North East universities to be hit by 14 days of strikes in row over pensions

Durham and Newcastle universities will be hit with 14 days of strike action, the University and College Union (UCU) announced today.

Monday, 29th January 2018, 11:29 am
Updated Monday, 29th January 2018, 11:35 am
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The universities are among 61 institutions across the UK that will see staff walk out on Thursday February 22.

The union has confirmed an escalating programme of strikes over a four week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend.

The universities will then be hit with four days of strikes from Monday March 5 to Thursday March 8, and a full five-day walkout the following week March 12 to 16.

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The strike dates are:

Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)

Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)

Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)

Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

Talks between UCU and the employers’ representative Universities UK (UUK) ended without agreement last week, and UUK’s plans to transform the scheme were forced through by the chair’s casting vote.

The dispute centres on UUK’s proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action.

Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action. The turnout was 58%. Locally, 88% of UCU members at Durham who voted backed strike action on a turnout of 57%. At Newcastle 90% backed strikes on a turnout of 62%. A full breakdown of the results by institution is available here.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Staff who have delivered the international excellence universities boast of are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by vice-chancellors who seem to care more about defending their own pay and perks than the rights of their staff.

"Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out."