UCU industrial action FAQs

 

The University of Worcester has received notification that members of the University and College Union (UCU) are to take industrial action at 150 universities across the country from next week.

This page includes:

Information for students

We would like to reassure students that the University will do all it can to minimise disruption during the three days of action.

We have prepared some Frequently Asked Questions below to help keep students informed and will add to the FAQs as the situation progresses.

Student FAQs

Will there be a strike?

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced three days of strike action following a national ballot of its members. The action will take place on November 24, 25 and 30 and we anticipate a very small number of staff at Worcester will be involved.

Why is there a strike?

The national ballot was held after UCU was unable to obtain a mandate at many universities, including at Worcester, through local ballots. In the two ballots of its members at the University of Worcester earlier in the year, neither met the threshold required to mandate either strike action or industrial action short of a strike.

This strike action is part of a national dispute relating to pay, pensions and working conditions, such as pay gaps, in the sector.

The University of Worcester enjoys excellent relations with its staff and their elected representatives and does not regard itself as being in dispute with any group of its staff. At Worcester there is no gender pay gap and staff and students sit on all committees of the University’s Board of Governors. 

Will my classes be cancelled?

We do not expect any significant disruption to the University’s activities or teaching as a result of the industrial action and will do our utmost to minimise having to postpone any teaching.

If sessions do need to be re-scheduled we will seek to ensure that, wherever possible, students are informed in advance.

You should continue to attend all classes unless you are informed your class is postponed by your Head of School or Head of Department.

We may receive very little or no notice of a postponed class – as soon as we become aware, we will let you know.

Postponing classes is always a last resort, and where this happens, we will work hard to reschedule.

Please ensure you check your University of Worcester email account daily during this period.

I’m an international student. Will this affect my visa in terms of my attendance record?

Your Tier 4 visa conditions are not affected by the industrial action. Unless you are specifically advised that a session has been disrupted, you should attend as normal, and the normal processes for attendance monitoring will apply to sessions which are not disrupted.

If a session is disrupted due to industrial action, this will be recorded by the University as a postponed session, and this will not have a detrimental impact on your attendance record for the purposes of your Tier 4 visa.

What about action short of a strike?

UCU has advised its members to begin action short of a strike from Wednesday 23 November. If colleagues take action short of a strike it means they will come to work on their usual working days and carry out their scheduled teaching activities, unless they are taking strike action on the days above. However, they may choose not to undertake any additional activities. 

There will be no marking and assessment boycott as part of the action short of a strike.

Will any of the University’s facilities be closed

All of the University’s buildings will remain open as usual, including The Hive.

What is a picket line and how might it affect me?

Picketing is where staff taking part in industrial action gather outside their place of work in order to seek to persuade others not to work. Picketing is only allowed at or near entrances to and exits from the picket's own place of work.

Pickets can request permission to explain their dispute to those entering or leaving the workplace - including students - however, these activities must be always carried out peacefully.

Pickets do not have the right to stop any person crossing the picket line; force a person to listen to them; stop any vehicle or obstruct any path, road, entrance or exit.

You should continue to attend all classes unless you are informed your class is postponed by your Head of School or Head of Department.

Information for staff

On 8th November 2022, the University of Worcester received from UCU a Notice of Industrial Action. In so doing, the University were advised that:

"The industrial action will include action short of a strike, intended to be continuous, commencing on Wednesday 23 November 2022, and consisting of our members only working to contract; not undertaking any voluntary activities; not covering for absent colleagues; removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action; and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

"The industrial action will also include discontinuous strike action, the intended dates for the strike action being Thursday 24, Friday 25, and Wednesday 30 November 2022."

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provide important information relating to the University of Worcester’s policy on industrial action, including effects on pay, pensions, periods of leave etc.

Any staff members considering taking any form of industrial action are advised to read these FAQs carefully in order to make an informed decision about participation in action. 

Staff FAQs

 

Following the recent national UCU ballot there is now a mandate for strike action and/or action short of a strike (ASOS) at the University of Worcester. If I decide to participate how will the University know if I am taking part?

All staff will receive written correspondence from the University in advance of the commencement of the planned industrial action by UCU.

The correspondence will clearly explain the University’s position in relation to the withholding of pay for any days of strike or ASOS action, where this amounts to partial performance, and therefore a breach of contact.

The letter will request that staff confirm, either before the strike day/period commences, or by no later than a date specified (usually one day after the strike action took place) if they are intending to take part (or did take part if responding afterwards) in strike action.

