The University and College Union (UCU) recently announced plans for 14 days of industrial action, beginning with a two day strike on Thursday 22 February.
Staff at 61 universities including UEA have pledged their support to the action in response to pension changes that could see them losing £200,000 each during their retirement.
The joint negotiation committee of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), made up of five UCU and five Universities UK representatives, voted narrowly to proceed with plans to change the scheme from one of ‘defined benefit’ to one of ‘defined contribution’.
The changes will see pensions that formerly offered a guaranteed income now being tied to changes in the stock market.
#ueaunioncouncil votes by 60 votes to 0 to pass the motion calling on the SU to back industrial action by UCU.
— uea(su) (@UnionUEA) January 25, 2018
The USS, which boasts members across 68 universities, was prompted to make the changes after it was reported to have a deficit of £17.5bn last year.
The general secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, said: “Staff will feel utterly betrayed by their leaders”, and added that universities should “recognise how angry their staff are”.
The planned changes compound existing staff irritation over the inflated salaries and perks for high ranking university officials that were uncovered just recently.
According to Universities UK, the decision was “a necessary step” that was “made in the best interests of university staff, to put USS on a sustainable footing for the long-term”.
UEA staff are joining the strike, a move UEA’s Union Council voted last Thursday (25 January 2018) to support.
SU Postgraduate Education Officer Madeleine College said: “No Trade Union takes industrial action lightly- and it shouldn’t surprise us that staff are concerned that having had years of pay restraint they’re now facing a huge cut in their retirement income.
At Union Council last night, your representatives voted to support @ucu in industrial action. Find out why students voted this way in the latest blog from @MaddieColledge https://t.co/BgUEnYIupf pic.twitter.com/wVE5B1PgBx
— uea(su) (@UnionUEA) January 26, 2018
“Like other SUs, we will be pressuring University management to take responsibility for reducing disruption, and will be taking all steps to ensure there is early and good communication about industrial action with students.”
Speaking to Concrete, a spokesperson for the university said: “Our focus is very clearly on protecting our students’ education experience and ensuring that they feel supported during this time.
“While we recognise people’s right to withdraw their labour we will put contingency measures in place to support students in their studies.”
Other institutions that will be hit by the strike include both Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Imperial College London, Manchester, Edinburgh and York.