UCU Strike Action

On Monday 3 February, UCU announced 14 strike days which will take place over 4 weeks during Semester 2. The dates are as follows:

  • Week one - Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week two - Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Week three - Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week four - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

This second round of industrial action is based on the same disputes as the strike days that took place between 25 November and 4 December 2019.

View an article about UCU's announcement from BathTime (our student magazine).

The Referendum Results are in!

The SU Trustee Board has called another referendum to ascertain student opinion on the planned UCU Strike action.

Should The SU support the strike action called by the UCU between the dates of Thursday 20 February to Friday 13 March? YES, NO or ABSTAIN.

Polling was open from 12:00 on Friday 7 February and closed on Monday 17 February at 12:00.

Results

As a result of the referendum, our student community voted for the SU to not support the UCU strike action between the dates of Thursday 20 February to Friday 13 March.

3,013 students voted in the referendum asking “Should The SU support the strike action called by the UCU between the dates of Thursday 20 February to Friday 13 March??

920 voted ‘YES’

1,952 voted ‘NO’

141 chose to ‘ABSTAIN’

Therefore, the motion was not carried and The SU resolves to not support the strike action called by the UCU between the dates of Thursday 20 February to Friday 13 March.

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What happens now?

The SU Officers will be working with the University to look at how we can support students through this industrial action and mitigate impact on your student experience. In practice, the SU Officer team will be having daily catch-ups with University Senior Management to communicate the student view on the strikes. The officers will also be meeting with Academic Reps, Faculty Reps and departmental societies to keep them up to speed with relevant information and ensure we’re aware of how this is affecting your studies and overall experience.

We have recently held an Extraordinary meeting for student leaders informing them about the Strikes and next steps. View the slides from this meeting and the recording .

We recognise that our Doctoral community may be participating in the strikes and The SU is still here to support you. Our Postgraduate officer, Jiani, will be sending information out to all Doctoral students regarding further support and a drop-in session. In the meantime, please contact Jiani.

 

What can I do?

During strike action we recommend you self-mitigate the impact where possible. Examples of ways in which you could self-mitigate are as follows:

  • Identify actions your department are taking and alternate arrangements
  • Increase your own research and reading where possible
  • Check your emails and Moodle daily
  • Keep a daily record of the impact e.g. missed academic activities, limited or no access to key staff etc
  • Ask for an extension (individually or as a group)
  • Access Student Services including the SU Advice and Support Centre
  • Keep your Academic Representative updated

If you feel that your student experience has been strongly impacted by the strikes and that this will have a detrimental effect to your overall performance in a particular module or assessment, there are various University processes available to you which include the Complaints, IMCs and Academic Appeals procedures. For an overview of these processes, click here. If you want assistance identifying the best procedure/s for you and help completing these, please do reach out to the SU Advice and Support Centre.

Our overall recommendations are:

  • Mitigate the impact on yourself wherever you can (see above),
  • Assess the impact after the strikes and consider your options then,
  • Feedback to your Academic Representative and/or department about the impact on you, specifically with any modules affected etc,
  • If you opt to complete a university process please consider: each case is individual and will be considered case by case, the university will consider the best possible outcome for you and you will need to present a strong case, clearly demonstrating impact on your student experience.
  • If you want advice and support on your options, speak with the SU Advice and Support Centre.

 

 

General FAQs

What is a Trade Union?

An organisation that employees of a certain profession can join for representation and political bargaining (this is different to an SU. SUs are Charities, not Trade Unions).

What is a strike?

A strike is a period of time where employees decide not to come into work in protest about a particular aspect about their employment. They do not get paid whilst on strike. Strikes are often referred to as ‘industrial action’.

What is a picket line?

A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike – often at the entrance to their workplace – which others are asked not to cross.

What is the University and College Union (UCU)?

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

What are UCU striking about?

Please note that both the Semester 1 and 2 strikes are related to the same legal disputes. These are as following.

Legal dispute #1: Pay and Working Conditions. What’s the issue?

Pay: “Findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) show that the pay of staff has dropped by around 17% in real-terms since 2009”.

However “UCU said it was shocked and disappointed that UCEA has tried to spin the findings to suggest pay has not fallen so sharply. In its presentation of the data, UCEA has chosen to show findings only from 2013 and cherry picked the information used to calculate the figures.”

You can read UCU’s perspective further.

Working Conditions: UCU’s concern about working conditions includes 3 factors:

Casualisation: the transformation of a workforce from largely employed on secure permanent contracts to short-term or casual contract

You can read the “Counting the costs of casualization in higher education” report by UCU.

