Workers at 12 Scottish universities have started the first of eight days of strike action amid rows over pensions plus pay and working conditions.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at 60 institutes across the UK are taking to the picket lines from Monday to Wednesday December 4.

The disputes centre on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and issues including a failure to improve pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

  • Both disputes: Heriot-Watt University, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Stirling, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde
  • Pay and conditions dispute only: Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  • USS pensions dispute only: Scottish Association of Marine Science

UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: “Strike action is always the last resort but universities’ refusal to deal with the key issues of increased pension costs, pay and working conditions leave no alternative.”

Eight universities in Scotland are involved in both disputes: Heriot-Watt, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde.

Three institutes – Glasgow Caledonian, Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University – are only part of the pay and conditions dispute.

The Scottish Association of Marine Science is only in the USS pensions dispute.

Around 200 people picketed outside the University of Glasgow on Monday morning, including lecturer Vladimir Unkovski-Korica.

He told the PA news agency: “We’re all united in the sense that conditions are not what they should be.

“We’ve had an effective pay cut for 20 years roughly in comparison with inflation … at the same time that universities have been getting more students, more money, building more shiny buildings.

“In many ways we feel there’s an imbalance there and it should be set right.”

He added: “We do feel supported and our strike is not against our students.

“It’s for a better education for everybody, for us in terms of better conditions and obviously that will translate to more happy students.

“Obviously nobody is happy to go on strike, nobody wants to have their pay docked and to stand out in the cold and the rain but we’ll be out as long as we need to.”

University and College Union strike
People on the picket line outside the University of Glasgow (Douglas Barrie/PA)

Last month, members backed the action in ballots over both pensions and pay and working conditions, with turnouts in Scotland of 56.9% and 56.5% on the respective issues.

More than three-quarters (78%) backed the industrial action over USS changes, while 73% were in favour of strikes in the other dispute.

No agreement was reached with academic institution representatives ahead of the nationwide walkout.

Members will also begin “action short of a strike” on Monday, continuing when they return to work.

The UCU’s Glasgow branch had a 58% turnout and university rector Aamer Anwar addressed those who gathered at the main gate to strike.

Jeanette Findlay, president of the branch, told PA: “Our members are very angry about a number of issues that they feel have been dragging on for a very long time.

“One of the bigger issues, especially for our younger members of staff, is casualisation.

“People don’t really know this but actually outside the hospitality sector we’re one of the most casualised sectors in the whole economy.

“Huge numbers of people are on relatively short-term contracts and that can go on for a long time, a succession of relatively short contracts that can go on for 10-15 years.”

She added: “That’s really not good enough. People can be left in these precarious, insecure positions.

“We have members of staff who are literally broken by this system.

“They are worked so hard and put under so much pressure that it’s impossible for people to sustain a healthy life but also to supply a good quality education to students.”