Stirling UCU: Strikes have been “devastating in all kinds of ways” 

6 mins read

Staff across the University of Stirling are participating in on-going strikes throughout September. The University and College Union (UCU) explained that Stirling is striking – when other universities aren’t – due to an imposed pay deduction for those who took part in the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB).

Summary of the strikes 

The MAB, which happened in April this year, was a protest of the real terms pay decline of 25 per cent over the last decade, overwork, and insecure contracts.  

Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer

The university issued 50 per cent pay reductions to all staff who participated in the MAB over the time it ran, starting on 1 June. The average lecturer will have lost around £4,000, estimates show.  

Now, the UCU are striking to protest these pay deductions. They’re arguing that while staff didn’t participate in marking, they continued to do all their other work.  

Stirling has been hit with some of the harshest pay deductions across all Scottish universities.  

Staff’s thoughts 

Christine Ferguson, a professor in literature and languages at the university, said: “[the strike has been] devastating in all kinds of ways. We’ve got colleagues struggling to pay their mortgages, to pay for their kid’s schools, nurseries, and uniforms. Some people have taken loans that they can’t pay back.  

“It is absolutely brutal stuff. It’s really hurt us emotionally. We love our jobs, we love working [for] this community, and we miss our students.” 

Christine also told Brig that she had been preparing course material throughout the summer, only to be unable to use it due to the strikes. To have all that hard work sacrificed is no doubt difficult, and begs the question, why are staff continuing to strike? 

Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer

Christine told Brig: “Nothing we do seems to lead to negotiations, and we’ve ended up in this situation. […] We are kind of increasingly alone here.” 

Other universities across Scotland have had negotiations and even back-dated pay to staff members – Stirling hasn’t.  

Brig asked Christine why she thinks that Stirling has imposed such a harsh deduction, and why they won’t back-date any pay.  

She said: “It’s very difficult for us to understand that. We ask that question ourselves. 

“It would be good to know what they’re doing with that money if they’re not giving it back to staff. 

“[…] For the sake of moral and community, surely we all would benefit from a better working environment.” 

Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer

How are the strikes affecting students? 

International students have already been affected by the MAB, some even having to return home and apply for Visas due to late grades. As well as this, international students pay extortionate fees to study here, fees which are being charged even with no access to course material due to the strikes.  

Students are left feeling unsure about their courses. Many are coming in to find that classes have been disrupted by industrial action.  

Christine said: “I think the situation is bad for all students and particularly for international students. I think they’ve been in an incredibly difficult situation. We are so enriched by international students. We have so much to gain from them being here and to treat them like this is horrific.” 

Stirling Students Union response

The Students Union posted a statement on their website regarding the strikes. They said: “As your student Sabbatical Officers, we wholeheartedly support the UCU in taking industrial action over the pay deductions they saw during the Marking and Assessment Boycott.

“We have written to University Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Gerry McCormac to express our disappointment that an agreement over the pay deduction with the local UCU has not happened as we believe that lecturers working conditions are our learning conditions.

“We urged him to return to negotiations with the local UCU branch.”

University of Stirling response

A spokesperson for the University of Stirling said: “The University is disappointed that industrial action is taking place. Our focus is on ensuring our new and returning students are warmly welcomed to the University over the coming days and disruption is minimal. 

“Marking and the facilitation of assessments form part of the contractual duties of teaching staff and are fundamental to the progress of our students. The small number of staff who participated in the marking and assessment boycott, as part of sector-wide industrial action, were advised prior to the action that part of their pay would be withheld if they chose not to mark or assess work.”

Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer

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Second year student journalist studying Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Journalism Studies.
Writer for Brig and Discovery Music

Second year student journalist studying Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Journalism Studies.
Writer for Brig and Discovery Music

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