Scotland strikes: ‘Burnt-out’ university staff continue strike action

Thousands of university staff are “absolutely burnt out”, a union official said as thousands walked out in a second day of strike action in Scotland.

Around 8,000 lecturers, librarians and researchers who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) continued their 48-hour walkout on Friday in an ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.

It comes as Royal Mail workers also continued their strike a in long-running dispute over pay, pensions, jobs and conditions.

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The UCU said many of its members were employed on precarious contracts, which does not give them enough time for marking or supporting students.

University and College Union members on the picket line at the University of Stirling. Picture: UCU/PA Wire

The union also claims members have lost 35 per cent of their expected pension income after cuts were made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, UCU Scotland’s Mary Senior said staff were “burnt out” given their existing conditions, adding: “Hundreds of university staff in Scotland are on short-term, fixed-term and hourly paid contracts.

“Their pay has lost value by 25 per cent since 2009. They are faced with unsafe workloads and precarious contracts in the sector.

“Those on hourly paid contracts aren’t often paid for the time to mark essays or to provide the extra support students need. We really are in an unsustainable situation.

Ms Senior claimed the pension scheme had a £1.8 billion surplus and cuts of more than a third have been made.

“You can see why our members are so angry and that’s why we had strong picket lines yesterday and we’re expecting the same today,” she said.

Students will see disruption while strikes are ongoing as they gear up for exams and assessments in coming weeks, but Ms Senior said the UCU had been “heartened” by the support it has received.

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“It’s deeply regrettable, workers come into the university sector to support students, to provide them with education,” she said of the strike action.

“We’ve been really heartened by students who have joined us on the picket lines. They know our working conditions are their learning conditions.”

University staff had a 3 per cent pay offer “imposed” on them, Ms Senior said, but she warned with inflation in double figures, that “doesn’t cut it”.

Speaking at a joint rally held between the UCU and the EIS teaching union, Ms Senior urged universities to get back to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, postal workers who are members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) also walked out again on Friday in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay and conditions.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward wrote: “The reason for today’s strike is simple – it’s about stopping the Uberisation of Royal Mail. The management agenda is about Royal Mail being transformed into a gig economy-style parcel courier, with a business model reliant on bogus self-employment and casual labour.”

Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson said: “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9 per cent pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.”



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