University strikes: UCU bosses defend ‘unrealistic’ 7% pay claim

Union bosses have defended demands for a £2,500 university staff pay rise after they were branded “unrealistic”.

It comes as national strikes continue over pensions, with industrial action also planned to secure improved salaries and working conditions.

Employees at Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde and the Open universities are among those participating.

Around 6,000 staff are set to take to the picket line, with 68 institutions around the UK facing disruption.

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

Leaders at the University and College Union (UCU) said turnout so far had been excellent and insisted members were determined to achieve change.

However, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has strongly criticised the union’s remuneration calls, which would mean an uplift of £2,500 on all pay points.

UCEA chief executive Raj Jethwa said: “In the pay dispute, any industrial action next week is an unrealistic attempt to force all 146 employers to re-open the concluded 2021-22 national pay round.

“We respect employees’ right to take lawful industrial action, but it is misleading to their members for UCU to ask them to lose pay – in addition to the 3 days’ pay lost in December – in pursuit of an unrealistic 7% pay demand at just over one third of the HEIs in the collective pay arrangements.”

READ MORE: University strikes – Bosses ‘underestimating’ staff anger

The criticisms have been firmly rejected by union bosses.

Mary Senior, the UCU’s Scotland official, said: “It’s disappointing but not surprising to hear employers dismissing UCU’s pay claim.

“What is unrealistic is university leaders’ expectations that staff will sit quietly in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, when they’ve already had below inflation pay rises for the past 12 years. University workers have seen a 20% pay cut in real terms over that period. But not everyone’s pay has been held down, we have some university principals with salaries of up to £340,000. 

“Its time those principals delivered a fair deal for all workers in our universities.” 


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