Industrial action – FAQs

Industrial action – FAQs

Issued: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:09:00 GMT

Who is in dispute and what is the industrial action about?

The dispute is a national one between Universities UK representing higher education institutions which have staff in the Universities Superannuation Scheme – USS – and the University & College Union – UCU – representing staff. It centres on proposed changes to the USS pension scheme. UUK is concerned that the pension scheme is operating with a significant deficit, estimated at several billions of pounds, and wants to reduce the risk that employers are exposed to in the future. The UCU disputes the size of the deficit and wants to retain guaranteed levels of pension for academic and related staff. 

What is the University of Glasgow’s position?

The University of Glasgow’s position has remained the same since before the dispute began – we are calling for further national talks without preconditions aimed at reaching a settlement which is acceptable to all parties. We have also made clear that we are willing to support a modest increase in employers’ contributions (currently at 18% of salary) to help preserve good pensions and address the financial deficit in the scheme.  The University’s position is essentially the same as that of the UCU and will not change as a result of any future industrial action.  

The following joint statement was issued on 26 February:

The University of Glasgow and the University and College Union Glasgow recognise the importance of pension security and are committed to maintaining the best possible pension provision for all our staff. We also want to see an early resolution to the current industrial dispute. To this end, we call for further talks at national level to explore all options until a way forward is found that is acceptable to all parties.

Any settlement needs to be affordable to both employers and staff; it should be a long-term solution, to avoid the risk of further possible conflict at the time of the next USS valuation; and it needs to be framed in a way that is acceptable to the Pensions Regulator. 

The University of Glasgow stands by the position it took in the original consultation exercise, when it:

  • Recognised the importance of securing the long-term future of the scheme for the good of both current and future members.
  • Recognised that amendments to the scheme were likely to be necessary but expressed a preference for retaining a defined benefit element if possible.
  • Indicated a willingness to increase employer contributions as part of an overall negotiated solution.

What has happened so far?

The UCU called a total of 14 days of strike action, from Thursday 22 February – Friday 16 March. In addition to strike action, UCU also called upon its members to participate in ‘action short of a strike’. This essentially means working to contract, coupled with a refusal to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action.

A proportion of lectures and classes was cancelled as a result of the strike; we are still assessing the impact across the University but clearly some Schools were more affected than others.

The UCU and UUK negotiated an agreement at a national level that might have brought the strike to an end. This was made public on Monday 12 March.  

Find out more about the proposed terms

However, the UCU’s national HE Committee, encouraged by local UCU branches, did not accept the terms and the industrial action has continued.

What action has the University taken locally?

The University has made clear that it respects the right to strike but wants to minimise the negative impact on students. This aim is widely shared throughout the University – local UCU representatives have asked their members ‘to do everything they can to minimise the impact on students, and to ensure that students are well prepared for examinations’. On this basis, the University has stated that it does not envisage withholding any pay for ‘Action Short of a Strike’.

Will students be assessed on material they have not had an opportunity to learn, and what other impacts might there be?

Students can be assured that:

  • No student will be assessed on work that they have not had an opportunity to cover in the course of their studies
  • Schools will be asked to extend the deadline for pieces of assessed work as appropriate where students have faced delays or disruption to their studies
  • Classes on week commencing 19 March should proceed according to schedule
  • End-of-year examinations will proceed according to schedule
  • Viva examinations for research degrees will proceed according to schedule unless otherwise notified
  • Field trips scheduled for April should proceed according to schedule
  • We will put in place fair and consistent guidance for students who wish to cite strike-related disruption to studies as part of an academic appeal.

More detailed information is being issued separately by the Senate Office.

What about tuition fees – will students receive refunds?

A number of students have enquired about whether the University will pay compensation to those who have missed classes as a result of the strike. The University is confident that students will be able to complete the academic year on time, and as such does not propose to offer compensation.

What is the University’s position on pay withheld from staff taking part in strike action (as opposed to ‘Action Short of a Strike’)?

The University will withhold 1/365ths of pay from each day of strike action taken by members of staff. At the request of the UCU, we have agreed to spread deductions over three months. At this stage, we do not know how much money will be withheld. We have stated that the funds will be used for the general benefit of students but have not made detailed decisions in this regard.  We will consult student representatives before deciding and will publish information about what the funds are used for.

What is the University’s position on students supporting the industrial action?

The University respects the right of students to support the UCU action if they wish to do so and to engage in peaceful protest. We will continue to maintain an open dialogue with any group of students or individual who contacts us about the industrial action.

University representatives met with a group of students who organised a sit-in in the Senate Room on 15-16 March and responded to points they raised; we will follow this up with a written response. The sit-in was entirely peaceful and presented no risk to health and safety. 

What happens now?

We will:

  • Continue to press for national negotiations without preconditions aimed at reaching an agreement that is acceptable to all parties.
  • Work with schools to ensure that students are as well prepared as possible for assessments and examinations.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with local UCU and student representatives.
  • Share further updates with students and staff as soon as information becomes available.

We are still hopeful that a national deal will be done which everyone can live with. However, the UCU has indicated that if an agreement is not reached, they will call for further action over the coming weeks.

Where can I get more information?

Regular updates will be provided on MyGlasgow, through direct emails and via the University’s social media channels. 

More specific information will be given out at a local level. Students who have specific queries about their studies and especially about assessed work, should consult with their School.   

UofG staff are advised to look at the Human Resources Industrial Action webpages

Further information can also be found on the UCU and UUK webpages.

 


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