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March, 2021:

News: Threat lifted and strikes postponed

Statement from UCLan UCU Branch Committee



Following talks between UCU and Management today, the following statement has been agreed:

Over the past few weeks, the University and UCU have worked jointly to identify solutions for the remaining numbers of academic colleagues who are at risk of compulsory redundancy as a result of the restructuring exercises.

 This joint work has continued to deliver positive outcomes for colleagues, to the extent that the number of roles at risk has been reduced to four, with further discussions to be held over the coming days. The University is confident that the number will reduce still further as a result.

 Given the progress to date, the University and UCU have agreed that the priority is to give ourselves the time to pursue the work on finding individual solutions for those people concerned. As a result, the University has agreed to suspend its formal redundancy selection process and UCU has agreed to suspend the planned industrial action and explore redeployment options for the outstanding roles. The University and UCU are committed to remaining in constructive dialogue.


Does this resolve the dispute?

No. The dispute is not resolved because members remain at risk.


So what has changed?

Two weeks ago Management sought to meet UCU to discuss the criteria to be used to select individuals for compulsory redundancy. UCU declined to discuss selection criteria because we considered that there were viable alternatives to compulsory redundancy available that we wished to explore. The fact that Management were intent on pushing forward with selection for redundancy is why the Branch Committee felt it had no alternative but to issue the threat of strike action in order to defend our members’ jobs.

Management have now agreed to suspend selection for redundancy to allow further discussions to take place with UCU to resolve the remaining at risk posts. The members at risk have been informed of this development.


What about the industrial action?

In return for Management’s decision to suspend selection for redundancy, the UCU Branch Committee has agreed to suspend the industrial action (strike action and action short of a strike) planned for March and April.

However, the mandate for industrial action provided by members in the ballot remains live and UCU reserves the right to take industrial action if the current talks fail to resolve the dispute or if Management attempt to proceed to selection for compulsory redundancy.


What happens next?

 UCU and Management have committed to intensify efforts aimed at resolving the dispute by removing the prospect of compulsory redundancy. There is no guarantee of success, which is why the ballot mandate remains live. We will keep members informed about the progress of these discussions.


Thank you for your support so far.

 The Branch Committee wishes to thank members for the magnificent support you have shown so far. We know from the ballot results and from the many emails we have received ever since the redundancies were announced that you have demonstrated a willingness to stand up for your colleagues. There is no doubt that this has helped provide your branch negotiators with this opportunity to secure the livelihoods of those at risk. Your support was – and remains – crucial as we strive for a successful outcome.


UCU Branch Committee


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Strike 2021 – Advice to Members

Strike dates

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UCU has informed University Management that, following the decisive mandate given by members in the industrial action ballot two weeks ago, the branch intends to take strike action on the following dates:


Thursday 25th & Friday 26th March

Thursday 15th & Friday 16th April

Monday 19th & Tuesday 20th April


UCU also informed the University that, in accordance with the ballot result, members will take action short of strike action commencing Monday 12th April.


Why are we taking action?

Thanks to the efforts of UCU and the UCU members at risk of redundancy, the number of posts remaining formally at risk of redundancy has been whittled down to 5.0 FTE, with 8 individuals, all UCU members, remaining at risk. And for this remaining 5.0 FTE too, voluntary solutions would be available, principally through redeployment, if Management will make a genuine rather than merely tokenistic effort to make those solutions work. The university needs flexibility in its workforce to meet the changing needs, but this flexibility must be achieved by adjusting the duties and deployment of staff, with retraining where necessary, rather than by a crass and callous policy of simply firing staff when not all of their current duties continue to be needed. In these circumstances it is hard to believe that Management insist on pursuing compulsory redundancies, redundancies that a competent and humane management could so easily avoid and a betrayal of the Security of Employment Policy so hard-won by UCU.  But it is clear that unless determined industrial action by us all, the membership of UCU, forces Management to lift the threat of compulsory redundancy from the eight members at risk, Management will pursue their unnecessary and inhumane strategy time and time again.


What is strike action?

Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified above. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. It also means not doing any preparation for work that you are due to do when you return to work after your strike.

In other words, you don’t do any work at all on strike days! That means no Teams, no Blackboard, no Outlook…In a nutshell, do not log on to the University network on strike days.


