University staff said they are scared to walk to work after UEA announced plans to remove free parking for employees.
From 2020, the university’s estates employees will be expected to pay up to £70 per month for parking, despite having previously been exempt from charges due to working unsociable hours and earning lower rates of pay.
An estates employee for UEA, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘If we don’t pay for the new charge, we will have to walk here early in the morning.’
They said, ‘I would be scared to walk to work, as I would have to leave at 5 am.’
According to the estates employee, there is a free bus available, however ‘it’s after our hours start, so it’s not an option’.
They added, there is ‘a real sense of anger’ about the decision, and expecting staff to use alternatives such as the First Bus service if they can’t afford to park is not enough.
Currently, staff with a disability, staff earning between £15,583 and £17,408 annually, non-stipendiary staff, and those who are deemed to work unsocial hours are exempt from parking charges.
A spokesperson for the university said that from 2020, ‘these groups will be required to pay to park at a discounted rate, if they wish to use UEA car parks, with the exception of the Park and Stride car park’.
There are currently five bands of parking charges applied as pay increases. As of 2020 there will be just two. Standard parking will cost £4.20 per day, while discounted parking for will cost £3.20 per day.
Discounted parking will be available for the group of staff, students, some Sportspark employees, and those with ‘D’ permits. There will also be a 50 percent reduction on cost for stays of up to four hours.
From 2018/19, UEA staff paid between £15,583 and £17,408, which amounts to between £8.27 and £9.24 per hour, could lose between 4.81 to 5.39 percent of their annual salary to parking fees despite the proposed discounted rate and reduction.
The estates staff felt censored over the matter, and added: ‘we should be allowed to speak up’.
‘[The new charge] is okay for lecturers, but the cost is more difficult on the lower pay employees’, they said.
In April 2018, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which negotiates the pay of staff at nearly 150 higher education institutions in the country, offered all UK university staff a pay increase of 1.7 percent for the year 2018/19. Commenting on this and the new charges at UEA, the estates employee said ‘They give us a pay rise and then they take it away’.
Charges will be automatically deducted from staff salary (for UEA payroll members) or taken from a bank account via direct debit.
Another estates employee said, ‘I felt there would be a more reasonable figure, such as £25 [per month], which I would have been fine with. The reason given to us is that the new fee is to help pay for new buildings which I think is really ridiculous. It’s not like we’ll use them’.
UEA said any staff in the categories currently eligible for free parking who have been charged should contact the Transport Team, who will be able to investigate any issues, on 01603 592352.
They added: ‘There is flexibility on when the Park and Stride car park is opened and UEA security will now open it for people starting work at 6am. For those who would like to change to walking or cycling or to the park and stride, but do not wish to travel alone, the university operate a message board where people can find a ‘buddy’ to share journeys.
‘Alternative options include the First Bus 25 service, the cycle to work scheme and car sharing. To find out more about the travel and transport options available to you, download the ‘myPTP’ app or visit: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/estates/travel-and-transport’.
The university spokesperson said the new policy ‘was agreed with a UEA stakeholder, Unions and the Student Union’.