UK universities and Scottish colleges hit by strike motion over pay and pensions

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Nearly each college within the UK and college in Scotland was hit by strikes on Thursday, as industrial unrest over pay and pensions spreads throughout the training sector.

Some 70,000 college employees are staging three walkouts this month in what their union has described as the biggest co-ordinated motion within the sector’s historical past. Scotland’s training union, in the meantime, closed colleges within the greatest nationwide strike because the Nineteen Eighties.

The industrial motion comes amid mounting unrest throughout the general public sector at below-inflation pay rises and pressure throughout the training system, already below stress from tight budgets.

Throughout the nation, employees at 150 universities walked out in motion that the College and Faculty Union mentioned may have an effect on 2.5mn college students.

UCU members can even strike on Friday and November 30, in an escalation of a years-long dispute over pay and pensions. The row has resulted in weeks of walkouts since 2018, however that is the primary time motion has occurred throughout all universities, relatively than being referred to as by particular person college branches.

Jo Grady, UCU normal secretary, blamed the motion on the “woeful” sector management. “Employees are burnt out, however they’re preventing again,” she mentioned. “They’ve had sufficient of falling pay, pension cuts and gig-economy working situations.” 

The union has demanded a “significant” pay rise, after employers provided a rise beginning at 3 per cent regardless of inflation final month hitting a 41-year excessive of 11.1 per cent. It has additionally referred to as for a reversal of cuts to retirement advantages, made to plug a deficit within the sector’s pension fund that emerged as markets crashed on the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Universities UK, which represents employers, mentioned college students have been “nicely ready to mitigate” the influence of strikes and that it had provided employees the “very best” retirement advantages.

In Scotland, colleges have been closed on Thursday after the principle instructing union this month voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike motion.

Andrea Bradley, normal secretary of the Academic Institute of Scotland, mentioned members “actually didn’t wish to be on this place”. However she argued that that they had been “compelled” to strike by the refusal of the Scottish authorities and Cosla, which represents councils, “to make any enchancment” to their provide of a 5 per cent pay improve.

Following last-minute talks on Wednesday, the EIS rejected a revised provide of 6.85 per cent for the lowest-paid lecturers, saying it amounted to a mean 5.07 per cent improve. The union is asking for a ten per cent rise for all members.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, on Wednesday mentioned her authorities had put ahead a “honest and cheap” pay rise for all public sector employees, at a time of “sky excessive inflation”, that surpassed offers provided to employees in England.

“We’re working not simply inside a hard and fast, however a closely constrained price range,” mentioned Sturgeon.

Lecturers in colleges throughout the remainder of the UK are balloting for strike motion, which is predicted to happen subsequent yr.

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