UCU Strike Action Information
Official Guild Statement
Read official Guild statement >
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.
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.
11/11/2019 10:00 - 20/11/2019 12:00
We held a poll so our student body could inform us how best to support them during the industrial action.
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.
In 2017, the UCU contested changes suggested by Universities UK (UUK) to a pension scheme for University staff called the Universities Superannuation scheme (USS), the main pension scheme for many University staff across the UK. These changes were proposed as a result of a deficit owing to rising costs of the pension scheme.
The UCU stated that proposed changes could result in a potential decrease of as much as 9,600 pounds a year to the retirement income of lecturers starting work that year.
In 2018, talks between the UCU and the UUK regarding the proposed changes ended without an agreement. Following this, the UCU called for a vote, with the purpose being to organise industrial action. 58% of UCU members voted, which passed the required 50% threshold for the vote to be counted. 88% of those who voted backed a strike.
Strikes were then organised by the UCU which took place over four weeks (22 February – 16 March), beginning with two days of strikes in the first week (22 February and 23 February), and culminating with 5 days of strikes in the final week (12-16 March).
Following a new proposal by the UUK on the 23rd of March, which suggested the creation of a panel aimed at reviewing proposed changes to the pension scheme, an electronic ballot of UCU members was held. The results of the ballot were announced on the 13th April, resulting in a 63.5% turnout, with 64% voting to accept the proposal. Additional strikes were therefore suspended.
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. 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.
The ballots on industrial action and pay gaps, workloads, and equality, have now taken place, and the outcome was 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 means that strike action is now a likely outcome.
The UCU have announced that strikes will take place beginning on Monday 25 November, and continue until Wednesday 4 December. The strikes would take place on all days within that time period, meaning that teaching will be affected throughout.
In addition, the UCU have also stated that “action short of a strike” will be taking place starting on Monday 25 November, and could continue until April 2020.
This will be dependent on whether negotiations result in a resolution earlier than April 2020, in which case the action short of a strike would be stopped.
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.
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.
As well as making sure to provide feedback to your Academic Reps (you can find out who they are on the Guild’s Find your Reps page), the Guild will be launching a poll on Monday 11 November 10:00.
The stance we take on the strikes, and the actions which follow, will be decided by the results of the poll, so be sure to vote to have your say.
We are also planning a Q and A event for students, during which both representatives from the University and UCU will be given the opportunity to inform students about the strike and answer questions. This is not a debate, it is an information session.We will be releasing further on this soon.
As a result of the poll open to all students, 78% of students support the cause of the strikes. The Guild will now be providing 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.
Furthermore, we would ask that livestreaming, live tweeting, photographs, or any other method of identifying UCU speakers, not take place during the Q and A event.
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.
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
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.
You can attend a Teach Out, 12:00-16:00 Friday 29 November at St David's Church, Queen's Terrace.
This is a socialised learning event made possible by striking workers from the University of Exeter. It is open to and free of charge for all that want to attend. Sharable food and small donations (to help cover venue fees) will be very welcome.
Led by academics, students, and activists, sessions might include:
Against Precarity. Student Activism Now. Decolonize Everything. The Poetry of Dissent. Climate Crisis.Trans Solidarity.