University strikes: Campuses told to prepare for more walkouts

Universities have been warned they could face a further five days of strike action beginning later this month.

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced that 68 institutions across the UK will face more disruption unless pension cuts are revoked and demands met over pay and working conditions.

The targeted Scottish establishments are Dundee, Edinburgh Napier, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Glasgow School of Art, Heriot-Watt, Queen Margaret, St Andrews, Stirling, and Strathclyde.  

Due to the nature of its teaching model, employees at the Open University will be taking seven days of strike action.

It comes after staff walked out for ten days in February, with UCU general secretary Jo Grady saying at the time that the move was a “a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again”.

Now the union has confirmed that more than 50,000 staff are preparing for additional days of strikes over two weeks.

READ MORE: How will a Scottish university strike affect me?

The first week of action, which is scheduled to start on Monday, March 21, would involve 38 universities. The second week would see 30 institutions strike for five days from Monday, March 28.

UCU leaders said “well over a million students” would be affected and that, as part of the ongoing disputes, all of its branches would be reballoted to prepare for the possibility of further strikes during the next term.

They also insisted that, on February 22, universities had “forced through pension cuts” that would reduce typical retirement incomes by 35 per cent.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “Vice chancellors could easily end this dispute and prevent further disruption in our universities, but they would rather attack the pensions, pay and working conditions of their own staff and damage the sector at the same time.

“Students and staff alike deserve better leadership than this and we hope that this action and our reballot of members for future action will make employers see sense.”

HeraldScotland: Glasgow University is among the targeted institutions.Glasgow University is among the targeted institutions.

She added: “Universities in the UK bring in tens of billions in income each year and have tens of billions more hoarded in their reserves.

“There is no justification whatsoever for slashing staff pensions or refusing to take action over falling pay, shocking equality pay gaps, rampant casualisation and unsafe workloads. For years our union has been offering sensible and deliverable solutions that would benefit staff, students and the entire sector, but employers are just not interested.

“Students support staff because they know that staff working conditions are their learning conditions. They also know that universities have the money to give staff what they deserve. Until vice chancellors get the message, staff will continue to take action to defend themselves.”

READ MORE: Bosses ‘underestimating’ staff anger as strikes hit universities

University bosses have strongly criticised the move. 

A Universities UK spokesman, on behalf of USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) pension scheme employers, said: “Taking university staff out on strike again will not remove the need to reform USS to ensure it remains affordable for members and employers.”

The spokesman also stressed that “February’s industrial action did not achieve the outcome UCU intended” and said data gathered by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association suggested “turnout on picket lines was even lower than before, with limited disruption to students”.

He added: “With news of more strikes and yet another ballot, reasonable onlookers will conclude the union has an ideological fixation with strike action and is determined to pursue it, no matter the cost.”

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