Workload: “Staff in higher and further education work on average more than two days unpaid each week. Workload is unmanageable and unsustainable for most staff.” Read more from UCU

Gender pay gap: “In 2018 university leaders came under fire after the first official gender pay gap data showed that women in UK universities were paid a mean hourly wage that was, on average, 15.9 per cent lower than their male colleagues.” Read more from UCU on the gender pay gap.

Legal dispute #2: Pensions – USS Scheme. What’s the issue?

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK and is the principal scheme for academics and academic-related staff in UK universities and other higher education and research institutions with over 350 employers participating in it.

Staff who are on the USS pension scheme are frustrated because in 2017, there was an “attempt to transform the USS from a defined benefit scheme – which fixed pensions to salaries – to a defined contribution scheme with considerably lower pension payouts for most members”. The contribution from employees has increased from 8% to 8.8% in April, and rose again to 9.6% in October.

However, Universities are worried about how much they are paying into the USS Pension scheme for staff as a defined benefit scheme. They had to increase their contributions from 16% to 21.1% of the employees’ salary in October. Read more on UCU’s perspective

What have the National Union of Students (NUS) said about the strikes?

NUS and UCU issued a public statement of mutual support concerning the ongoing disputes in higher education on the 30th of September 2019.

“NUS and UCU are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff, and in challenging the marketisation of education. We want to create an education system that is funded, accessible and lifelong, a system that reflects the needs of modern society.

We believe that staff are the cornerstone of the higher education experience and should be fairly rewarded. We further believe that ignoring important recommendations from the Joint Expert Panel (JEP)* and sticking with a discredited valuation methodology for the USS pension will be hugely damaging for students and staff.

As the representative of students, many of whom are also working in the sector and are members of UCU, NUS is worried that rising pension contributions alongside falling benefits and pay, increased casualisation and work overload will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce AND recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere.

As the representative of staff, UCU is concerned that the sector's failure to commit to fair rates of pay, tackle the gender and race pay gaps, deal with rising workloads or reduce casualisation has led to an increasingly stressful environment for staff.

We believe that the failure to address ever higher salaries for vice-chancellors and principals, while attacking pensions, sends a hugely damaging message to both students and staff.

NUS stands shoulder to shoulder with UCU and asks its members to:

  • call for higher education employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation, agree to reopen negotiations on casualisation, workload and pay inequality and put pressure on USS to implement all of the recommendations of the JEP
  • write to their institution head to raise concerns about the impact such disputes will have on their learning
  • participate in local demonstrative solidarity action, both during the disputes and the likely strikes, in support of UCU members.

In response, UCU agrees to:

  • work closely with NUS to explain to students why action is taking place and to update students as matters progress
  • commit to meaningful negotiations to resolve the disputes
  • continue to support NUS in the wider struggle for a fair and just education system.

*The JEP was set up jointly by UCU and UUK as part of the settlement of the 2018 dispute. The JEP is a panel of independent experts ask to look at the valuation and governance of the USS scheme and make recommendations to the stakeholders. Its first report came out in September 2018.

What is Universities UK (UUK)?

Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. It is the collective voice for Universities affected by this strike action.

What can I do?

During strike action we recommend you self-mitigate the impact where possible. Examples of ways in which you could self-mitigate are as follows:

  • Identify actions your department are taking and alternate arrangements
  • Increase your own research and reading where possible
  • Check your emails and Moodle daily
  • Keep a daily record of the impact e.g. missed academic activities, limited or no access to key staff etc
  • Ask for an extension (individually or as a group)
  • Access Student Services including the SU Advice and Support Centre
  • Keep your Academic Representative updated

If you feel that your student experience has been strongly impacted by the strikes and that this will have a detrimental effect to your overall performance in a particular module or assessment, there are various University processes available to you which include the Complaints, IMCs and Academic Appeals procedures. For an overview of these processes, click here. If you want assistance identifying the best procedure/s for you and help completing these, please do reach out to the SU Advice and Support Centre.

Our overall recommendations are:

  • Mitigate the impact on yourself wherever you can (see above),
  • Assess the impact after the strikes and consider your options then,
  • Feedback to your Academic Representative and/or department about the impact on you, specifically with any modules affected etc,
  • If you opt to complete a university process please consider: each case is individual and will be considered case by case, the university will consider the best possible outcome for you and you will need to present a strong case, clearly demonstrating impact on your student experience.
  • If you want advice and support on your options, speak with the SU Advice and Support Centre.

What have UUK said about the strikes?

