University staff are to strike for up to 10 days in February over pensions, pay and working conditions the University and College Union (UCU) have announced.
Having already participated in strike action last semester, University of Edinburgh staff will strike again this semester in what the UCU has deemed “a fight for the future of higher education”.
If no solution can be reached in forthcoming talks, the first round of strike action will begin with a five-day walkout from 14 February. A further two days of action is set to begin on 22 February and a three-day walkout is scheduled to begin on 28 February.
The newest announcement of more industrial action marks an escalation by the UCU, which last month staged a three-day walkout at 58 universities. The union also threatened further disruption if an agreement is not reached, including “preparations” for a “UK wife marking and assessment boycott”.
University staff are taking industrial action over two separate disputes. The first is over a cut to pensions, which the UCU say will leave staff facing a 35 per cent cut to their guaranteed retirement income. The second dispute concerns pay and working conditions, with the UCU claiming that staff are facing unmanageable workloads, insecure contracts and pay inequality.
Over a million students at 68 universities across the UK will be impacted. The final day of strike action has been scheduled to coincide with a student strike on Wednesday 2 March, organised by the National Union of Students (NUS).
The NUS’s national president, Larissa Kennedy, said:
“We will continue to stand with staff in their struggles because nothing about this broken system is inevitable.”
Jo Grady, the general secretary of the UCU, said:
“It is a damning indictment of the way our universities are managed that staff are being left with no option but to walk out again.
“For a sector that is worth tens of billions of pounds and enjoys record levels of student growth it is beyond disgraceful that in return staff get vicious pension cuts, falling pay and are pushed to breaking point under deteriorating working conditions.
“Time is quickly running out for vice chancellors to avert strike action, but it can be done.”
The Edinburgh University Students’ Association supported the strike action taken by University of Edinburgh staff last semester, although they are yet to indicate if they will support the upcoming strikes.
Speaking to The Student about the forthcoming strike action, a University of Edinburgh student said:
“I understand the pressure and strain that university staff are under at the moment, but I fail to see what yet more strike action will achieve. They have been striking continuously for over three years and they still haven’t got what they want.
“They can say all they want about not wanting to impact students, but I think we are at the end of our tether. I’ve missed out on so much teaching. A marking boycott would be unforgivable and completely disproportionate. I work hard to get my essays in on time, even when I miss out on class time due to the strikes.
“All the strikes do is create further disillusionment and frustration.”
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said:
“We realise this situation causes additional concern for students and we will do everything we can to ensure that the impact of any action on learning and teaching is minimised. We must also maintain academic standards so that students are not disadvantaged when progressing to the next year or when graduating.
“We are committed to helping our colleagues save and plan for retirement and we, along with other members of USS, need to support the current pensions scheme to be strong and sustainable, with a long-term future, which is affordable both for individuals and employers.
“We will continue to work with all appropriate groups, including UCU representatives, to find a long-term, responsible outcome to this ongoing challenge.”
Information about guidance for University of Edinburgh students during the industrial action can be found here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-administration/industrial-action.
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