Guidance for Staff during Industrial Action

The University will write to staff if they receive notification of industrial action and will address the specific circumstances in that communication.

The following Q&As are intended as a guide for staff during legal industrial action by one or more of the trade unions recognised by the University; they will be updated from time to time to amend guidance or include new information as appropriate. If you have further questions you should speak to your line manager or local College/US HR team.

 

November 2022 Action Specific Questions

What action has been called?

UCU has announced further strike action in relation to ongoing national disputes in relation to pay and the USS pension scheme. The University has been informed that there will be three days of strike action on a discontinuous basis on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Wednesday 30 November 2022.

In addition, Unite have also notified of strike action on a discontinuous basis (in relation to the national pay dispute) for a period of one shift as follows:  

  • Unite members who are due to work a shift that starts and finishes on 30 November 2022 will be called upon not to report for work for that shift. 
  • Unite members who are starting a shift on 30 November 2022 that crosses over into 1 December 2022 will be called upon not to report for work for any part of that shift. 
  • Unite Members working a shift that starts on 29 November 2022 and crosses over into 30 November 2022 will be called upon not to report to work for any part of that shift.

UCU has also announced a further period of continuous action short of strike (ASOS) commencing on Wednesday 23 November 2022, to include working to contract; not undertaking 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.

What is the action in relation to? 

The UCU action is in relation to ongoing national disputes in relation to pay and the USS pension scheme. The Unite action is in relation to the national pay dispute.

Which Trade Unions are involved? 

Action has been called by The University and College Union (UCU) and Unite. This action is separate, but overlaps on 30 November. No other unions are involved in this action.  

On which dates will the strike action occur?

There will be strike action on a discontinuous basis on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Wednesday 30 November 2022.

The action clashes with the planned school strikes on 24 November, what are the implications for time off?

Leave already approved prior to the date of industrial action will be honoured, otherwise early dialogue should take place between colleagues and their managers to explore potential options to support in these circumstances. Industrial action impacts vary across the organisation thus local discussions are key.

What form will any UCU action short of a strike take?

Any UCU action short of a strike may consist of:  

  • working to contract
  • not undertaking 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.

On which dates will any UCU action short of a strike occur?

Action Short of Strike is intended to be continuous and will run from Wednesday 23 November until no later than Thursday 20 April 2023. 

If I participate in the upcoming strike action, how much of my pay will be deducted?

The University will not withhold salary from colleagues participating in action short of a strike where this takes the form of working to contract or not undertaking any voluntary activities. The University however reserves the right to determine those tasks to be prioritised including rescheduling classes where appropriate in the interests of the student experience and/or to re-allocate work to cover absent colleagues. For the avoidance of doubt, participation in any of the following action short of a strike will be deemed as partial performance of duties: 

  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action
  • 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

The University does not accept partial performance and reserves the right to withhold salary at a rate of up to 100% from any member of staff who engages in this form of action. 

General Frequently Asked Questions

If there is a strike, how will the University know if I am taking part?

All staff in scope will receive an e-mail before a notified strike day/period requiring them to confirm if they intend to take strike action. In addition each area will be asked to provide details of individuals who took part in strike action. If you are working away from your normal base for any reason (e.g. attending a conference) on a strike day you should notify your Manager of your absence. If you are on annual or other leave Payroll will be aware of this through the HR System. If you are not at work and your Manager is not aware of the reason for your absence, it will be assumed that you are taking part in the strike and salary deductions will be made.

If I go on strike for a day, how much will be deducted from my salary?

Strike action is a breach of contract and in line with University policy for those involved in strike action there will be a deduction from salary 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.
  • a deduction equivalent to contractual hours that should have been worked on 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.

What if I am on strike for a only a few hours?

Any member of staff taking part in any form of industrial action, including participation in  strike action of less than a day, will typically be committing a breach of their contract of employment. University policy requires all staff to perform and undertake all aspects of the work for which they are paid. The University fundamentally rejects 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 occurs. In this event, where a member of staff participates in a part-day strike and chooses to attend work and carry out their normal duties during the remainder of that day it will be considered that they are doing so on a voluntary basis. The University is not obliged to make payment in respect of any such work undertaken.

On occasion, the University may choose to vary the amount of pay withheld. If this is the case, it will confirm its intention regarding salary deductions in advance of each instance of legal strike action. Failing any such communication, employees should assume that (as outlined above) no payment will be made in respect of any work during the remainder of the strike day.

I normally work overtime. If I go on strike, will this have an effect on my overtime earnings?

Time lost due to strike action will not count as time worked. If you work extra hours, these will be paid at plain time until you reach the number of hours required for overtime rates.

If I go on strike will this affect my pension?

The University is not obliged to make pension contributions for scheme members when they are on strike, but will inform you of its position on pensions when it writes to you about each instance of strike action.

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

Picketing of workplaces is protected by law and, any such past activity at the University has generally been undertaken peacefully and courteously. Pickets may try to persuade you peacefully to support the industrial action; however, staff who wish to work have the right to do so and will be allowed to cross the picket line. If you decide not to cross the picket line, you will be considered to have joined the industrial action and pay will be deducted accordingly.

Can I take annual leave during strike action?

Leave approved through the HR Self Service Portal prior to the date that strike action was notified to the University will be honoured. It is unlikely that any new request for annual leave on the day of action will be authorised. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, you need to request to take leave, you should discuss the reasons for this with your line manager. A new leave request will only be approved if there are exceptional circumstances.

I'm a member of a union that is not involved in strike action but would like to join in - can I?

Colleagues who are members of a different trade union to that which has a mandate (and has given notice) to strike, may not lawfully participate in strike action. This would constitute taking part in unofficial strike action for which consequences could include disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Can a non-union member strike in support of their colleagues?

Non-union members can participate in strike action and have the same rights as union members, providing the strike action itself is lawful.

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

If you are off sick on a strike day, you must notify your manager of your sickness absence before your normal starting time or, where this is not reasonably practicable, within one hour of it, as required by the University’s Managing Attendance Policy.

Does taking strike action affect continuous service?

Day(s) on which legal strike action is taken do not break continuity of employment. However, strike days are excluded for the purposes of accruing statutory entitlements e.g. qualification for maternity pay etc.

I have been called on by my union to 'work to contract'. What does this mean?

Your union will normally give you details of what action it expects you to take. Your contractual obligations cover not only what is written in your contract of employment and related documents but also the customary ways in which people have worked in your area and the implied duties of fidelity and good faith. Any action which would entail non-compliance with any of these aspects of your contract will be deemed to be a breach of contract. The University will not accept partial performance of your contract and reserves the right to make appropriate deductions from your salary.

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

Yes, work can be temporarily reallocated to other staff not on strike or who could provide temporary cover, such as retired staff. Agency staff can not be hired to cover the work of employees on strike.

I am sponsored on a Tier 2 or Tier 5 Visa – am I permitted to take part in strike action? Will it affect my visa?

Migrants sponsored under Tier 2 or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) are permitted to take unpaid leave to take part in legally organised strike action without impact to their visa.