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Summer of pay strikes at universities continues

Protesters outside Dundee University on Tuesday.
Protesters outside Dundee University on Tuesday.

University staff in Tayside and Fife are taking strike action in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay.

University and College Union (UCU) Scotland members at Dundee, Abertay and St Andrews universities walked out on Tuesday morning as part of a day of action.

Staff at Strathclyde University are also striking.

This follows a two-day national walkout in late May, over a 1.1% pay offer from the universities’ employer organisation, UCEA.

The union said the offer does nothing to address the 14.5% real terms pay decrease staff in Scottish universities have suffered since 2009.

At the same time principals in Scotland are said to be receiving pay increases of up to 15%.

Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said: ‘This week sees a significant escalation in this dispute with another four universities going on strike in Scotland.

“This reflects the genuine anger at the high-handed way the employer has handled these negotiations.

“Our members don’t take going on strike lightly, but after six years of real terms falling pay they have little option.”

As well as pay, the dispute also focuses on the use of zero-hours contracts in universities and the gender pay gap.

Half (49%) of university teachers are said to be on insecure contracts and, on average, the difference in pay between what men and women academics are paid is £6,103 per year, according to UCU.

UCU members are working to contract as part of the dispute, meaning that they will only work their contracted hours, and are refusing to set any additional work or take on any voluntary activities.

A UCEA spokesperson said: “UCU’s latest call on its members to take strike action to target their own individual HE institutions including their open days is of course disappointing but it is important to note that few academic staff actually voted to support industrial action

“At those member institutions where such a day has been organised, they have advised UCEA that the day of local action has had very little impact.

“HE institutions tell us that the majority of their staff understand the financial realities for their institutions and the need to showcase their courses and campuses effectively.

“Rather than ask their members to try and inflict damage on themselves, their colleagues, their students and potential students, we would like to see UCU actually consult its members on all the elements of a full, fair and final offer which addresses gender pay gaps and hourly paid employment alongside offering a pay uplift that is 0.8% above inflation and with pay progression will total 2.7% at sector level.”

The spokesman added that the strike vote was supported by just 23% of UCU’s members.

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