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University staff are ‘absolutely burnt out,’ says official on second day of strike action

THOUSANDS of striking university staff are “absolutely burnt out,” a union official said on their second day of strike action yesterday.

More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK, who are members of the University and College Union (UCU), continued their 48-hour walkout on Friday in an ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions.

The strike, which will also see members walkout on November 30, is the biggest in the union’s history and in higher education.

The UCU said many of its members are employed on precarious contracts, which does not give them enough time for marking or supporting students.

It also claims members have lost 35 per cent of their expected pension income after cuts were made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, UCU Scotland’s Mary Senior said staff are “absolutely burnt out” given their current conditions.

She added: “Hundreds of university staff in Scotland are on short-term, fixed-term and hourly paid contracts.

“Their pay has lost value by 25 per cent since 2009. They are faced with unsafe workloads and precarious contracts in the sector.

“Those on hourly paid contracts aren’t often paid for the time to mark essays or to provide the extra support students need.

“We really are in an unsustainable situation.”

She claimed the pension scheme has a £1.8 billion surplus and cuts of more than a third have been made.

“You can see why our members are so angry and that’s why we had strong picket lines yesterday and we’re expecting the same today,” Ms Senior added.

Students will see disruption while strikes are ongoing as they gear up for exams and assessments in the coming weeks.

“It’s deeply regrettable, workers come into the university sector to support students, to provide them with education,” she said of the strike action.

“We’ve been really heartened by students who have joined us on the picket lines.

“They know our working conditions are their learning conditions.”

University staff had a 3 per cent pay offer “imposed” on them, Ms Senior said, but she warned with inflation in double figures, that “doesn’t cut it.”

Employers say they are taking steps to mitigate disruption, adding the union is seeking an “unrealistic” 13.6 per cent pay rise which would cost institutions around £1.5 billion.

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