HUNDREDS of academic staff in the region will be going on strike from tomorrow as part of a row over pensions.

Staff at Durham, Newcastle and York Universities, who have voted in favour of strike action, will walk out for five days, beginning 14 days of escalating strikes over a four-week period.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are angry about proposed changes to university pension schemes, which they say could cost an average lecturer £200,000 over the course of their retirement.

The UCU says 88 per cent of members who voted in Durham, 90 per cent in Newcastle, and 87 per cent in York were in favour of striking.

The strikes will affect 24,985 students at Newcastle, 18,385 at Durham and almost 18,000 at York.

Striking staff will be on picket lines at the entrances to their universities from 8am. In the North-East region, they will then make their their way to Grey’s Monument in Newcastle for a rally starting at 12.30pm.

Speakers at the event will include TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat, head of higher education Paul Bridge and representatives from Durham and Newcastle universities.

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: "Nobody wants to take strike action, but staff at Newcastle and Durham feel they have no choice. These hardline proposals would slash staff pensions and are simply uncalled for. It is staggering that the universities have refused to engage with the union and a real insult to staff and to students. We hope students will continue to put pressure on the vice-chancellors to get their reps back round the negotiating table.”

Universities UK (UUK) which represents university employers, says the proposed pension changes were a necessary step, made in the best interests of university staff, to put USS on a sustainable footing for the long term.

A spokesperson said: “UUK met with UCU over 35 times during the last year in an attempt to find a joint solution to address this deficit and the significant rise in future pension costs. Unfortunately, the only proposal put forward by UCU would have led to unaffordable contributions for employees and employers. The UCU proposal would necessitate large cuts to budgets in other areas such as teaching and research, and put many jobs at risk.”