Employees at 11 Scottish universities commence 5-day strike over pensions, pay, and conditions.
According to the University and College Union (UCU), staff wages at Scottish universities have reportedly declined by a quarter in real terms since 2009, and pension reductions have resulted in a 35% decrease in retirement income for an average member.
The union is also demanding a £2,500 pay increase for all university staff members. However, Universities UK, an organization advocating for universities, stated that employers have reached the limit of what they can afford.
This marks the third round of strikes during this academic year. Previously, UCU members participated in 10 days of walkouts from 14 February to 2 March, and three days of industrial action in December.
University staff from several institutions in Scotland, including Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde, Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow School of Art, Herriot-Watt, Queen Margaret, and the Open University, are participating in the strike.
At certain institutions, some members are specifically striking over the pension issue, while others are focusing solely on pay and working conditions. There are also those who are participating in the strike to address both concerns.
UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, criticized university leaders for pushing their staff to the brink and hoarding substantial financial reserves.
Jo Grady added that university leaders have the authority to resolve these disputes, emphasizing that the necessary funds exist to provide fair compensation to staff, address challenging work conditions, and reverse detrimental pension cuts impacting retirement incomes.
According to the union, university employers unilaterally implemented pension cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The union is demanding that the cuts be reversed and that employers engage in renewed negotiations.
However, a spokesperson for the scheme defended their decision, stating that ensuring inflation-protected pensions is significantly more costly today compared to previous years.
The organization justified its decision as a response to long-term economic and demographic changes. Universities UK, an advocacy group for universities, expressed criticism towards the UCU’s action, stating that employers have reached their limit in terms of affordability.
A spokesperson for the organization added that scheme members should consider if they are willing to make further sacrifices based on the UCU’s unverified belief that a new valuation will lead to better outcomes. The changes are scheduled to be implemented starting from April 1st.
Source : bbc.com