SEVERAL MSPs spoke at a University and College Union (UCU) rally outside Holyrood as striking academics said employers need to make a “meaningful” offer on pay and pensions.

UCU members walked out for their third day of industrial action which affected 17 universities across Scotland.

The union says members’ pay has lost 25% of its value since 2009, while cuts have reduced their expected pension income by 35%.

Strike action is taking place across the UK, though university leaders are meeting with union officials on Wednesday to discuss pay and conditions.

Further talks are set to take place on Thursday around pension arrangements.

Ahead of the rally outside the Scottish Parliament, UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: “Our members are particularly angry about the way that their pay has been held down, losing 25% of its value since 2009.

“They’re also incredibly frustrated and angry about their pensions being cut.”

Employers have said the union is seeking an “unrealistic” pay increase of 13.6%.

In response to this, Senior said: “We think that the employers can do better, we know they can do better.

“This is a sector that employs university principals on six-figure salaries.”

READ MORE: Lecturer warns of university sector crisis if strikes not resolved​

She added that employers need to increase their “paltry” offer of a 3% uplift in pay, as well as improve conditions for those on “precarious” contracts.

Senior continued: “We’re open to what the employers have got to say. They need to come forward with it, with a reasonable and a meaningful offer to address the issues that our members are in a dispute about.”

The SNP’s Kaukab Stewart said she had been supporting striking workers on the picket lines.

She told the rally she is doing everything possible to “support continuing talks and an offer that is respectful and fair”.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association's chief executive Raj Jethwa previously said: “Despite the initial feedback from HE institutions suggesting low and isolated impact on students, it is saddening if even a single student misses out on a lecture because of industrial action, especially when UCEA is consulting on an early start to the 2023-24 pay negotiations to address cost-of-living concerns.

“Strike action will do nothing to support students, staff or the many HE institutions working hard to avoid redundancies or maintain staffing levels. Our member institutions delivered the August pay uplift despite unprecedented financial challenges.

“Although likely to be limited with such a small percentage of staff voting in favour, HE institutions are fully prepared to address the impact of this industrial action. Institutions are proving that they have effective mitigations in place to minimise any interruption of learning or services to students and staff.

"HE institutions are particularly disappointed that UCU is encouraging its members to target students who have endured so many recent disruptions.”