UNIVERSITY staff have vowed to continue their fight for better terms and conditions after a week of strikes gripped the UK.

Hundreds of lecturers, professors and students took part in a rally in the centre of Glasgow amid disputes over pensions and better pay, fairer workloads and more equal conditions which have affected higher education institutions across Scotland.

Workers at 12 Scottish universities and 48 south of the border walked out last week and have been manning picket lines since then.

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) says staff have reached "breaking point" and face real-terms cuts in pay changes to pensions for staff in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which the union says will leave members paying in more and receiving less in retirement.

READ MORE: Staff at Scottish universities begin eight days of strikes

UCU also fears that heavy workloads are affecting workers' wellbeing, and also the quality of education being delivered to students. Strikes began on 25 November and are due to run until Wednesday.

The buoyant demonstration at the steps of the Royal Concert Hall heard from UCU branch members at many universities, union officials and University of Glasgow Rector Aamar Anwar.


Jo Grady

UCU Gneral Secretary Jo Grady told the crowd: "Our employers continue to misjudge how we feel about our workplaces, how we feel about the future of eduction.

"People are sick and tired of working in a higher education [sector] that continually treats its workers as the shock absorbers of the business model that principals and vice-principals have chosen to adopt."

"Direct action works. What we've seen this week is that our employers do not expect us to do these things."

READ MORE: Twelve Scottish universities to be hit as 7000 take part in eight-day strike

She added: "Despite this being a labour of love we do not labour for free. We have two more days left of this strike. Make them as noisy, as big and make them as visible as you can, because we need it."


Liam McCabe

Liam McCabe, President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland, said that the NUS stood in solidarity with university staff.

He said: "An attack on staff is an attack on the very heart of our education system, and I am proud that the student movement has, and always will, stand alongside you.

"The last people who want to disrupt students learning and stand in the way of education taking place are those who are committed their entire lives to improving and facilitating it."

He added that university staff had been working under deteriorating conditions for many years, saying: "The same old tired rhetoric [from employers] has been trotted out in this strike action as was trotted out the last time - University staff must do more work for less money and get less of a payout on their pensions."

READ MORE: Scottish university lecturers set to strike over pay and pension disputes​

The UCU is angry that members are now having to pay 9.6 per cent in pension contributions, up from 8 per cent and wants universities to pay the full increase instead.

The union estimates that, overall, changes to the pension could leave lecturers about £240,000 worse off in retirement, rising to £730,000 for professors.


Calls were also made to close the gender pay gap, and to bring an end to casual contracts which some members of staff have been languishing on for years.

Ian Ellis, a senior lecturer in Oral Cell Biology at the University of Dundee Dental School, said: "The increasing workload means there's little chance to keep up and contact time with students has gone down. Many people's mental health has been affected by the pressure."

"If I hadn't gone on strike I would have to have gone off sick. And If we lose our pensions rights other in the public sector will follow."