UCU INDUSTRIAL ACTION Information
The University and College Union (UCU) which represents many university staff nationally has recently balloted its members in relation to industrial action. The most recent ballots closed on 8 April 2022. The disputes balloted on are in relation to pensions, pay and working conditions. You can read about UCU members’ concerns here.
Have your say
As your Students’ Union, our stance and actions on the upcoming industrial action will be guided and led by you, our student members.
We invite you to have your say by completing our student poll below.
The poll will close on Tuesday 17 May 12:00.
Following the ballot, it has been confirmed that the local branch of UCU at Exeter have voted in favour of industrial action in relation to concerns about both pay and pensions.
UCU have also now announced that any industrial action will include a marking and assessment boycott.
We understand that many students may be worried about how the upcoming UCU industrial action may affect exams. The University have assured that May examinations will go ahead as planned.
This webpage will provide you (as our student members) a central hub to keep up-to-date on any strike action, as well as providing a platform for you to raise your thoughts, questions and concerns with us so we can ensure you are supported.
We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the impact of any industrial action on exams and graduations, and we are working closely with the University to raise your concerns and try to mitigate any detrimental impact on your student experience.
The Guild will be hosting drop-in sessions and an online poll to gauge your views on the industrial action, and any next steps will be guided by students.
UCU: University and College Union – a trade union representing staff across UK higher and further education institutions. Find out more about UCU on their website here. You can also find out more information on the local branch of UCU at the University of Exeter here.
Industrial Action: Industrial action takes place when negotiations between employers and members of a trade union, such as UCU, fail to resolve a dispute or reach an agreed solution. Industrial action can take the form of strike action or action short of a strike.
Strike Action: an organised stoppage of work for a period of time.
Action short of a strike: where workers take action such as refusing to cover for absent staff, not rescheduling lectures impacted by strike action, not providing additional materials, refusing to work overtime, etc.
Picket line: a picket line refers to a form of protest taking the shape of a physical boundary created by those involved in industrial action, and are typically located at the entrances of workplaces. They can take on many different forms, with some participating in a picket line by holding signs, bringing music, performing, or informing passers-by of the reasons for the picket line.
USS: Universities Superannuation Scheme – the principal pension scheme provided by higher education institutions.
UCEA: Universities and Colleges Employers Association- the representative body for universities and higher education colleges in national negotiations with the five sector trade unions, government bodies, funding councils and other stakeholders.
OIA or OIAHE: Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are staff considering strike action?
The local branch of UCU at Exeter have voted in favour of industrial action at Exeter in relation to disputes on pay and pensions.
Further information on the reasons for this industrial action can be found in the following UCU statement.
According to UCU, the ballots for strike action covered two disputes:
“The Four Fights dispute is about addressing systemic problems that have plagued the sector for over a decade: wages that do not keep up with the cost of living; precarious employment practices; workload intensification; and pay gaps for women and Black and disabled staff.”
“The USS pensions dispute is about massive cuts which employers are imposing on USS members' retirement benefits.”
You can find out more about UCU’s reasoning for balloting its members on potential industrial action via their website here.
When will strike action take place?
Details of any potential industrial action has not yet been confirmed, but we will ensure to update students once we find out more. Industrial action may involve UCU members stopping working, forming picket lines on campus, or taking ‘action short of a strike’.
You can talk to your tutors, lecturers, and supervisors to find out more about why they are taking strike action. If strike action takes place, you can get involved in rallies, picket lines and writing letters to the University.
You can also talk to your Student Reps who can raise your views and concerns to the University. You can find out who your Student Reps are here.
How will I be impacted by potential strike action?
Staff and postgraduate students who are members of UCU may strike. It is difficult to assess any potential impact of strike action, but UCU have announced action including a marking and assessment boycott alongside potential days of strike action.
It is difficult to know how strike action will impact individual students, as it will depend on the timing of the strikes and it may differ from subject to subject and depending on your level of study. It is reasonable to expect some subjects to be impacted more than others by any potential strike action. In the event of strike action, the University should communicate with you via your subject and college about any potential disruption.
How will potential strike action impact my exams?
It is difficult to know how strike action will impact the exam period. Now that UCU has announced plans for a marking and assessment boycott there may be disruption to students receiving their exam or assessment marks.Though any industrial action impact will likely depend on your subject, the staff members involved in any strike action, and the modules and exams affected.
What is the Guild's stance on potential strike action?
Exeter Students’ Guild is shaped by you, our students. As with the previous strike action in 2019/20, we want students to have your say and help shape any stance we take. We’ll be hosting drop-in sessions over the coming weeks to provide you with a platform to raise your thoughts, concerns or questions regarding potential strike action. We’ll also be setting up some online polls to gauge student opinions on potential strike action.
What is the Guild doing to support me?
We’re currently working to provide students with the most up to date information from UCU and the University, so you know what is going on with regard to any potential industrial action. To provide students with the opportunity to find out more information and ask any questions you may have, we’ll be hosting regular drop-in sessions and student forums. We’ll also keep you updated regularly on our website, via email and through social media.
Upcoming drop-in sessions
If industrial action goes ahead, the Guild will do its utmost to ensure that students are supported, and we'll work collaboratively with UCU and the University to ensure students’ questions and concerns are raised and considered in all discussions.
The Guild’s Advice Service can also support you, and our amazing team of advisors can provide guidance on academic issues or complaints in the event of any industrial action.