University dispute over pay escalates as a quarter of Scottish universities hit by strikes

20 June 2016 | last updated: 21 June 2016
  • Escalation in pay dispute with strikes in over a quarter of Scottish universities this week
  • Strikes target graduations and senior management meetings
  • Strikes at Stirling University (20 June), Queen Margaret University (22 June), Glasgow Caledonian University (23 June), Heriot-Watt University (24 June), and Glasgow School of Art (24 June)

The dispute between university staff and their employers is set to ramp up as UCU Scotland members in a quarter of Scottish universities and institutions are set to walk out. This week's escalation follows a two day national strike in late May (25 and 26 May) and staff at Edinburgh and Glasgow universities and the University of the West of Scotland striking the previous week.
 
Striking university staff at the University of Stirling received a boost ahead of their strike today (20 June) when leading American educationalist, Professor Michael Apple, pulled out of a planned lecture in support of their action. The Professor sent a message of support to striking staff at the university saying he stood in support of their actions and hoped the strike was successful.

The dispute is over the 1.1% pay award the universities' employer organisation, UCEA, is offering staff after a 14.5% real terms pay decrease over the past six years. At the same time principals in Scotland have been receiving pay increases of up to 15%. As well as pay, the dispute also centres on the use of zero-hours contracts in universities and the gender pay gap. Over 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts and, on average, the difference in pay between what men and women academics are paid is £6,103 per year.
 
As well as taking strike action union members are working to contract, meaning that they will only work their contracted hours, and refuse set any additional work or take on any voluntary activities. The union is also encouraging members who are external examiners to resign those positions. This will disrupt the marking process over the summer when exam boards meet to consider challenged marks as there will be a lack of external examiners who provide the critical quality assurance aspect to the process.
 
Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, said: 'With over a quarter of Scottish universities being hit by strike action this week and more planned for the weeks and months to come this dispute is becoming deeper and increasingly bitter. The absolute last thing lecturers and university staff want to do is go on strike. Staff have been forced into taking action and the breadth of what it taking place shows that our members are resolute. The only people who can resolve this dispute now are the employers. They need to come back with a fair and reasonable offer.'

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