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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 https://ucu.org.uk/working-to-contract

 

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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2 Comments

  1. Lorna McInulty says:

    Comrades.
    I am keen to attend the online rally and support you in any other way I can.

  2. Mike Eslea says:

    Thanks Lorna we will post the details on here nearer the day.

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