In situations where action short of a strike (ASOS) is adopted by a member of staff, they will also be asked to confirm by a specified deadline, usually before the ASOS/strike action period is due to commence or by no later than one day after it has commenced, the dates from and until which they intend to take such action and the type of action (or actions) they intend to take. If the staff member does not confirm at that stage the date when they will be ceasing to take such action, they will instead be required to confirm in writing the date on which they have returned to working their full contractual duties.

In addition, Heads of School will be asked to monitor attendance on strike days and to keep records of individual staff taking strike action on each of the strike dates; (for part-time staff only – see question 2 below) the number of working hours missed each day; the activities missed due to strike action (e.g. any lectures or seminars cancelled); and, in the case of ASOS -  the type (or types) of ASOS taken.

If you are working away from campus for any reason (e.g. attending a conference), you should notify your Head of School, in advance, of the reason for your absence from your usual workplace. Likewise, if you are on annual leave or any other form of authorised leave (e.g. sick leave, maternity leave etc.), please notify your Head of School of this. 

If I go on strike how much will be deducted from my salary?

Participation in any form of strike action is a breach of contract and it is therefore University policy to withhold a full day’s pay for each day in which a member of staff takes part in strike action. Deductions will be as follows:

Full-time members of staff: a deduction equivalent to 1/365th of annual salary for each day on which strike action takes place.

Part-time members of staff: a deduction equivalent to contractual hours that should have been worked on each day on which strike action takes place.

Deductions that will apply for anyone who participates in action short of strike (ASOS) are detailed below.

What if I choose to be on strike for only a few hours?

The University does not accept the partial performance of any member of staff, including partial performance due to a part-day strike, and is entitled to withhold a full day’s pay in respect of each day on which partial performance and therefore that breach of contract occurs.

Where a member of staff participates in a part-day strike but then chooses to carry out their normal duties during the remainder of that day, they will either be asked to return home for the remainder of the day, or any work undertaken will be completed on a voluntary basis.  The University is not obliged to make payment in respect of any such work undertaken in these circumstances.

If I go on strike will this affect my pension?

In cases of a strike (or action short of a strike) where a whole’s day’s pay is withheld, this will lead to a loss of pensionable service for each day deducted. The University is not obliged to pay pension contributions where pay is withheld for participating in a strike or action short of a strike of one or more days' duration.

For TPS members, any days of strike action for which 100% pay is withheld will be recorded as a ‘day out’ on the member’s Annual Return of Service and Salary and also on the member’s service record. 

Can I take annual leave during strike action?

Only annual leave which is approved by your line manager prior to the strike action dates being notified to the University will be honoured. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you need to request to take leave on a strike day, you should discuss the reasons for this with your line manager. A new leave request will only be approved if there are exceptional and extenuating circumstances.

What happens if I'm sick when there is a strike?

Staff who are absent due to sickness before strike action starts will be assumed to be on sick leave, providing the necessary certification is in place.

All new sickness absences reported during strike action will require a ‘fit note’, signed by a doctor, to cover the period of absence. The University will cover any reasonable costs that may be incurred due to this requirement, providing valid proof of payment is attached to any staff expenses claim submitted. Self-certification forms alone will not be accepted by the University for any absences on strike days. You must also ensure that you notify your manager of your sickness absence in accordance with the University’s Sickness Management Procedure.

If there are pickets at the entrances to the University, can I cross a picket line?

Staff are entitled to cross the picket line and should not be prevented from doing so. Under S.220 of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, any picketing activity must be conducted peacefully and the Code of Practice on picketing limits the number of individuals who can be on the line at any one time to a maximum of 6 people. Picketing staff should not attempt to prevent you from entering campus.

If you chose not to cross the picket line, you will be considered to have joined the industrial action and pay will be deducted accordingly.

I don't want to cross the picket line, but I do want to work on strike days. Can I work from home?

All staff who are not involved in strike action will be required to work on site on any designated strike days as required. Staff should continue to deliver teaching activities in the way that they have been scheduled.

If there are any staff who have a specific and exceptional need to work from home on any of the designated strike days, they will need to actively seek prior permission from their Head of School before doing so. Otherwise, you should report to your normal place of work on the strike day unless you have made prior arrangements to be away from base - for example to attend a conference.

Can I be asked to cover for a colleague who is on strike?

Yes, work can be temporarily reallocated to other staff who are not on strike, or who could provide temporary cover (e.g. Associate Lecturers). Such requests should be reasonable and within the experience and capabilities of the member of staff.

