Pensions strike action hits eight Scottish universities

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Members of the UCU on a picket line outside the University of Glasgow
Image caption,
About 135,000 students will be affected by the day of action

Hundreds of staff at eight universities in Scotland are taking industrial action in a row over their pensions.

About 135,000 students at St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Dundee, Stirling and Aberdeen have been affected.

The University and College Union (UCU) has also scheduled a second day of strike action for 24 March.

The union said it was willing to negotiate with the Employers Pension Forum through arbitration service Acas.

It said the changes would reduce pension benefits and increase costs.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, who joined the picket line on University Avenue in Glasgow, said: "The reason that we're going to do this today is to show quite how strongly we feel about the employer proposals about our pension.

"If we don't get a negotiated settlement to our pensions I'm afraid that the disruption that students are feeling today, all 135,000 of them across Scotland, will not be a one-off.

"We cannot, cannot accept the very punitive proposals that the employers have put on the table."

She said it was a "perfectly resolvable dispute".

'Back to the table'

More than 40 staff have been on picket lines outside the University of Glasgow's campus.

David Anderson, who is the UCU president at the university, said: "The dispute today is about pensions. It is an attempt to bring the employers back to the table.

"The university want to save money and the changes would mean the removal of final salary pension schemes. This would mean staff would have to pay more and receive considerably less once they've retired."

Mr Anderson said he thought about 1,000 staff would be joining the walkout at the university.

Sarah Jones, a 29-year-old researcher in the school of humanities at the University of Glasgow, said: "I want to make sure that anyone who joins the university in the future gets the same opportunity. I want to protect what we have at the moment.

"One of the key things for me is because we are all on short-term funding, we are on project funding, so there is a potential of a break in contract and I want to make sure that I keep my benefits if I do have a break.

"From what I've seen it could be quite a big cut in your final pension. I'm quite early in my career, I want to make sure I have a decent pension in my retirement."

Alternative scheme

Several students also joined the picket at the University of Glasgow.

Liam Turbett, who is studying history, said: "We've come out today to show support for our lecturers who are striking to defend their pensions, but obviously it's part of a much wider attack on education which we've seen at Glasgow.

"Students and staff need to present a united front against staff and course cuts."

The trade unions at Glasgow Caledonian University called a lunchtime rally on campus to report on their latest meeting with management.

In response to management plans to axe 95 jobs, unions have outlined an alternative scheme to review top managers' pay and perks, spending on GCU's London campus and capital spending in Glasgow, while retaining staff.

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