University staff begin five-day strike over pay

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland is reporting that staff at 11 Scottish universities have started a five-day walk out over pensions, pay and conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU) estimates staff wages have fallen by a quarter in real terms since 2009, while pension cuts mean a 35% drop in retirement income for a typical member.

The union is also asking for a £2,500 pay rise for all university employees.

Universities UK, which advocates for universities, said employers were at “the limit of affordability”.

It is the third round of strike action this academic year.

UCU members already held 10 days of walkouts between 14 February and 2 March and three days of industrial action in December.

Staff at the universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde, Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow School of Art, Herriot-Watt, Queen Margaret and the Open University are among those walking out across the UK.

Members at some institutions are taking action only on the pension issue, some only on pay and working conditions and some on both.

Staff at ‘breaking point’

Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, accused university bosses of “pushing their own staff to breaking point” and sitting on billions of pounds worth of reserves.

“Vice-chancellors and principals across the UK have the power to end these disputes. The money is there to pay staff properly, tackle punishing working conditions and reverse pension cuts that will devastate retirement incomes,” she added.

The union said pension cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) were “forced through” by university employers.

It wants employers to revoke the cuts and re-enter negotiations.

But a spokesman for the scheme defended its decision, saying that guaranteeing inflation protected pensions was “much more expensive today than in the past”.

The organisation said the decision was in response to long term economic and demographic changes.

Universities UK, an advocacy group for universities across the country, criticised the UCU action, insisting that employers were at “the limit of affordability”.

“Scheme members should ask themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice even more to pay higher pensions contributions based on UCU’s unsubstantiated view that another valuation will yield a better outcome”, a spokesperson for the organisation added.

The changes are due to be implemented from 1 April.

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