Do I have to tell my line-manager (Head or Deputy head of School) I am going on strike or intend to take action short of a strike before the action begins?

No. You do not have to tell your employer whether you plan to take industrial action in advance of the strike – and the Branch Committee advises you to not do so, because doing so will enable Management to minimise any disruption the action is aimed to cause and therefore undermine the dispute. UCU has already provided Management with all the information about the action required by law, including those categories of members who we are calling on to take action.


When is it OK to tell my line manager I am taking industrial action?

Once the industrial action has begun and you are back to work following the strike action you should respond truthfully to any query from your line manager as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike.


Are there any exemptions from having to take industrial action?

No. All UCU members employed at UCLan are asked to take action in accordance with the ballot mandate and are expected to do so.


Should I reschedule lectures or classes that are cancelled due to the strikes?

No. This is part of the action short of a strike that members voted to undertake (see ‘action short of strike action’ below). Rescheduling classes will dilute the impact of the strike action.


I am booked to be on annual leave during (one of) the strikes – what should I do?

If your annual leave is essential you should take it as planned and make a donation to the UCU strike fund. If your leave is not essential you may wish to move it so that you can participate in the action alongside colleagues.


Am I in breach of my contract if I go on strike?

Yes, taking any industrial action is a breach of contract. However, as UCU has carried out a legal ballot and complied with all legal formalities, 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. This kind of dismissal has never happened in higher education.


Can my employer deduct my pay when I take part in industrial action?

Yes, the employer is entitled to deduct your pay if you participate in industrial action. For strike action, the union contends that any deduction should be at 1/365th of any annual salary or equivalent. For part-time staff, deductions should only reflect the pay normally due for the work not undertaken and no more.

For action short of a strike, your employer has the right to refuse to accept the partial performance of your contract and to deduct up to 100% of your pay while you are participating in the action so long as they make their intentions clear. In recent years, most employers have not deducted salary in respect of action short of a strike.


How will taking strike action affect my pension?

Most employers do not withhold pension contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. In terms of your final pension, the impact of participating in the industrial action called by UCU is miniscule compared to the benefits that the union has protected through action in the past.


Action short of a strike (ASOS)

As well as voting to take strike action, members also voted to take action short of strike action (ASOS). This will commence on Tuesday 12th April – and not before.


What is ‘action short of a strike’?

While a strike is a concerted stoppage of work, action short of a strike (ASOS) is normally action which affects only certain aspects of your work.  Action short of a strike in these disputes means we are asking you to:

  1. work to contract
  2. not cover for absent colleagues
  3. not reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  4. not undertake any voluntary activities

Action short of a strike begins on Monday 12th April and will continue until the union calls it off.


Working to contract means abiding strictly to the terms that your contract of employment (or other formal documents relating to your employment) specify as your hours of work; breaks; workload; or other matters. For further guidance see


Refusing to cover for absent colleagues

This means that unless your job is wholly or predominantly about covering for other staff, you should refuse to provide cover. An example of this might be where a colleague is unwell and you are asked to take on their teaching or other work.


Refusing to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action

This includes any scheduled teaching activity which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and applies to all UCU members, not just those directly responsible for the relevant lecture or class. You should refuse to reschedule this activity or share materials that would have been covered in the class or lecture when asked stating in response that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike.


What should I do if I have already rescheduled strike hit classes or if my Head of School has already rescheduled them? Once the action has started you should not teach rescheduled classes whoever has rescheduled them.


What does refusing to undertake any voluntary activity mean?

Not undertaking any voluntary activity means that where you have a choice as to whether you undertake some work (i.e. it is not specified in your agreed workload), you should not do it. If you are in any doubt about what you are required to do under your contract, check with a UCU branch officer.


Does ASOS include a marking or assessment boycott?

We are not asking members to undertake a marking or assessment boycott at this stage. However, members have provided a mandate for such action and Management have been notified that the union may escalate to a marking or assessment boycott if the dispute is not resolved.


Strike rally – Thursday 25th March

We will be organising an online ‘rally’ with guest speakers on the first day of strike action, Thursday 25th March – details TBA, which will include updates on the dispute and other suggestions for how you can support the action.


UCU Branch Committee



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Strike 2021 – VC’s Statement

UCU response to the VC’s statement on forthcoming strike action.

