Dundee University students ‘occupy’ corridor in protest as UCU strikes continue


Students at the University of Dundee have occupied a corridor in the institution’s landmark Tower Building in a bid to persuade uni chiefs to meet with striking workers.

The group of around 10 students set up outside the office of uni boss Iain Gillespie at 8am and say they won’t budge for 24 hours or until their demands are met.

Students want university chiefs to meet with trade union UCU to discuss imminent changes to employee pensions that could see their value slashed by a third.

They’re also demanding that the uni accepts the UCU’s alternate pension proposals – and that any wages not paid to striking staff are diverted to its own Student Hardship Fund.

Students have been getting on with work during the sit-in
Students have been getting on with work during the sit-in

Jake Mace, general secretary of the Dundee Student Renters Union and one of the occupiers, says the sit-in is an expression of solidarity with striking lecturers, course administrators and student support staff.

He said: “The conditions for staff are unacceptable and they are damaging our education, which is why we’ve occupied this space.

“We’ve brought this right to the doorstep of Iain Gillespie and the other executive staff.

“But he wasn’t interested in reading our demands this morning. He walked past and said ‘good morning’ and that was it.”

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The occupiers put up a sign in front of the Perth Road building to inform others of their presence. However, it has since been ripped down by university staff.

Academic workers across Scotland are on day four of a planned five-day walkout over pay, conditions and pensions.

The UCU has called for higher education chiefs to put an end to temporary and casual contracts for course staff, and to implement a blanket £2,500 pay rise to compensate for wages not keeping up with rising inflation.

University of Dundee Principal Iain Gillespie
University of Dundee Principal Iain Gillespie

They also want to see a reversal of imminent changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) that will see workers’ retirement funds moved away from defined benefit schemes that provide guaranteed payouts.

UCU chiefs say pension pots will lose 35% of their value as a result – but the USS insists that such schemes are no longer financially viable.

Lecturers told Dundee Live earlier this week how part-time and casual contracts had robbed them of the ability to dedicate themselves to education full time.

Jake, 23, added: “What’s really important here is that their teaching conditions are our learning conditions.

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“We’re subject to an education system that has gone through mass commercialization and here in Dundee we’ve seen schools merged and retiring staff not being replaced in areas like History.

“It directly affects us as students and it’s denigrating our education.”

A sign promoting the sit-in was ripped down by Dundee Uni staff
A sign promoting the sit-in was ripped down by Dundee Uni staff

A University of Dundee spokesperson said the students would not be forced out of the building.

They added: “We are aware of the sit-in and there will be no attempts to remove the students.

“We have advised them on health and safety issues, including Covid risk from occupying a relatively small space that others may have to move through.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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