UCU Industrial Strike Action

 

What is happening?

The University and College Union (UCU) which represents lecturers and a range of other university staff have voted to take industrial strike action, from Monday 25th November to Wednesday 4th December, which will affect 60 Universities across the UK.  UCU have voted to back strike action, based on two legal disputes on: pensions and pay & equality.  The majority of UCU Ulster members voted to support strike action on both ballots.

Strikes will be taking place across the following days:

  • Monday 25th November 2019
  • Tuesday 26th November 2019
  • Wednesday 27th November 2019
  • Thursday 28th November 2019
  • Friday 29th November 2019
  • Monday 2nd December 2019
  • Tuesday 3rd December 2019
  • Wednesday 4th December 2019

 

Why have UCU Members voted to strike?

1. Pensions

The first reason UCU members are striking due is due to amendments made to their pension scheme, which will see their pensions being changed from defined benefits to defined contributions. This means that instead of a guaranteed retirement income, the pension income they receive will depend on changes to the stock market and how well these investments perform. 

 

2.. Pay & Equality

UCU also voted for industrial action based on disputes regarding pay, casualisation, equality and workloads as outlined below:

  1. Pay

The pay offer in 2018/19 for the majority of HE staff was below inflation which sees UCU members’ salaries not rising by cost of living increases.

  1. Casualisation

Casualisation has become an increasing problem in higher education, with staff in insecure work without good reward schemes and training. UCU are calling this ballot to ensure that employers reduce the number of zero-hours and hourly paid positions.

  1. Equality

UCU are asking for a nationally agreed action for HE institutions to close the gender pay gap.

  1. Workloads

Previous surveys have suggested that staff feel their workload is too high.  This includes UNISON’s 2018 survey of members in higher education that found that 71% of members said that their workload had increased in the past year.

 

How will this affect the student body?

There’s a strong assertion, based on previous industrial action that there will be disruption to the lecture schedule. Some lecturers planning to strike may let their students know but this cannot be guaranteed, and it may be likely that you will not be told if your class will take place until you turn up on the day.   UCU members have a legal right not to disclose whether they plan to engage in industrial action.

The University will remain open throughout this period of industrial action. The nature of the strike means that we cannot know with certainty if a class will go ahead or be disrupted, but other learning facilities such as ICT suites, library facilities, collaborative learning spaces, catering facilities and SU spaces will all remain open during the strike action.  In short, the main area students will be affected is through teaching, most, if not all the wider University services will remain operational.  We are currently working with the University to circulate exactly what will be open and when.

It is worth noting that UCU also voted to support action short of a strike which could mean:

  • Working strictly to contract
  • Not covering for absent colleagues
  • Not rescheduling classes or lectures that have been cancelled
  • Not undertaking additional duties voluntarily

 

What is UUSU’s position?

Ulster University Students’ Union, is a democratic body and the elected Student Council, working closely with the Executive will form a position on issues such as this.  In this case the Executive have been mandated by Student Council to fully support and sympathise with the reasons UCU members voted for Industrial Action and will be observing the democratic decision of UCU to engage in industrial action. 

We have a great amount of respect and admiration of the role that the educators play in the student experience.  There is no doubt our partners share our commitment to UU students and go over and above to ensure a high quality third level experience for all who choose Ulster.  In observing the strike action this puts UUSU in support of the plight and opinion of those taking industrial action and means we won’t question this democratic right.

Therefore, we are calling for a proper resolution to the dispute between UCU and UUK, as outlined in the UCU ballot on pay, casualisation, workloads, gender/BME pay gap and pension contributions.

It’s also worth noting that some of our members are PhD researchers, and lecturers and therefore these issues affect them. In addition, our current students might be considering a future career in academia and we wish to protect their future interests in the higher education environment.

UUSU is fully aware of the potential repercussions that this action will have on students and welcomes the initial assurances the University has given in taking steps to minimise the effects the strike will have on them.  This includes the University preparing to minimise any potential disruption on campuses and taking initial steps to ensure that students whose studies may be affected by the strike are not disadvantaged at the point of assessment.  UUSU will continue to lobby on their behalf and we are committed to supporting all our members, including finding tangible solutions and academic access for them, regardless of if they choose to show support for the Industrial Action.

We will continue to update our members with any further information we receive as we lobby the University to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the Industrial Action.  One of the core areas we will be asking for clarity from the University is around ensuring algorithms can be flexible to account for the potential eight days of lost education.

 

What are we asking students to do?

  1. As per the Council Policy UUSU will support all students, however they wish to engage with the Industrial Action.  This could include:
    1. As a student you may wish to show solidarity with the action.  This could include talking to those striking to better understand the position or staying at home and not crossing the picket lines during the strike period.  We would advise if your attendance on campus is critical i.e. if you receive a bursary for example, you check this before taking any decision.
    2. You may wish to access campus services during the strikes such as the library, labs or student spaces/services.  Where you wish to do this, we ask you are respectful of those taking part on the strike and are mindful of their position when passing onto campus.  If you feel uncomfortable coming onto campus you must let UUSU know by contacting us on strikes@uusu.org
  2. Make sure your mobile number is up to date with Registry so you can receive important SMS communications from the university. 
  3. Also check your University email regularly as updates will be available through this platform.  In the week before the strike action starts, you will receive an email from the University with a link to UU webpages, containing useful information for the University community, including responses to a range of questions that you may have.
  4. Let us know how you’re going to be affected so we can work on your behalf. If you’re made aware of a class due to be cancelled, send us an email on strikes@uusu.org so we can monitor this and discuss with the University.
  5. If you feel particularly strongly complain to the university about any impact on your education and your worries about how the strike action will affect you.  We can also take your concerns directly to the University so again use the strikes@uusu.org email to get in touch with us. 

 

What is UUSU Doing for its members?

  1. UUSU is lobbying the University to make sure as much information as possible is available for students.
  2. We are also lobbying to encourage the University make concessions where required or allowable for the lost teaching time.
  3. UUSU will also be working with the University on a hardship fund which will ringfence any monies saved by them during the strike to be reinvested in the student experience. 
  4. We also want to hear from you so we can aggregate any effect on the student body for future research and input.  To give us your experiences and difficulties, please contact strikes@uusu.org
  5. Our spaces and services will be open so come and talk to us with any of your concerns or use our spaces to meet up and discuss courses etc.

UUSU Strike FAQs

University Strike Update Webpage for students

The latest Tweets from UUSU_Strikeinfo (@UStrikeinfo). UUSU updates on Strike action across Ulster University for students

Ulster University SU

Ulster University Student's Union was established in 1984 and is a membership-led organisation which represents over 26,000 full and part-time Ulster students. Company Number NI646426 (Registered in Northern Ireland).

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