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The statement posted by Graham Baldwin on the intranet on Friday is reproduced below, with UCU’s responses in bold.


VC: ‘We have previously updated you on our restructure programme and the essential changes required to ensure our future financial stability. Over the last few years, our people costs had been rising and unfortunately those cost increases exceeded the growth in our income. This placed the University at a level of annual deficit which, if left unchecked, would have had very serious implications for our future’.


UCU:  The ‘unsustainable’ rise in staffing costs is a consequence of the failure of Management oversight and control of costs over many years, something which Management themselves have admitted.  Management has also admitted that is does not have a sound method for actually measuring the overall costs for particular courses or subject areas.  It is wrong that staff should have to pay for that incompetence with their jobs. The University is in sound financial health – with cash reserves of £100 million – and is planning to spend £50 million on new buildings this year alone. This cannot justify enforced loss of livelihoods.


VC: ‘Our priority has therefore been to restore our people costs to a sustainable level. The ambition was and remains to achieve these significant savings through voluntary means if possible. We have made considerable progress towards this as 253 colleagues have opted to move on from UCLan through voluntary redundancy arrangements and a further 17 have taken up more flexible working arrangements through the new partial voluntary redundancy scheme. These schemes, together with the redeployment process, have been huge contributors towards our future sustainability and again I would like to thank all those who have supported colleagues throughout this process which is now coming to an end. We have worked closely with the trade unions and with those colleagues affected, to ensure they have the support that they need’.


UCU: Management has not been proactive in redeploying the skills experience and expertise of ‘at risk’ staff to address areas where there is a shortage of labour in the institution. Whilst many ‘at risk’ colleagues have demonstrated flexibility in this respect, including agreeing changes to their roles, this has not been matched by Management who are in the best position to facilitate proper redeployment that addresses the needs of the University whist safeguarding jobs.    


VC: ‘Our improving financial position has made it possible to maintain the student experience throughout the pandemic. For students we have purchased thousands of new laptops and dongles, refunded accommodation fees and supported students through the Hardship Fund. Unlike many other universities, none of our colleagues have been furloughed and we have been able to retain everyone on full pay, regardless of whether or not they are able do their job remotely. We have also been able to increase our staffing numbers in areas of student growth, which are so important to our longer-term success, and of course wherever possible we have redeployed colleagues into these new roles to continue their UCLan careers’.


UCU: Throughout the pandemic UCU has worked to keep staff and students at the University safe. UCU members have worked tirelessly for the past year, making the shift to online delivery or delivering practical skills face-to-face as safely as possible. Academic staff have worked far beyond their agreed workloads to ensure that students progress and graduate. It is unacceptable that any of them should, as a ‘reward’ for their efforts, be threatened with compulsory redundancy.     


VC: ‘The progress we have made in voluntary redundancy and redeployment has taken us a very long way towards achieving our savings targets, and these efforts continue. There are six roles in the Faculty of Culture and Creative Industries that remain at risk and the reason these roles are at risk is because particular subject areas have seen a sustained decline in student numbers over recent years, so we do not have sufficient students to maintain the current staffing levels. The number of applications received to date in those areas show that the issue will only be compounded if we do not complete the process of reducing our staffing costs’.


UCU: The reason the VC gives is, by Management’s own admission, not applicable to all staff at risk. Where it is ostensibly applicable, the fact is that student numbers do go up and down, but these course teams have been selected in a narrow-minded fashion that ignores their contributions to other courses and all the work they do for their Schools and the wider University. A responsible, competent Management identifies these fluctuations and addresses them through improved marketing, course mergers or by innovating to design new programmes. An irresponsible Management allows a trend to go unchecked and then wrings its hands and forces people out of work.


VC: ‘We are very disappointed that UCU has chosen to schedule six days of strike action beginning in less than two weeks, while we are still in the midst of our work to mitigate the impact on the colleagues affected. We will, however, continue to explore every opportunity to achieve the required cost savings through voluntary means. Individual discussions with affected colleagues are progressing and we are very confident that the number of at risk colleagues will reduce even further over the coming days’.