What is action short of a strike (ASOS) and how will my pay be impacted if I decide to take such action?

UCU members will be aware that the recent ballot paper included the following potential examples of action short of a strike (ASOS):

  • working to contract;
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities;
  • not covering for absent colleagues;
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action;
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action; and
  • undertaking a marking and assessment boycott.

The Notice of Industrial Action letter dated 8th November 2022 (as outlined at the start of this document), does not list ‘undertaking a marking and assessment boycott’ as a specified form of ASOS at this time. Should any staff take such action during this period therefore, please be advised that this will be deemed to be a disciplinary matter as it has not been covered by the appropriate notice.

Staff are reminded that your contractual obligations cover not only what is written in your contract of employment and related documents, but also the customary ways in which you have conducted your duties. Likewise, staff are also bound by the implied duties of the contract with the expectation that staff will perform their duties in an efficient and co-operative manner and follow reasonable management instructions.

Legally an employee is not entitled to select which parts of their contract they are willing to undertake and so if they choose to take part in action short of full strike, i.e. partial performance, they are deemed as being in breach of their contract.

The University considers that a refusal to carry out any element of an employee’s normal duties amounts to partial performance of contract by the employee.

Where staff take action short of a strike which amounts to a partial performance, this constitutes a breach in the terms of their contract and 100% of pay will be withheld.

Furthermore, in the event that a member of staff takes action short of a strike which amounts to partial performance and therefore deemed as a breach of contract, they will be requested to remain at home and to refrain from carrying out any work until they are willing to undertake all aspect of their contractual duties. Any individual taking action short of strike will not be requested or expected to do any work on behalf of the University until such point as they are willing to and have fully resumed their normal duties, and therefore any work that an employee decides to undertake during this time will be deemed as voluntary and will not be paid.

Staff are requested to advise the University, in writing, once they have resumed their normal duties in order for their contractual pay to be resumed.

The mandate for ASOS takes effect from 23rd November 2022 and therefore staff are advised that any such action prior to this date will be deemed to be a disciplinary matter as it will not be covered by the appropriate notice.

There will be no reimbursement of withheld pay to staff after they cease the industrial action, including where work is completed after returning to normal working.

Can I be asked to clear any backlog of work that has been created as a result of me taking strike action or action short of a strike (ASOS)?

You can be required to attend to any backlog of work as a priority upon your return, including rescheduling any teaching commitments missed, and without any additional pay.

You cannot legitimately refuse to undertake any backlog of work caused by your participation in the industrial action, including rescheduling any teaching commitments missed, subject to your overall workload being reasonable. If deemed necessary, your Head of School and/or Head of Department may reallocate or defer the completion of, or participation in, some of your other duties, to prioritise the rescheduling of your teaching commitments and/or the clearing of any other backlog of work created.

In the event of a refusal to do so, this will be deemed as action short of strike (ASOS) due to ‘not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action’ and therefore your pay will be withheld accordingly (see above for further details).

Does taking strike action or action short of a strike (ASOS) affect continuous service?

Day(s) on which strike action is taken do not break continuity of employment, however, strike days are excluded for the purposes of accruing statutory entitlements, for example the accrual of annual leave, qualification for maternity pay etc. This provision does not extend to action short of strike (ASOS).

I am a line manager and I am intending to participate in the strike action myself. What is expected of me in terms of reporting mine or my team’s absence during any period of strike action?

As a line manager, if you are planning to take strike action yourself, you have a responsibility to report your absence to your line manager and to ensure that responsibility for monitoring non-attendance on each strike day has been designated to an appropriate colleague.

Requiring line managers to arrange cover when they themselves are taking strike action is a reasonable management request/instruction. 

I am a line manager and whilst I am not intending to participate in the strike action myself, I have been asked to support the industrial action by refusing to co-operate in the management of the dispute e.g. by refusing to advise HR of who within my School/Department is performing partially and/or taking full strike action. What might be the repercussions for me if I do so?

Line managers and Heads of School or Department who take part in the strike action will have pay withheld in the same way as with other staff who are participating.

In the event that you refuse to co-operate with reasonable management instructions during the period of the dispute - an example of which would be refusing to assist the institution in identifying staff taking part in the industrial action – this is not a legitimate form of ASOS specified by UCU, and you may be subject to disciplinary action as this would not be protected official action. 

 

If you have any further questions regarding the industrial action, please contact your line manager or your designated HR Business Partner.