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Thousands of university workers stage strike in row over pay and pensions

Members of the University and College Union during their rally in Glasgow earlier this year (Jane Barlow/PA)
Members of the University and College Union during their rally in Glasgow earlier this year (Jane Barlow/PA)

Thousands of staff at Scottish universities are set to picket institutions across the country as they walk out over pay, pensions and conditions.

Some 8,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) in Scotland will strike on Thursday, Friday and next Wednesday after they backed industrial action last month.

Jo Grady, the union’s general secretary, said the strikes will bring the sector to a standstill and “vice-chancellors and principals only have themselves to blame”.

She added: “University staff are taking the biggest strike action in the history of higher education.

“They have had enough of falling pay, pension cuts and gig-economy working conditions – all whilst vice-chancellors and principals enjoy lottery-win salaries and live it up in their grace and favour mansions.”

UCU Scotland industrial action
Members of the University and College Union during a rally in Glasgow earlier this year (Jane Barlow/PA)

Union members in Scotland will picket outside 17 universities, including in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow, will join their colleagues at another 133 across the UK who are also striking.

The UCU said its demands include a “meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts”.

It said the pay rise this year was 3%, which followed more than a decade of below inflation pay awards.

In its pension dispute, the union said it is demanding employers “revoke the cuts and restore benefits”, claiming the average member will lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income.

Ms Grady said: “Further disruption can be avoided if the concerns of staff are addressed with urgency.

“But the overpaid vice-chancellors and principals killing our sector should be under no illusion: 70,000 dedicated university workers across the UK are ready to take even bigger action in the new year.”

The National Union of Students Scotland said it backs the striking university staff.

President Ellie Gomersall said the “struggles we face as students are inextricably linked to the reasons that staff are striking”.

She added: “Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.”

Professor Steve West, president of Universities UK, said “employers and the UCU share the goal of a secure, valuable, and affordable retirement income for university staff”, and he added the Universities Superannuation Scheme remains “one of the most attractive private pension schemes in the country”.

He said: “We are saddened to once again be facing industrial action which could cause disruption to students and other members of staff.

“We understand that strike action is the last thing students want after the disruption they have faced because of the pandemic and from previous industrial action.

“This may be a worrying time for them, they may feel anxious about possible disruption.

“But I would send this message: universities are well prepared to mitigate the impact of any industrial action on students’ learning, and we are all working hard to put in place a series of measures to ensure this.”