Despite the claim to be exploring alternatives to voluntary redundancy, Management want to press ahead with selection for compulsory redundancy as we speak. It is UCU that continues to press Management to lift the threat of compulsory redundancy and negotiate solutions that work both for the University and for those members still at risk. UCU has always – and will always be – ready to discuss with Management the challenges facing the University – it is in our members’ interests that we do so. But it is now in Management’s hands to step back from the brink and avoid a dispute which will have consequences for industrial relations for a long time to come.     


For a view of the dispute from the perspective of a dedicated UCU rep who has been supporting colleagues at risk, see the following personal reflection from Tara Styles-Lightowlers:


‘On Friday the VC provided an update on the UCU strike ballot and action. I would just like to fill in some of the glaring gaps. Most importantly, the omission of the very real people in the ‘people costs’ that the VC makes reference to.

Since we first learned of the members at risk of redundancy in CCI, I have lost many nights sleep or found myself sobbing into my pillow in the early hours of the morning. My own post is not at risk, but I have seen first-hand the very real distress that the VC’s message glosses over with its focus on ‘people costs’ and ‘savings targets’. I have sat at the other end of a computer screen, watching members struggle and cry, terrified and confused, not knowing what to do: worrying about mortgages, children, a possible end to their careers… all on top of the added stresses caused by the pandemic and lockdown. Even in those cases where the savings have been made via redeployment, this has involved difficult decisions being made by members, at a time when they are already working so hard to counter the problems that have been posed by Covid. These seemingly voluntary decisions have been made by members terrified of losing their jobs. I cannot stand by and watch this dehumanisation of people, seeing them reduced to mere commodities in this cost-saving exercise despite the years of hard work and dedication they have given to UCLan. The refusal to remove the threat of compulsory redundancy is not, due to financial necessity, it is a political decision. This is why I wipe away the tears and continue to stand in solidarity with the at risk members and continue to fight any threat to the livelihoods of our members.’


Stand with Tara. Support your colleagues at risk. Support the strike action. 


UCU Branch Committee


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Advice & Representation

Roles & Responsibilities when you have a UCU Caseworker

A downloadable version of this document is available HERE



Your UCU caseworker will never discuss your situation or share information with your manager, with HR or with any colleague (but see below) without your express consent.

Caseworkers do discuss cases with other caseworkers and with members of the Branch Committee.  We have regular Casework Meetings, to ensure consistency of approach and to enable us to cover for each other if, for instance, you needed help while your regular caseworker was on leave or off sick.  It is therefore important to remember that what you tell your caseworker will be shared with the Branch Committee. Exceptions to this are made when a Branch Committee member has a conflict of interest, in which case they will absent themselves from the meeting while your case is discussed.

If a case is serious, such that there is a risk of dismissal or the possibility of legal action, we will also inform the UCU NW Regional Office.

Once a case is concluded, we will normally keep notes and other records for one year, in case the issues resurface. After that they will be destroyed, and any reoccurring issues will be considered as a new case.


Your Responsibilities

Your UCU caseworker will advise you to the best of their ability, and in accordance with Branch policy. You are not compelled to follow that advice, but if you do not, we may decide to withdraw representation. Similarly, we do not normally represent members who are receiving external advice (e.g., from a solicitor) except in exceptional circumstances where this has been discussed and agreed with UCU.

Once you have been allocated a caseworker, you should talk to them before communicating with your manager, or HR, or anyone else, on any matter relevant to the case. Such communications can seriously undermine your case, and may lead to us withdrawing representation.

Please try to stay focused in your interactions with your caseworker, and treat them with respect. Remember we are typically supporting multiple members at once, and that we all have “day jobs” as well.  One way to try and keep focused is to consider what outcome you would like from the process. You should reflect on this and try and communicate this to your caseworker.

All casework will have an end point. Sometimes a case ends because some other process reaches its conclusion (e.g., a disciplinary process). A case may end because the resolution that you sought has been achieved.  There are other times when a case ends because the Branch Committee judge that the caseworker and member have taken all the steps that could reasonably have been taken.  This could mean that the casework finishes without the member achieving their desired outcome.

We recognise, of course, that many of our members are under tremendous stress when they contact us, and we will do our best to help, but if you need emotional support you should speak to Staff Counselling or the Education Support Partnership (links below). We will consider withdrawing representation from any member who makes excessive demands or who behaves unreasonably towards their caseworker.


UCLan UCU Branch Committee

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