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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Lecturers' pensions may cost more
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary
The lecturers' union is willing to negotiate
Lecturers and other staff in universities and higher education colleges have been warned they may have to pay more for their pensions.

Employers in higher education have decided to review their pension schemes for academic and other employees.

The employers' report says they will consider asking staff to pay higher pension contributions, partly to offset the cost of increased longevity.

The main trade union for lecturers said this would amount to a cut in pay.

"We are willing to consider negotiating future changes in pension provision that provide affordable, secure and stable pension provision," said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU).

"Members of the Universities' Superannuation Scheme (USS) see their pension contributions as deferred salary and the pension provision as part of their remuneration packet," she added.

In common with many other public and private sector employers, the university and colleges are worried about the rising cost of funding their final salary pension schemes.

"An ageing population, recent legislative changes, lower interest rates and low investment returns, an increased tax burden and the government's ongoing pensions reform programme are factors that affect all employees and employers," said Professor Bill Wakeham, chairman of the employers' Pensions Forum .

Changes

The employers say they will now decide on their options before consulting on any changes.

These may affect staff paying into other pension schemes, such a those for teachers and employees of London University, to which some higher education employers also contribute.

The USS is one of the biggest pension schemes in the UK, covering the staff of more than 390 different education institutions.

There are 121,000 staff are paying in, and the scheme's assets stand at 30.1bn, though with a deficit of 3bn in March this year.

It provides a pension of half final salary after 40 years, plus a tax-free cash lump sum, with staff currently contributing 6.35% of their salaries.

The past few years have seen big changes introduced to many other public sector pension schemes, such as those of civil servants, local government staff, workers in the NHS and teachers.

The most common change has been to raise to 65 the standard retirement age for new staff, and in some cases existing staff as well, but this retirement age is already a feature of the USS.



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