1. ITV Report

University staff across the North East go on strike over pensions

Protest in Newcastle Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

University staff across the region began a wave of walkouts today as part of an ongoing dispute over pensions.

Members of the University and College Union are staging the first in a series of strikes at 64 institutions across the country, including York, Durham and Newcastle.

It's the first of 14 days of action over four weeks affecting 61 thousand students in our region.

This is a profession that really depends on the longevity of the people working here. It's a profession where we train for quite a while and we need to be able to focus on our jobs and not worry that we are not going to be able to live when we're old.

– Bruce Baker, Newcastle University Lecturer

University UK have called the strike action 'disappointing', and said the pension scheme has a deficit of more than 6 billion pounds which needs to be reduced. It said staff will still benefit from a valuable scheme and added it was in continuing talks with the University and College Union to try and resolve the dispute.

I am deeply concerned about the impact this strike will have on students, who deserve to receive the education that they are paying for. For many, this is a vital time in their studies.

I am speaking to both Universities UK (UUK) and the University and College Union (UCU).

I call on them to get back to the negotiating table, without pre-conditions, and to find a solution that avoids further disruption to students.

Where any strike action takes place, we expect universities to keep a close eye on the impact on students, and to put in place measures to maintain the quality of education that they should receive.

– Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah

Newcastle University vice-chancellor Professor Chris Day has broken rank with Universities UK to support striking lecturers and called for negotiations on pensions to resume.

In a statement Professor Day said he “absolutely supported staff’s decision to strike”, saying he didn’t know “what else they could do to express their concerns about the current situation”. He said he was meeting the employer body, Universities UK (UUK), today and would “urge strongly that negotiations need to recommence.”