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University lecturers, other teaching staff to strike on 24, 25, and 30 November

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), which includes lecturers and other teaching staff at the University of Edinburgh, are set to strike on 24, 25, and 30 November.

The action comes after the union and the University could not come to an agreement on pension and pay and working conditions disputes raised by the UCU.

November’s strike will interrupt parts of weeks 10 and 11 of teaching at the University.

This will be the fourth academic year running that strike action has disrupted teaching, with the union having taken strike action annually since 2018.

UCU’s action against the University concerns two disputes, one about pensions and one about pay and working conditions.

Both disputes are nationwide, with the UCU winning strike mandates – permission by a union’s membership for the union to call for strike action – at nearly every UK university.

The pension dispute involves controversial reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), of which most Edinburgh lecturers are members.

Under the reforms, average middle-of-career lecturers are set to lose about 1/3rd of their yearly pension payout, roughly £6000.

Meanwhile, the pay and working conditions dispute involves a campaign the UCU has dubbed the “Four Fights”.

The campaign calls for increased pay, lightened workloads, less casualisation, and greater gender equality in the workplace.

Addressing University vice-chancellors after her union won two mandates to strike on 24 October, UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said on a livestream: 

“You have a small window now to get serious in negotiations, and reach an agreement with our union.

“But let me be crystal clear. If you do not take this opportunity, we will bring every university in the UK to a complete standstill.”

Alongside union members at the University of Edinburgh, staff at Heriot-Watt University will strike over both disputes.

Meanwhile, UCU members at Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University will strike over the pay and working conditions dispute only.

Both universities are not party to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, and as such were not balloted by the union for strike action on pensions.

Ellie Gomersall, president of Scottish national students’ union NUS Scotland, said in a press statement:

“Students stand in solidarity with the 70,000 university staff across the UK who will strike later this month.

“Staff teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions, and we must fight together for a fairer, healthier education system for everyone who works and studies.

“This is the fifth year in a row that government cuts to education and slashes to workers’ rights across the UK have resulted in strike action on our campuses.

“The struggles we face as students are inextricably linked to the reasons that staff are striking.

“Universities and employers must come to the table and take meaningful action to end these disputes.

“As the workers of the future, students have everything to gain from UCU members winning this fight.”

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said:

“The ongoing action is part of a national campaign and 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.

“Where we can, we have implemented a number of initiatives to address aspects of employment conditions for our staff.

“We have been a Voluntary Living Wage employer since 2012 and we have not used zero-hour contracts since 2014.

“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 listening to staff concerns about the USS pension scheme and student concerns about the impact of industrial action.

“We recognise this ongoing situation is a concern and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure impact on learning and teaching is minimised.”

The university’s information on industrial action can be found here.

The University of Edinburgh, UCU Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University Students’ Association have been contacted for comment.

Edinburgh: UCU rally at Holyrood Parliament” by kaysgeog is licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Joe Sullivan

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