UCU INDUSTRIAL ACTION Information
UCU members on Monday 3 February 2020 confirmed another set of strikes, this time over 14 days in a 4 week period. More information below and you can find our statement here.
UCU members are currently in ASOS (action short of a strike). The strike period 25 November- 4 December 2019 has finished, and you can read our statement here
Official Guild Statement
Please note that these are updated regularly, our most recent one is 14 February 2020.
University Resources and Contact
Please check your University email account for communications from the University, visit their comprehensive FAQs or you can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to hear from you, either talk to your Academic Rep (find yours here) or click below to give your feedback.
We released a further student poll to gauge the up-to-date opinions of our student members.The poll ran from Monday 10 February 2020 09:00 to Wednesday 12 February 2020 16:00.
The results of the UCU industrial action poll show that 85% of students who participated support the cause of the industrial action, however this is split in terms of support for the strike action, with only 37% supporting the strike action, compared to 41% in November.
Poll #1 for November-December 2019 Strikes
We held a poll so our student body in Novemeber that informed us how best to support you during the industrial action. You can find the previous poll results here.
One of our pledges is to support our students by directly communicating with the University, we have produced an open letter outlining the feedback and concerns we have received from students about the strikes and call on the University to provide action on this feedback. We invite students to support and co-sign the letter.
Please note that this was part of November-December 2019 Industrial Action pledges.
View Open Letter and Responses
Information on Travel Reimbursement
In relation to reimbursing students for direct costs incurred through travelling to campus where sessions have not taken place due to industrial action, the University have clarified they will not be putting in place a bespoke claims process. They have advised that this is largely due to the fact that there are not significant numbers of students requesting this, as well as the unnecessary administrative burden that would accompany this. However, they recognise that there will be some students who will have been impacted in this way and who may have a valid claim for reimbursement. Students in this situation are advised to contact email@example.com, and they will respond to these on a case-by-case basis.
It has also been agreed that the University will cover the costs of graduation robing for Students in the winter ceremonies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the UCU?
The UCU, or University and College Union, is a trade union representing staff across various higher and further education institutions.
Find out more about the UCU on their website.
Industrial action takes place when negotiations between employers and members of a trade union, such as the UCU, fail to solve a dispute or reach a solution.
This industrial action can sometimes take the form of a strike, an organised stoppage of work for a period of time. Strikes are often viewed as a last resort. However, industrial action can also take other forms, such as refusal to work overtime. This is referred to as “action short of a strike”.
No, authorised strike action as organised by a trade union is a legal right, and the Guild cannot prevent them from taking place.
The ballots on industrial action and pay gaps, workloads, and equality, took place, with outcome having been announced on the afternoon of 31 October.
Both ballots passed the required 50% turnout, with 79% of UCU members voting to undertake strike action over the USS Pension scheme changes, and 74% voting to undertake strike action over pay, pay gaps, workload, and casualisation. Importantly, both ballots also passed the 50% turnout at the University of Exeter.
This resulted in strike action taking place between Monday 25 November and Wednesday 4 December on teaching days across institutions, including the University of Exeter. Multiple picket lines were established on both the Streatham and St. Luke’s campuses. You can find a summary of actions taken by the Guild in our statement released at the end of the strike action.
In addition, the UCU stated that "action short of a strike” (ASOS) would be taking place starting on Monday 25 November, and could continue until April 2020, dependant on whether further negotiations resulted in a resolution.
Talks between the three parties (UCU, UUK, and USS) continued, before a revised proposal was put forward by the USS which proposed an increase in staff salary contributions toward pensions from 8.8% to 9.6%, with further increases planned for 2021 onwards. The UCU proposed that changes in contributions should be covered by institutions, a proposal which was rejected.
This coincided with ongoing discussions relating to decreases in staff pay, increased workloads, and gender and BME pay gaps. A ballot for industrial action was held in October 2018 over disputes between the UCU and the University and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). This ballot did not meet the required 50% turnout, and therefore action was not taken.
In February 2019, another ballot on industrial action was held on the same issues. This ballot also failed to meet the required 50% turnout, and therefore no action was taken.
In response to negotiations on both points failing to result in solutions, the UCU called for two ballots on industrial action to begin on September 6, one addressing changes to the USS pension scheme, and the other on the issues of pay, pay gaps, workloads, and casualisation.
Following the strike action, further negotiations began between the UCU and UUK. A second report was released by the Joint Expert Panel which made several recommendations regarding the future direction of the pension scheme.
On 23 December, further talks between the UCU, UUK and USS were scheduled to begin in the New Year to discuss the ongoing issues with the pension scheme, with 5 meetings being announced on to take place over the course of January. Statements released by the expert panel can be found on their website.
