University of Edinburgh strikes: Staff start unprecedented 18 days of strikes over pay and conditions
Thousands of University of Edinburgh staff are today (February 1) starting an unprecedented 18 days of planned strike action as part of a nationwide, ongoing dispute that will see universities brought to a standstill.
University of Edinburgh teachers, researchers, and support staff will walk out in an escalating row over pay and working conditions, and cuts to pensions, as members of the University and College Union (UCU) from 150 UK universities – including all of Edinburgh’s four universities – undertake industrial action.
Following on from three initial days of strikes in November 2022, University of Edinburgh strike action today marks the start of an unprecedented 18 days of walk-outs taking place at 150 UK universities during February and March.
The latest strike by UCU members, including at the University of Edinburgh, coincides with the TUC’s Protect the Strike Day, which will see events across the UK against new laws proposed by the Westminster government to significantly limit industrial action.
In the pay and working conditions dispute, the union’s demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts. With inflation currently remaining in double figures, employers have imposed a pay rise worth just three per cent this year and offered an average increase of around six per cent for 2023-24, following over a decade of below inflation pay awards amounting to what the UCU calls a real-terms pay cut of 25 per cent during the last 10 years. Adding that a third of academic staff across the UK are on some form of temporary contract.
In the pension dispute, the UCU is demanding employers revoke recent cuts and restore benefits. The UCU says that the package of cuts made in 2022 will see the average member lose 35 per cent from their guaranteed future retirement income.
‘University staff are relying on foodbanks’
President of UCU’s University of Edinburgh branch, Grant Buttars, said: “University staff at Edinburgh, and across the UK, are increasingly frustrated that university management continues to ignore our reasonable requests for fair pay and working conditions, and decent pensions.
“In the recent New Year’s honours list the University of Edinburgh principal/vice chancellor – Peter Mathieson – was rewarded with a knighthood ‘for services to higher education’, whilst nationally, university staff are relying on foodbanks. It is high time that all staff at the University of Edinburgh, and universities across the UK, received proper and appropriate recognition and remuneration for their work.
“A resolution to this dispute can be reached, but that is in the gift of university vice-chancellors who need to urgently reassess their priorities and deliver a deal that properly benefits staff and students.”
Strike action by UCU members is planned to take place on the following dates: February 1, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 27 and 28. March 1, 2, 16, 17, 20, 21 and 22.
UCU members will also be re-balloted on industrial action shortly, meaning further strikes – potentially including an indefinite walkout – could be called when the current mandate for industrial action ends this Spring.
The Edinburgh University Students’ Association backs the strike action. In a statement, it said: “The Students’ Association is fully supportive of members of the UCU taking industrial action to improve their working conditions, in-line with our live Student Council policy on this issue, which was passed by Elected Representatives and student members in 2021.
“Staff working conditions are our learning conditions. Issues like low pay, high workloads, and casualisation – the increasing use of insecure contracts and variable working hours – affect both staff and student experiences.
“We urge all students to get informed about the ongoing disputes, engage with UCU Edinburgh, and show solidarity with striking staff."
‘We are listening to staff and student concerns’
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The ongoing industrial action is part of a national campaign and we are listening to concerns about pensions, working conditions and pay. We are committed to a fair offering for staff and offer many generous staff benefits, including excellent flexible working and family friendly policies. We are working with all appropriate groups, including UCU representatives, to secure a long-term outcome for the USS pension that is fair, affordable and sustainable for both individuals and employers.
“We are listening to staff and student concerns and have implemented a number of initiatives to address aspects of employment conditions and will continue to do everything we can to ensure impact on learning and teaching is minimised. As in previous years, we have set up a Learning Opportunity Fund using money not spent on staff salaries as the result of industrial action. If classes are impacted by strike action students will be able to apply for a payment which can be used for a variety of learning opportunities.”