for the same reason; and that you come along to the meeting on Tuesday.

Michael Holmes
Honorary Treasurer and Pensions Officer

 

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Equality Groups Conference

The Annual Equality Groups Conference 2017 will take place 23 – 25 November 2017. It will take place at Novotel Birmingham Central.

This conference is an opportunity to discuss and agree strategies to progress equality issues at work. The three days includes separate sessions for black, disabled, LGBT and women members. A joint plenary session brings us all together as well as separate workshops for FE and HE members. Plenty of opportunities to network too. 

For more information and to register click on the link below. 

https://www.ucu.org.uk/membersannualgroupsconference

Stand up to Racism demonstration, Glasgow 18th March 2017

Stand up to Racism Scotland calls on everyone to mobilise to ensure that the March 18th 2017 demonstration in Glasgow is a massive success. Following Trump’s ban on Muslims and refugees, we will send out a clear message that we will not tolerate racism, discrimination, and division in our community.
STUR demo Supported by EIS, Peoples Assemby Scotland, RMT Scotland, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, STUC, UCU Scotland, Unison Scotland, Unite Scotland, Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh.

Assemble 11am in Holland Street, Glasgow
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Holland+St,+Glasgow+G2+4NB/@55.8643181,-4.2690656,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x48884428787a6345:0xfe7cd9ee5cfb781d!8m2!3d55.8643181!4d-4.2668769

March to George Square, 12 o’clock rally.

Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1584165985223946/

Stand Up to Racism: Public Rally, 9th March

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Come to this rally to discuss how we can confront the rise in racism and build a broad anti racist movement. We want to go onto the streets in our tens of thousands on 18 March to stand up to racism.

  • Stand up to Trump
  • Refugees and migrants welcome here
  • No to racism, Islamophobia & antisemitism
  • Defend EU workers
  • Black Lives Matter

Speakers

  • Ian Murray, MP Edinburgh South, Labour
  • Safeena Rashid, Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh
  • Issa Robson, 1DayWithoutUs
  • Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary
  • Celia Gonzalez, organiser of No Muslim Ban demo
  • Richard Haley, Scotland Aganist Criminalising Communities
  • Monica Medina, EIS, Anti-racist sub-committee
  • Helen Martin, Scottish Trade Union Council, Assistant Secretary
  • Alison Newell, Edinburgh University Chaplaincy
  • Nick Gardner, Leith Labour Councillor

Date, Time, Venue

Thursday 9 March, 7pm

Lecture Theatre 1, Appleton Tower
University of Edinburgh
11, Crichton Street
EH8 9LE

Flyer and Further Details

Download here (pdf)

 

 

 

 

Change!

change

As part of the Scottish Union Learning young workers’ project, you are invited to “Change!”, an evening of literature hosted by young and migrant workers.

Taking place from 6.30pm on Thursday 16th March at the STUC building on Woodlands Road in Glasgow, we hope that you will help us celebrate the launch of our new book, which has been written about and by people on zero hours contracts. With the title being revealed on the night, we’ll hear excerpts read by young writers and activists who will share their lives on zero hour contracts with us.

Pinar Aksu

Pinar Aksu

We will also hear from Pinar Aksu, Community Development worker with Migrant Voice, and participants from the “A Story in a Poem project” who will read some of the poems they have written about their journey to Scotland.

Refreshments will be provided so get there early to avoid missing out!

From precarious work to precarious lives, the theme of the evening is ‘Change’ and what this means for us in 2017. As a labour movement, we want to ensure that we are inclusive and seek new opportunities of integration for all.

More information

Stand Up to Racism: Public Rally

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Tackling racism remains one of the key challenges for our society. Since the EU referendum there has been a significant increase in reported hate crimes in Britain.

We have also seen racism come to the fore elsewhere – in the populism of Donald Trump; the police brutality in the US; the scapegoating of refugees and migrant workers.

Yet in each case there has also been resistance to the racism. This rally brings together organisations and activists from anti-racist campaigns to build on the struggle against racism.

We will discuss the fight against Islamophobia and antisemitism; the defence of civil liberties and migrants rights; building solidarity with refugees and resisting the far right across Europe. Come and discuss how we can stand up to racism.

Speakers

Tommy Shepherd, SNP MSP
Aamer Anwar, human rights lawyer
Penny Gower, EIS Edinburgh College
Ruby Hirsch, student solidarity delegation to Calais
Esme Allman, Edinburgh University BME officer
Maggie Chapman, Scottish Green Party co-convenor
Tasneem Ali, Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh

Date, Time, Venue

Thursday 17 November,  7pm
David Hume Tower
(Room LG09),
University of Edinburgh,
George Square,
Edinburgh EH8 9JX

All Welcome

Further details

St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March and Rally 2016

The STUC is organising the annual St Andrew’s Day anti-racism march and rally on Saturday 26 November. The march will assemble at 10.30am at Glasgow Green and from 11.00am will progress through the streets of Glasgow to the Glasgow Film Theatre on Rose Street, where there will be a rally with speakers from 12 noon. The theme of this year’s march is ‘No Racism: Protecting Rights, Defending Communities.’

sta2016