On 28 January, an offer was made by the University and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) regarding issues relating to equal pay, job security, workload, and casualisation. While stating that the offer demonstrated progress, the UCU made the decision to progress with another wave of strikes. On 29 January, it was announced that an additional 14 institutions would be participating in strike action.
On 3 February, the UCU announced that escalating waves of strikes across 74 institutions, including the University of Exeter, would begin on Thursday 20 February. The dates scheduled for the strikes are as follows:
- Week 1: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
- Week 2: Monday 24, Tuesday 25, and Wednesday 26 February
- Week 3: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4, and Thursday 5 March
- Week 4: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12, and Friday 13 March
Action short of a strike (ASOS) was also announced. This would continue until April, but could be ended earlier should the dispute be resolved before then.
It is possible. In their statement, the UCU noted that it could ballot its members again once following this strike action, should a resolution to the dispute not be found.
However, the mandate for strike actions is valid for a maximum of six months. Given that the mandate for strikes was announced in November 2019, this means that a new ballot would be required should the union look to continue strike action after April.
Actions short of a strike could include:
- Refusing to cover for absent staff
- Not rescheduling lectures affected by the strikes
- Not sharing or providing materials relating to lectures affected by the strike
- Not taking part in volunteer actions (e.g. participating in open days)
This will depend on the timing of the strikes, and the potential impact of the strikes on each department, as not all staff are UCU members, and not all members are required to participate in strikes. It is, however, possible that strikes will have an impact on various aspects of your course, including assessments, marking, and lectures.
February 2020 update: there has been confirmation from the University that some deadline have been extended, look out for your College's communications regarding this or visit the University FAQ page.
Be sure to visit the Advice Service page on the Guild website for further support and questions on how the strikes could affect your studies and wellbeing, and what we can do to support you.
This too will very much depend on your subject, the staff members involved in the strike, and the lectures and content affected. However, the University have assured us that students will not be examined on any subjects that they have not been taught.
Make sure you provide feedback to your Academic Reps (you can find out who they are on the Guild’s Find your Reps page) or fill out the feedback form to keep us up-to-date with students' opinions and we'll be reporting it back to the University.
You can also provide feedback directly to your Full-Time Officers via Drop-ins at the Grove Diner during the strike period:
26 February 11:30-12:30
4 March 11:30-12:30
13 March 12:00-13:00
February 2020: As a result of our updated February poll, 85% of students support the cause of the industrial action, however this is split in terms of support for the strike action, with only 37% supporting the strike action, compared to 41% in November. You can find our pledged actions here.
November 2019: As a result of the poll open to all students, 78% of students support the cause of the strikes. The Guild provided proportional support to students based off the results. Please find further details of the results and the Guild’s pledged actions.
No, staff members are not required to inform the University or students as to whether they are striking.
No. as staff members are not required to inform either the University or students as to whether they are striking, doing so would be compromising their anonymity.
The University has written the following on their Strike Action FAQ Page:
On the basis of the information currently to hand, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation because we have mitigation plans in place to ensure that students suffer no detriment as a result of any impact that may be incurred. The University will be keeping full records of any and all impacts of the industrial action to ensure this is the case.
University FAQ for Industrial Action
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.
Crossing a picket line refers to the act of entering a place of work while a picket is taking place.
Streatham Drive/Stocker Road Junction Entrance
Prince of Wales Road Entrance
Thornlea Entrance, New North Road
St Luke's Entrance, Magdelene Road
07:30-12:00 on strike days.
You are free to choose whether or not to cross the picket line, regardless of your position. You should not at any point be prevented from crossing a picket line by those participating in the picket.
From the University: “Students should be aware that while you have a right to choose not to cross picket lines, if you don’t attend timetabled sessions that are unaffected by strike action, this wouldn’t be supported as grounds for mitigation in relation to assessments.”
Read more on the University's FAQs here.
As a student, you are able to join a picket line and demonstrate support and solidarity for those picketing. However, you should be aware that the law allows the police to impose conditions on groups of 20 or more, while guidelines on picketing advise that there be no more than 6 people on a single picket line.
NUS have provided guidance for students on picket lines which you can find here.
If you are considering participating in the picket, please be sure to not undertake any of the following actions, as they are considered criminal offences and could result in police action:
- Verbally or physically threatening passers-by, or those attempting to leave/enter the premises
- Verbally or physically abusing passers-by or those attempting to leave/enter the premises
- Preventing others from entering or leaving the premises, such as by physically barring their passage
- Damaging property
Please note that the below information is from the November-December 2019 strikes. We will be updating these resources and information soon.
You can write to the Vice Chancellor. Here are some templates based on your position:
- Support the cause and action? Use this template to write to the Vice Chancellor.
- Support the cause only? Use this template to write to the Vice Chancellor.