Industrial Action FAQ’s

For Marking and Assessment Boycott advice and guidance please refer to the main UCU website.

I support the strike but I don’t think it is fair for my students to be disadvantaged 

UCU regrets that we are in the situation of being forced to withdraw labour to achieve what to any right-minded individual constitutes entirely reasonable expectation in respect of workloads, job security, pay, gender pay equality and pension benefits. 

You may feel that by withdrawing your labour you are in some way disadvantaging your students, but the reality is that by acting unfairly to staff THE EMPLOYER is creating the situation where students are disadvantaged. 

The finger of blame for this points unequivocally to employers, not staff. 

I support the strike but I cannot afford to lose all those days’ pay 

UCU hopes that the announced programme of strike days won’t all be needed, and that an offer worthy of consideration is received from the employer. 

The important thing to recognise is that a healthy turn out is the surest way to drive early resolution, and that the Fighting Fund is there to help members cope with the associated loss of income. 

In addition, the branch has established its own hardship fund to support striking members from its own funds, and you might want to encourage non-striking colleagues to donate to the branch for this purpose. 

I can’t cope with losing all that pay in such a short space of time 

Your UCU branch has persuaded the employer to spread deductions as evenly as practicable over three pay periods and not the two as they had proposed. 

Once you have pay slips showing deductions you can apply to the UCU Fighting Fund for strike pay. 

When should I tell my employer I am striking 

You are under no obligation to divulge your intention to strike before doing so, and should politely decline to reveal your plans if asked by a line manager or indeed any colleague. 

Once you have taken part in action you are obliged to respond truthfully when asked if you did so, but you may consider it prudent not to offer the information until then as this may help spread deductions more evenly. 

When should I tell students I am striking 

UCU would urge members NOT to pre-warn students of a likely cancellation of a class.   Institutions have used underhand tactics aimed at fooling students into gathering information on your intention to strike and passing that back to management.

If a student asks, politely explain that it would be inappropriate to say because action may change at any time up to the day of any strike. Suggest instead that they consider contacting their faculty or school administration on the day of any lecture for guidance.

It is the duty of your employer to make sure students are properly advised in the event of a class not taking place, and one would hope that they will be ready to act swiftly to do so once they become aware of your absence. 

Do I have to reschedule classes lost to strike action? 

There is much debate about what might be considered a reasonable management request in respect of rescheduling. 

What IS true however is that if you do so you are in real danger of turning that day of strike action into a day of unpaid leave! 

If you are asked to reschedule, ask your manager to detail workload that will be removed to allow you to fit the teaching in. If you are asked to stop doing research you might want to point out the consequences of that and seek written assurances that no reprimands or discipline will flow from them. 

UCU advises you not to reschedule any classes until you are satisfied with the response from management on the above points; contact the branch if threats of pay deduction are made for ‘partial performance’. 

Am I at risk of losing pay for partial performance if I engage in Action Short of Strike? 

Action Short of Strike (ASOS) effectively means working to contract, which CANNOT by definition mean that you are only performing partially. 

The reality of course is that many are working WELL BEYOND their contract in terms of hours worked, levels of supervisory responsibility and duties not defined in their job description. Working to contract will inevitably lead to backlogs, and that may lead to discussions with your line manager about performance. 

If that happens make the point that your workload is excessive and that you are merely taking control of your working life to protect your wellbeing, preserve your home life, but that you are happy to discuss how workload can be properly adjusted to fairly reflect your contracted hours and responsibilities. 

We would also urge all members to keep workload on the agenda at every performance review meeting, ask managers to record their objections to excessive workload, and only sign off the record of the meeting once those objections have been recorded and an action on workload included.