Staff at Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities launch eight-day strike

Lecturers and admin staff in walk-out over pay and pensions

Monday, 25th November 2019, 6:57 am
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 6:58 am
Edinburgh University is one of 12 Scottish institutions affected by the strike

LECTURERS and admin staff at Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities are out on strike today at the start of an eight-day stoppage in a twin row over pay and pensions.

Twelve Scottish universities are involved in the UK-wide dispute which will see University College Union members take to the picket lines.

The disputes centre on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), with the union claiming that there has been a failure by institutions to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

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Mary Senior, UCU’s Scotland official, said: “Strike action is always the last resort but universities’ refusal to deal with the key issues of increased pension costs, pay and working conditions leave no alternative.

“It is unbelievable that universities have not done more to work with us to try and find a way to resolve these disputes.

“We’re asking students to call on university principals to get their representatives back to negotiating table for serious talks.”

The Scottish members will be joining those from another 48 universities across the rest of the UK.

Across Scotland, 78 per cent of UCU members polled voted for strikes over changes to USS pensions and 73 per cent backed strikes over pay and conditions.

As well as eight strike days, union members will begin to take “action short of a strike” from today.

This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

There will also be a rally today starting at 1pm in Bristo Square, Edinburgh.

A USS spokesman said: “We recognise the difficulties in levying higher contributions but USS, along with all similar pension schemes, faces a challenging environment in which the costs of funding high-quality defined benefits have increased dramatically.

“We are in no doubt that higher contributions are required to ensure the valuable promises our employer and member representatives are making can be kept.”

Carol Costello, speaking on behalf of USS employers, said: “Many USS employers and scheme members want to see changes to the USS valuation methodology and scheme ­governance ahead of the next valuation in 2020.

“Under pensions law, the scheme needs more money to keep benefits at the same level – which has always been a key demand of the UCU.

“Many institutions will not be able to afford a higher share of the contributions and the costs and risks of this scheme are shared equally by all.

“We will continue to talk with the UCU, as we have done over the last 18 months, on a joint and fair solution to this pensions dispute.”

The universities affected include Heriot-Watt University; Edinburgh University; Glasgow University; the University of St Andrews; the University of Strathclyde; Glasgow Caledonian University; Glasgow School of Art, Queen Margaret University, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science.