University staff set for second day of strikes

The university is one of 64 institutions affected by the strikes.
The university is one of 64 institutions affected by the strikes.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at the University of St Andrews are set to take part in a second day of strike action today (Friday).

The university is among 64 institutions across the UK taking part in strikes in a row over pensions.

Four phases of strikes are planned by the UCU, with the next days of action set to occur between Monday and Wednesday, if the dispute over changes to staff pensions is not resolved.

The dispute centres on proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.

The union says that the action will affect more than one million pupils and see 575,000 teaching hours lost across the UK.

A spokesman for the University of St Andrews said: “We are clearly disappointed that it has not proved possible to reach a compromise over the future reform of the USS pension scheme.

“The proposal is to move USS to a market-leading defined contribution scheme for the next three years, with the possibility of returning to a defined benefit model at a future point. Scheme members will be consulted on this proposal for a period beginning in mid-March.

“We remain committed to doing all we can, within the context of the national arrangements, to ensure that staff continue to have access to an attractive, affordable and well-managed pension scheme as part of a comprehensive benefits package.

“We shall do all we can to minimise adverse impact on our students, and we hope that UCU will take a similarly responsible stance.”

North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins has called on all sides to settle the dispute to avoid prolonged strike action.

He said: “Many of my constituents, who teach at St Andrews, Dundee, Abertay and universities further afield, feel compelled to take this action to defend their pensions, despite displaying longstanding commitment to their universities and the education of students.

“Given the constituency’s high costs of living, I can understand why staff may feel anxious about the prospect of having to pay more contributions for less of a pension. The university must now work with the union to find a way forward which will deliver fairness and help staff feel happy to return to their work.

“I am equally concerned about the impact these strikes might have on the education of students and understand students fear their exams may be impacted.

“It is vital that the university and unions now get round the table and thrash out a deal so that everyone concerned is happy to return to work.

“I have written to the Principal of the University of St Andrews, asking her what the university is doing now and what it will do in the future to ensure an amicable solution can be reached as quickly as possible and also what plans the university has to mitigate the impact these may have on students.”