DUSA media was on the picket line from early on this morning to cover the first day of strike action by the UCU.

Today marks the first day in nearly 2 weeks worth of industrial action scheduled for the coming month.

In the shadow of tower building in the mellow morning sun, an initially small group became larger and larger. Lecturers, students and staff from across the university trickled into the growingly eminent group. Professor Pete Downes came along early on to chat to strikers and had a frank exchange of views with Economics lecturer Carlo Morelli, which included Dr Morelli asking why Downes had not come out publicly in favour of the strikes, unlike other principals. That being said, it was made clear to all involved, particularly students, that this was a union strike. As such, the action was not directed at any one person in particular and the specific gripes with the Principal should not be part of the days’ proceedings.

Immediately it became clear that there was real frustration in the striking staff with one member of staff commenting that the basis for the proposed pension changes was based on an incorrect or at least questionable economic model:

“70% of USS assets are in stocks and bonds, 10% are in guilts. So their valuation of the USS stocks which are based on a study which was modelled on selling stocks and buying guilts instead”.

Janice Aitken, UCU Scotland secretary said:

“it is a very good turn out and this is just the tip of the iceberg” in response to being asked about members of staff going through the picket to go to work as normal.”

After a few hours at the tower building picket line, the now 70 odd strong group walked to the Caird Hall for a series of speeches by supporters from Abertay, Dundee and St Andrew’s university as well as union reps from other trades coming out in solidarity with lecturers. Firstly, the hall welcomed Dr Morelli who reiterated the context for the strike, commenting that:

“The action is historic and that it will fundamentally change higher education. People are sick of marketisation and privatisation and that the move from collective to individual pension schemes was indicative of that. We are part of that radicalisation process.”

He then added that it was up to university staff to make the institutions ungovernable until compromises can be made.

The room was then gripped by the powerful emotion of a St Andrews UCU rep who was moved to tears by recounting her experiences of financial and mental strain while perusing an academic career.

DUSA media will be following the strikes throughout March.