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18 February 2022

Joint statement from King's College London and the KCL UCU branch

A statement from KCL UCU and the King’s College London senior management team

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KCL UCU and the King’s College London senior management team are united in our belief that a contribution rate of 25-30% of salary should be sufficient to secure a good pension for staff who are members of USS, and that the USS trustee’s current approach to risk makes it difficult to obtain good value for money.

We acknowledge that the current UUK proposal for reform places a greater burden on members with a cut to future defined-benefit pension and a reduction in take-home pay due to increased contributions, and that this jeopardises the scheme remaining attractive both to new and current members. We acknowledge that the current UCU proposal for reform raises contribution rates, and therefore reduces take-home pay and employer funds, even if this is intended to be temporary pending a new valuation. However, we agree there is no legal requirement to stay within the March 2020 valuation assumption of nearly-zero asset growth and that other prudent assumptions may be possible and should be explored. We note the changes to the governance of USS in 2019, which led to directors that are appointed by UUK and UCU becoming irremovable except by the existing USS board. We highlight the increasing number of pension and endowment funds, including at King’s College London, that have divested from fossil fuels for financial, environmental and ethical reasons. We also recognise that a sustainable and long-term vision for the future of our pension is essential and will only be possible if all parties work together towards a common goal.

We therefore:

  • Call on UUK and UCU to return to negotiations on proposals that achieve the best possible pension for 25-30% contribution rates and do so consistently with all legal requirements. For KCL UCU the best possible pension will keep or enhance existing benefits, and for KCL senior management this is a desirable goal but will depend on future negotiations and funding arrangements.
  • Call for UUK and UCU to join forces and create a well-resourced working party to explore the feasibility and promise of alternative approaches that will give long-term stability and viability to the USS pension scheme. We agree that conditional indexation, or alternative scheme designs, could make it possible for USS to continue as a collective, mutual, multi-employer scheme with an ability to invest for the long term in growth-seeking assets.
  • Call upon UUK and UCU to negotiate on governance reform for USS that reflects the principle of joint management of the joint pension scheme.
  • Call upon UUK and UCU to ensure that USS divests from fossil fuels, and develops a policy on the use of shareholder voting rights that reflects the environmental, social and governance values of the scheme’s beneficiaries.