Commenting on the University and College Union’s (UCU) announcement of eight days of strike action from 25 November 2019, a Universities UK spokesperson said:

“We are hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action; but plans are in place to ensure that any potential disruption to students and staff is minimised. The resolution to the 2018 USS valuation is both fair and reasonable, with the additional costs of maintaining the current level of benefits shared 65:35 by employers and scheme members.

“It’s important to note that the number of UCU members who voted for strike action over pensions accounts for less than 10% of the active membership of USS. Out of those who voted in the pensions ballot, 1 in 5 members were against taking industrial action, and the vast majority of branches only reached the turnout threshold of 50% because of the numbers of members voting no.

“We are committed to ensuring USS remains one of the very best pension schemes in the country, and hope that UCU will now join us to consider governance reforms and alternative options for future valuations, which deliver a shared set of principles, increased transparency and a sustainable scheme.”

Will my lecturer be striking?

If your lecturer is a member of UCU, it is likely they will be striking. However, your lecturers are not obliged to tell you whether or not they are striking before the strike occurs. This means that some lectures will be cancelled and more often than not you won’t be informed they are being cancelled until you turn up to the lecture.

To give you an idea of numbers (at the UoB branch of UCU):

On the issue of the USS Pensions: 574 staff were balloted, 328 voted of which 260 voted to strike.

On the issue of pay and conditions: 659 staff were balloted, 362 voted of which 270 voted to strike.

What do I do if I miss out on lecture content?

Due to also voting to enact “action short of a strike” after the strike itself, lecturers will be:

  • working to contract;
  • not covering for absent colleagues;
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action;
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

This means it could be difficult to catch up on missed content. In 2017, some lecturers uploaded lecture content and supporting resources onto Moodle for the content that would be missed, however this is at the discretion of the member of staff. The University will be working to mitigate the effects of the strike on students and will be monitoring how severe the impact will be. In 2017 for example, some departments extended deadlines for some assessments to mitigate the impact.

If you have any conerns in this area, contact your Director of Studies or your Head of Department about the impact of the strikes on your studies. Queries around teaching/assessment and other academic support are best placed at a more local level (within your department) as they can provide the most detailed information about the impact on your course. You can find out more about the staff in your department here

I'm an international student, how does this affect my attendance monitoring?

The Tier 4 sponsor guidance states that classes cancelled due to industrial action should not be treated as an unauthorised absence (therefore it will not impact a student’s attendance record / count as a missed contact). SIS will communicate this to Tier 4 students and place an item on our webpage. SIS will make appropriate checks with staff regarding missed key events during this period before contacting students. 

If I support the strike, what can I do?

There are a number of things you can do to support the members of UCU in their industrial action:

  1. Tell all your lecturers you support their fight
  2. Complain to the University about the changes to pensions/pay and conditions and how the strike has impacted you
  3. Don’t attend lectures on strike days – go and join UCU picket lines instead
  4. Postgraduates can join UCU for free as student members - www.ucu.org.uk/free
  5. Email the local UCU branch expressing your support - UCU-Sec@bath.ac.uk
  6. You can also attend UCU's Strike On, Teach Out events to learn more

If I don’t support the strike what can I do?

There are also a couple of things you can do if you don’t support the strikes.

  1. Complain to the University how these strikes have impacted you. You can read the Uni's complaints procedure.
  2. Complain to UCU about how these strikes have impacted you - UCU-Sec@bath.ac.uk
  3. NUS have provided guidance about students submitting complaints
  4. The Universities' regulator The Office for Students has also released guidance for students affected by strikes
  5. If you would like support in submitting a complaint, you can acess free independent and confidential advice and support via the SU's Advice and Support Centre

What have the Office of the Independent Adjuicator (OIA) said about the strikes? (National body for dealing with student complaints)

"Following the announcement last week that there will be industrial action on pay and pensions, it is important that affected providers take steps to minimise the impact on students. This includes both minimising any academic disadvantage and making up for lost learning opportunities. 

We have previously published information about our approach to complaints arising from industrial action, including a briefing notecase summaries and some themes that emerged. We hope this will be helpful to providers and students’ unions. The OfS has also issued a note External link (Opens in a new tab or window)setting out their approach to the impact on students of disruption caused by industrial action.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“Many students will be very concerned about the impact that this industrial action will have on their studies. There were many good examples of how providers tried to reduce the academic impact of the industrial action that took place last year. But it’s just as important to make sure that students don’t miss out on learning opportunities, and some providers did not always do this as well. It is especially important for students who are in the final stages of their course or on a short or intensive programme.

