Staff and students unite for pension picket line

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Staff and students braved the freezing temperatures this morning to continue the second day of strike action. A crowd of 50 gathered at the main entrance to campus to protest against the decision of Universities UK (UUK) to make changes to the pension scheme of staff at institutions across the country. The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has said that the new changes would leave staff up to £10,000 per year worse off in retirement.

Today’s picket line began early with 14 people arriving at 0730 to set up. With the arrival of students came a speaker with a playlist of empowering music including Ralph Chaplin’s Solidarity Forever. The picket began to resemble a sort of party atmosphere with a real sense of warmth between students and staff. Students said they felt it important to be there as ‘lecturers go above and beyond’.A number of staff speaking to Brig were thankful for the support of students with one saying they were ‘so grateful’ for the way people have come out to show solidarity.

Students sang and chanted throughout the demonstration. Credit: Harry Williamson

Yesterday afternoon a number of staff joined students and staff from institutions across the central belt for a joint protest in Edinburgh. Speaking on the protests across the UK, staff were encouraged to see that a number of vice chancellors across the UK were ‘doing the right thing’ and coming out in support of their staff.

This includes one vice chancellor who was spotted on a barbecue at a picket yesterday. When asked if staff believed Vice-Chancellor Gerry McCormac was doing the wrong thing in not coming to the picket lines the staff replied: “Gerry’s not a barbecue fan.”

Picket lines formed again today at 7am, which saw many students again raising their banners in support of their lecturers.

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Credit: Harry Williamson

Picketers were joined for a short time by Union President Astrid Smallenbrook who, despite not attending yesterday’s demonstration, has said she will attend tomorrow and next week.

The demonstration received vocal support from the horns of those driving into campus this morning and seemed to have particular support from bus drivers.

Campus security appeared twice in the morning to ask picketers to move cars from entrance lanes. However, on a visit from a member of the campus estates team, the worker said that their team would not remove any strike-related material around campus, including the banner hanging from the link bridge.

Representatives from UCU are expected to meet with UUK today, but a number of staff are not confident UUK will change their position. Strikes are expected to continue tomorrow and then intensify with four days of action next week.

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