housands of university staff are “absolutely burnt out”, a union official said as hundreds walked out in a second day of strike action in Scotland.
Around 8,000 lecturers, librarians and researchers who’re members of the University and College Union (UCU) continued their 48-hour walkout on Friday in an ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and situations.
The UCU said lots of its members are employed on precarious contracts which doesn’t give them sufficient time for marking or supporting students.
The union additionally claims members have lost 35% of their anticipated pension earnings after cuts had been made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, UCU Scotland’s Mary Senior said staff are “burnt out” given their present situations, including: “Hundreds of university staff in Scotland are on short-term, fixed-term and hourly paid contracts.
“Their pay has lost value by 25% since 2009. They are faced with unsafe workloads and precarious contracts in the sector.
“Those on hourly paid contracts aren’t often paid for the time to mark essays or to provide the extra support students need.
“We really are in an unsustainable situation.
She claimed the pension scheme has a £1.8 billion surplus and cuts of more than a third have been made.
“You can see why our members are so angry and that’s why we had strong picket lines yesterday and we’re expecting the same today,” Ms Senior added.
Students will see disruption whereas strikes are ongoing as they gear up for exams and assessments within the coming weeks, however Ms Senior said the UCU has been “heartened” by the assist it has received from students.
“It’s deeply regrettable, workers come into the university sector to support students, to provide them with education,” she said of the strike action.
“We’ve been really heartened by students who have joined us on the picket lines.
“They know our working conditions are their learning conditions.”
University staff had a 3% pay provide “imposed” on them, Ms Senior said, however she warned with inflation in double figures, that “doesn’t cut it”.
Employers say they’re taking steps to mitigate disruption, including the union is in search of an “unrealistic” 13.6% pay rise which might cost establishments around £1.5 billion.
Professor Steve West, from Universities UK, said: “We’re trying to do everything we can within the environments we’re operating with the funding we’ve got to make sure we are fair and transparent in the way we support our staff.
“My number one priority at the moment is to ensure we don’t disadvantage students.
“Frankly they’ve had a really difficult time over the last few years with Covid. This is the last thing they need.”
Meanwhile, postal employees who’re members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) additionally walked out again on Friday in an more and more bitter dispute over pay and situations.
In an article for The Independent, CWU general secretary Dave Ward wrote: “The reason for today’s strike is simple: it’s about stopping the Uberisation of Royal Mail. The management agenda is about Royal Mail being transformed into a gig economy-style parcel courier, with a business model reliant on bogus self-employment and casual labour.
“For employers, the decent conditions and job protections our members enjoy seem to be a downside to running the company, which turned a £758 million profit last year.
“The other obstacle is the CWU, who they rightly see as a serious obstacle to this levelling-down agenda.”
Royal Mail chief govt Simon Thompson said: “Talks have lasted for seven months and we have made numerous improvements and two pay offers, which would now see up to a 9% pay increase over 18 months alongside a host of other enhancements. This is our best and final offer.
“Negotiations involve give and take, but it appears that the CWU’s approach is to just take. We want to reach a deal, but time is running out for the CWU to change their position and avoid further damaging strike action tomorrow.
“The strikes have already added £100 million to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year. In a materially loss-making company, with every additional day of strike action we are facing the difficult choice of whether we spend our money on pay and protecting jobs, or on the cost of strikes.
“The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country, and is putting their own members’ jobs at risk.”