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.

 

2022 Industrial Action Specific FAQs

What action has been called?

Periods of strike action have already taken place in December then again across late February and in March. This has been in addition to action short of a strike on a continuous basis. 

 

 

Further action short of a strike in the form of a marking and assessment boycott will also run from 23 May 2022 until no later than 7 October 2022.

 

What is the action in relation to? 

The action is in response to disputes over both USS pensions and pay & working conditions (UCU’s four fights campaign - pay, unsafe workload, casualisation and equality).

Which Trade Unions are involved? 

Action has been called by The University and College Union (UCU). No other unions are involved in this action. 

What form will any action short of a strike take? 

Any action short of a strike may consist of:  

  • working to contract
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities
  • 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
  • a boycott of all marking and assessment processes

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

Action Short of Strike is intended to be continuous and will run until no later than 7 October 2022. 

 

If I participate in the action short of a strike, will my pay 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
  • a boycott of all marking and assessment processes

The University fundamentally rejects partial performance and reserves the right to retain up to 100% pay in response.

Where colleagues are not prepared to perform their full duties, then any work actually performed will be considered to be undertaken on a voluntary basis. In recognition that colleagues will continue to volunteer their time to perform other duties and as a gesture of goodwill, the University will withhold up to 30% of pay from those who fail to perform marking and assessment duties. Pay will be withheld from the first occasion on which a member of staff does not carry out assessment duties until such time as they resume the full performance of their contract. 

If I participate in the marking and assessment boycott, will my pay be deducted?

The University fundamentally rejects partial performance of contract and reserves the right to retain up to 100% pay in response. Failure to perform marking and assessment duties is considered partial performance of contract.

Where colleagues are not prepared to perform their full duties, then any work actually performed will be considered to be undertaken on a voluntary basis. In recognition that colleagues will continue to volunteer their time to perform other duties and as a gesture of goodwill, the University will withhold up to 30% of pay from those who fail to perform marking and assessment duties.

Pay will be withheld from the day following the date the first set of marks were due to be returned or the first occasion on which a colleague does not carry out assessment duties. This will remain the case until the colleague submits the required assessment/marking outcomes, informs the University that they are no longer taking part in the boycott and resumes their full responsibilities, or the end of the legal industrial action.

Will I be reimbursed any withheld pay if I participate in the marking and assessment boycott, but later complete all marking duties?

There will be no reimbursement of withheld pay to a colleague after they cease participating in industrial action, including where duties not carried out during the industrial action are completed after returning to normal working. 

Do I have to return the Notification of Participation form if I am not participating?

This further action has the potential to seriously impact on our responsibilities to students and we are therefore taking all reasonable steps to ensure that we meet our duty to students. All colleagues who have responsibility for marking or other assessment-related duties are therefore kindly requested to notify their Head of School, Director of Research Institute, Director of Professional Services or Head of Service of their intentions by completing and returning the form by no later than Wednesday 25 May 2022

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.

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

Only Trade Union members can participate in any strike action arranged by their Trade Union. Any other absences must be covered by the relevant policy (e.g. Annual Leave, Managing Attendance).

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.