Not all students will be affected in the same way. For example some disabled students, some students with mental health issues, and some international students may be more severely affected. Providers need to think carefully about additional measures they might need to take to support those students.

Students need to know how to raise any concerns they may have through internal complaints processes. They need to be able to make informed choices about how to pursue their concerns if they are not resolved internally.  During the last pensions-related strike action some students were encouraged by a number of law firms to pursue legal action rather than raising issues through internal procedures. To the best of our knowledge none of the intended class actions have resulted in concrete outcomes for the students involved. Students who are unhappy with how their provider has dealt with their concerns can bring their complaint to us for independent and impartial review.”"

Semester 2 Strikes

What have UCU said about the Semester 2 strikes?

Seventy-four UK universities* will be hit with 14 days of strike action in February and March, UCU announced today. The action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March.

The disputes centre on the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities' failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. The full strike dates are:

  • Week one - Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Week two - Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Week three - Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Week four - Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

Read UCU’s full press release.

What are the University of Bath saying about the Semester 2 strikes?

In an email to all staff (7/2/20):

"Dear colleague,

Many of you will now be aware that University and College Union (UCU) is planning to take strike action at 74 UK universities, including here at the University of Bath, on 14 days between Thursday 20 February and Friday 13 March. The reasons for the strike action relate to changes in the USS pension scheme, and the 2019 claim covering pay and a range of associated issues.

The USS pension and pay processes are both nationally managed and we have been seeking to influence discussions to resolve these current disputes. Following ongoing talks between national bodies, UCEA had presented a range of proposals and Universities UK was engaged in discussions with trade union representatives on pensions. However, we received confirmation that UCU had announced 14 strike days earlier this week.

We respect the right of individuals to express their views through industrial action. It is, however, deeply disappointing that more progress has not been made to find resolution to the issues at hand.

Locally, we are continuing to see what positive steps we can take together here in Bath. As many of you will be aware, we have recently taken steps forward with UCU on anti-casualisation and on the status of teaching staff within our University community. We are also now starting to engage in the same positive tone on issues of fixed-term contracts and the gender pay gap. We share a joint intention to secure agreements in this academic year as part of a genuine desire from the University to be at the forefront of meaningful change in the sector. I am grateful for the constructive way in which our local trade union colleagues have engaged in these discussions.

I fully appreciate the difficult decision some of you will be facing in the weeks to come and ask again that we acknowledge that people may have different views through this period and to treat each other with respect.

We will continue to make progress at the local level and to do what we can to seek movement at a national level. Our students are, of course, at the heart of our community and I pay tribute to all our colleagues who have sought to ensure student learning outcomes have been met whatever their decision.

With kind regards,

Professor Ian White

Vice-Chancellor and President"

Semester 1 Strikes

What did UCU say about the Semester 1 strikes?

On the 5th of November, UCU announced that “Sixty UK universities will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December…

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told members 'I am serious about using the powerful mandate you have given the union to get round the negotiating table and achieving a meaningful, lasting resolution'”.

Read Jo Grady’s full announcement of the industrial action.

You can also read UCU and NUS’ joint statement published on the 30th of September.

Whereas in 2017 there was 1 legal dispute over pensions that resulted in the strikes, this year there are 2 legal disputes. One over pensions again, and the other over pay and conditions.

You can read the SU's FAQ Page from 2017 if you're interested.

What have the University of Bath said about the semester 1 strikes?

You can read the Uni's FAQ Page

"Dear student,

As you will know by now, due to disputes about pensions, pay and a range of associated issues, the national University and College Union (UCU) is planning to take industrial action on 25-29 November and 2-4 December 2019.

This is a national issue which can only be resolved at a national level. It will affect the University of Bath, as well as 59 other universities across the UK. We are hopeful that discussions at a national level will provide an early resolution to the dispute.  

As outlined by our Vice-Chancellor earlier this week, the welfare and progress of our students is a priority. We will be monitoring the effects of the strike very closely and also hope to work with the Students’ Union to try to mitigate adverse effects of the industrial action on your learning over the next few weeks. If you are particularly worried about the impact of the strike and would like advice, you can speak to Student Services, the Students’ Union, your Personal Tutor or your Director of Studies.

Please continue with your academic work, attend scheduled classes, and prepare for any assessments as normal. You will need to attend lectures, seminars, lab sessions etc. or submit work as normal unless you are specifically notified of any changes.  We are currently assuming that all student-facing services (libraries, student services etc.) will remain open during the strike action, but will send further information if this position changes.

