Striking college and university workers march in city centre

A rally was held at Buchanan Street steps on Tuesday by university and college workers.

Around 1,000 workers from Scottish universities and colleges have walked out in disputes over pay.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) made a two-part offer that will provide at least a £1,929 increase in salary by January 1, 2024.

The offer was rejected by Unite, Unison and GMB unions.

On Tuesday, a rally was held in Glasgow and attended by Unite members from Glasgow and Strathclyde universities.

The workers were joined by other Unite members from the Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow Caledonian University. 

Members from other trade unions including UCU, Unison and EIS-FELA also joined the march.

The march culminated at 12.30pm on the city’s Buchanan Street steps where guest speakers including STUC general secretary Roz Foyer, Labour MSP and education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy and union leaders made contributions.

Around 1,000 members employed in four universities and four colleges across Scotland have been taking strike action. 

Workers at the University of Glasgow, Dundee University, Abertay University, and Strathclyde University are striking from September 18 to 19. 

Unite’s members involved in the pay dispute include technicians, cleaners, security officers, and janitors.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members in universities and further education have received tremendous support from students, fellow workers and the public. 

“At the heart of these disputes is how we treat and value dedicated workers who help to provide the best possible learning experience. Let’s remember that they did so all throughout the pandemic. We will back our members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

The strike action is part of a UK wide higher education pay dispute. 

Around 100 members across four colleges have also walked out in a separate dispute over pay. 

Workers in Ayrshire College, Dumfries and Galloway College, and West College Scotland are striking throughout the week.

New College Lanarkshire members took strike action on September 7 and 11.

The dispute centres on a real terms pay cut offered by the pay body – College Employers Scotland, and the potential threat of compulsory redundancies. 

Unite regional officer Alison Maclean said: “The strike action involving around 1,000 Unite members in universities and colleges across Scotland is solely down to the intransigence and inaction of pay body bosses. 

“The rally in Glasgow will be a welcome opportunity to demonstrate to these bosses just how much goodwill and support there is out there for the workers. The students and workers know where the blame for this situation lies, and our members are prepared to fight on for fair and decent pay.”

Raj Jethwa, Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) chief executive, said: “This year’s pay uplift of 5% – 8% prioritised the disproportionate effect of high inflation falling on the lower paid.

“Nearly half of the uplift was delivered six months early to address cost-of-living pressures. Around half of HE staff on the New JNCHES spine will also be eligible for pay progression, typically worth 3% on top of the base pay uplift.

“The remaining portion of the 2023-24 uplift was implemented from August 1. UCEA’s priority is to work with the unions on a number of important pay-related matters including the review of the pay spine, workload, contract types and further action to reduce the already falling pay gaps in the sector.

“A crucial element of resetting industrial relations in the sector is developing a shared understanding of affordability.

“For the sake of students and staff alike, it is now vital to work together to bring to an end the sector’s recent cycle of industrial disputes.”

Gavin Donoghue, director of College Employers Scotland (CES), said: “It looks like most support staff at colleges continued to work today despite strike action.

“However, it is disappointing that trade unions are undertaking strikes. Colleges will put in place measures to mitigate the effects of any proposed action on their students’ education.

“CES provided a full and final pay offer to all support staff trade unions in June 2023 for a cumulative £3,500 pay rise over academic years 2022/23 and 2023/24.

“The offer would equate to an average 11% pay increase. For support staff earning less than £25,000, the average increase would be 14%.

“It is unfortunate that this offer has not been taken to Unison members in a ballot and that, instead, Unison and Unite are undertaking strike action.

“Employers have requested that all support staff unions take the pay offer to their members for a formal ballot.”

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