Industrial action: frequently asked questions

Many of you will have concerns about taking strike action. However, by standing together we can make our voice heard. Strike action is a last resort, required when the employers stop listening. Below is some guidance from national UCU:

WHAT AM I EXPECTED TO DO DURING A STRIKE OR ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE?

Your union will only take strike action or action short of a strike once every other avenue of influence has been exhausted. These are very serious sanctions and that’s why we ask that every member observes them. Every member who does not participate is undermining the union’s bargaining power and making it harder for the union to protect all its members. When we call a strike we ask that members do not come into work, do not reschedule their classes, and do not undertake any tasks associated with their employment (i.e. do not log on to work systems of deal with email). Your Local Association will be in contact very soon asking for volunteers to help out on the picket lines. It isn’t illegal, it isn’t dangerous and it can be fun.

DO I HAVE TO TELL MY EMPLOYER THAT I AM TAKING STRIKE ACTION?

In order to fulfil legal requirements, employers have been provided with statistical information about UCU members being balloted for industrial action, but not individual names. In the event of being called to take strike action, you are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike. However, if your manager asks you AFTER the strike whether you took action, you should answer truthfully.

WHAT ABOUT MY STUDENTS?

We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don’t like taking any action that affects students. It is the same for many public services. However, when we take action, we are generally making a case for greater investment in or defence of the quality of the service we provide. In the case of job cuts, for example, we argue that our students will be hurt far more by management’s actions than by our own. Observing the strike is defending the interests of staff and students alike. Undermining the strike might feel like the right thing in the short term but it will only serve to encourage management and we will all suffer more in the longer term. Formally, it is management’s responsibility to explain to students if classes are to be cancelled on strike days. However, you may wish to talk to your students before the strikes explaining why the union is taking this action.

AM I BREAKING MY CONTRACT BY TAKING STRIKE ACTION?

All effective industrial action may be a breach of your contract of employment. But because UCU is carrying out a statutory ballot and the action has been formally called, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I LOSE?

You should expect to have a day’s salary deducted for taking part in the strike.  In general, we would not expect any employer to deduct more than 1/260th of your annual salary for each day of action. Any loss greater than this may be challenged by the union.

WHAT IF I AM PART-TIME?

UCU believes that any deduction must be pro-rata for part time staff. The deduction must only be for your contracted hours. Please contact UCU for support in challenging any greater loss.

HOW WILL IT AFFECT MY PENSION?

In previous one-day strikes it has been the experience of the UCU that most university employers do not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Also, institutions that do choose to withhold contributions often make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay.

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