You should expect to find picket lines at the main entrances to the University and also at the Virgil Building on the days of the strike. It is your decision whether you wish to cross the picket line, but we would always urge courteous and respectful behaviour from everyone in our community.

We appreciate this strike may be disruptive for you, please be aware that whether individuals have chosen to strike or not, they have not taken the decision lightly. Our teaching staff are passionate about education and care deeply about the students they teach.

You can find more information through our Student FAQ page.

With kind regards,

Professor Peter Lambert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) and Dr Cassie Wilson, Vice-President (Student Experience)"

"Dear student,

As you will be aware, the University and College Union (UCU) is planning to take industrial action due to disputes about pensions, pay and working conditions. Strike action is planned here and at 57 other universities in the UK from 25-29 November and 2-4 December 2019. You may see picket lines at the entrances to campus from next week.

The SU's Semester 1 referendum result

You may be aware of the SU’s recent referendum asking ‘Should The SU support the strike action called by the UCU between the dates of Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December?’. The result of the vote means the SU will support UCU’s planned strike action.

The University respects the results of this referendum, and of course the result of the UCU ballot. Times of industrial action, however, can be stressful for both those who are taking or supporting such action, and those who are not. I would ask that we understand people may have different views through the next few weeks, and treat each other with respect.

The dispute about pensions, pay and working conditions

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension and pay processes are both nationally managed. We are very keen that the current dispute is resolved quickly, and will play what role we can to seek to achieve this. We will contribute our views, along with all other participating universities, but resolution can only be decided at a national level.

You can find more information about the UCU's position on their webpages and you can read about the position of USS employers here.

The national financial context for the Higher Education (HE) sector is very challenging. Costs are rising faster than income and uncertainty over Brexit continues.

To maintain the same level of pension benefits for staff on the USS scheme, the University of Bath’s investment in the USS pension scheme is now around £3 million per annum higher than this time last year. The pay rise which was implemented across the sector in August required a further £3 million per annum investment meaning that the increase in the remuneration payments by our University for a USS staff member was on average 7.4%.

With such large increases in remuneration costs, other costs increasing, and with income not keeping pace, difficult decisions have to be made. In the last year, we had to deliver over £4 million of savings to maintain our financial position. As a result, this University has continued to act responsibly in financial terms, but the challenges will continue.

Actions at a local level

The USS pension and pay processes are both nationally managed. However, the University of Bath has been able to make progress on some important issues locally including:

  • Working with UCU locally regarding the use of hourly-paid (sometimes called ‘casualised’) contracts for staff who deliver substantial pieces of teaching. We are now rolling out our plan to improve employment terms across all academic Departments this semester.
  • Forming a Gender Pay Gap Working Group, working with all three Trades Unions to identify a range of actions which should help address this issue over time.
  • Working with UNISON to become one of the few Universities who are an accredited National Living Wage employer.

Supporting students and learning and teaching

We are proud of the quality of the education we provide at the University of Bath and want to assure you that the welfare and progress of our students is a priority. Many of you may have concerns about the impact of the strike on your study. We will be working hard with all our colleagues to mitigate any adverse effects of the industrial action on your learning over the next few weeks.

Our focus will continue to be on regular communication, and working to make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of industrial action on your learning and teaching. Wherever possible, whilst still respecting the referendum’s results, we will work on this with the SU in a constructive and collaborative way. You can find more information through our FAQ page.

With kind regards,

Professor Ian White

Vice-Chancellor and President"

What was the result of The SU’s Semester 1 referendum?

As a result of our referendum in Semester 1, our student community voted for the SU to support the UCU strike action.

The results were as follows:

2505 students voted in the referendum asking “Should The SU support the strike action called by the UCU between the dates of Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December?”

1436 voted ‘YES’

938 voted ‘NO’

131 ‘ABSTAIN’

Following the referendum result, The SU released the following statement and information:

“The SU Officers will be working with UCU to look at how we can support their action on the ground and will be lobbying the University accordingly. At the same time we will be looking to support students who are affected, individually and collectively over the coming weeks.

The University respects the results of this referendum, and of course the result of the UCU ballot. Times of industrial action, however, can be stressful for both those who are taking or supporting such action, and those who are not. I would ask that we understand people may have different views through the next few weeks, and treat each other with respect.”

The SU also released information about how students can get involved with the strike action as well as how you can make a complaint to the University.

See our ‘End of Strikes Statement

Comments

If any of the content of this website is inaccurate or incorrect, please contact supresident@bath.ac.uk or bjp42@bath.ac.uk so we can correct it!

 

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