EDUCATION: University staff strikes could go into 2024, warns union

Striking university staff

UCU members first voted for strike action in October 2022

By Lucy Ashton

BBC Scotland is reporting that strikes at universities across Scotland could continue for the rest of the year and into 2024, a union has warned.

Lecturers and other staff are beginning strike action at five universities, as the new academic year begins.

The action by the University and College Union (UCU) is part of a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

This week’s strikes will take place at universities including Aberdeen, Stirling, Dundee and Glasgow.

Further strike days will follow at institutions across the country and a total of 140 will be affected across the UK.

The UCU has also been boycotting marking, a move which left some students leaving university this year without knowing what degree they had achieved.

And the union is planning to send out a fresh ballot to members to renew its six-month mandate for industrial action, which is due to expire at the beginning of October.

UCU’s Scotland official, Mary Senior told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Employers need to know that we are not going away, we have action this week in five universities in Scotland, we’ve got more universities in Scotland next week and across the UK that will be taking five days of strike action before the month is out.

“They risk real disruption ongoing in this sector to the end of this year and into 2024.

“We feel we are being forced to take action against employers who present themselves as word leading but they oversee a sector that is riddled with casual, fixed-term, hourly paid contracts.”

picket line
There was a picket line at Glasgow University on Monday morning.

Members want a pay rise worth the RPI measure of inflation +2%, and for employers to end the use of zero-hours and temporary contracts.

The Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA), which acts for the employers in the dispute, said its improved pay deal for 2023-24, worth between 5% and 8%, was the highest offer of its kind in nearly 20 years.

But unions claim this is a real-terms pay cut, and 56% of participating UCU members voted to reject the offer.

Despite the rejection, the UCEA advised universities to implement the 2023-24 pay uplift, with a portion of it backdated to February.


UCU strikes – affected universities

  • Aberdeen University: Monday 18 September to Thursday 21 September
  • Stirling University: Monday 18 September to Friday 22 September
  • Dundee University: Wednesday 20 September to Friday 22 September
  • Glasgow University: Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 September
  • Strathclyde University: Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 September

Unison members are also taking part in strike action at four universities – Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Glasgow, University of Dundee and Glasgow School of Art – over a two-week period.

Allison Buchanan, who chairs Unison’s Scottish higher education committee, said: “This is yet another real-terms pay cut for university staff. The employer has imposed an early settlement on members without reaching agreement with the union. University staff play a crucial role in supporting students through university and they deserve better.

“Unison has appealed to the Scottish government to help find a solution. The minister seems willing to allow the strikes to proceed rather than ensuring hard-working university staff are paid fairly. Employers must get back around the table, reopen negotiations and give university workers the fair pay they deserve.”

Last month the UCEA called on the union to join it in organising an independent review of higher education sector finances as a step towards agreeing pay and conditions for the future.


Unison strikes – affected universities

  • Glasgow University: Tuesday 19 September and Wednesday 20 September, Tuesday 26 September to Thursday 28 September
  • Dundee University: Monday 18 September to Friday 22 September
  • Glasgow School of Art: Wednesday 20 September, Wednesday 27 September and Thursday 28 September
  • Glasgow Caledonian University: Monday 18 September, 19 to Thursday 21 September

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