In Term 1's All Student Vote, students voted to support academic staff who are planning to go on strike over pensions, pay and working conditions.
Please read on for more information about the strikes, and how you can support striking staff! There's also additional information including contact details and campaign resources for students on our UCU Strike Campaign page HERE.
“What is the strike about?”
Staff will be striking over two disputes. The first ballot concerns the USS pension scheme, which was also the subject of the 2018 strikes. You can read more about this here on the UCU website. The second ballot concerns pay, workloads and equality. UCU are balloting for fair treatment of staff in Higher Education, fighting against casualisation, unmanageable workloads and pay erosion & inequality. You can learn more about this here on the UCU website.
“When are strikes taking place?”
Strikes are currently proposed on 14 days between 20th February 2020 – 13th March 2020. These strikes could be called off if an agreement is reached. UCU also has a mandate on calling strikes for 6 months following the ballot that was announced on 31st October 2019.
“I’m an international student - what will happen with my attendance?”
We’re lobbying the University to ensure that students’ attendance will be registered automatically, so that international students don’t have to worry about their visa. International students with visa concerns can contact the SU Advice Centre for free, impartial, advice which is independent of the University.
“What will happen with unpaid wages during the strike?”
The University has committed to putting any unpaid wages into funds which support students, such as the Student Hardship Funds. It is appropriate that wages forfeited during the strike should benefit students directly, rather than being absorbed into University profits.
“What does ‘Action Short Of Strike’ mean?”
Union members started ‘action short of strike’ from 25th November and the mandate will last until April 2020. Action Short of Strike means that staff will be working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not undertaking any voluntary activities, refusing to work overtime and refusing to reschedule lecturers lost to strike action.
“What is a picket line?”
A picket line is a boundary that is established by workings on a strike. This will usually be entrances to their place of work. Others will be asked not to cross these picket lines, as to do so may be considered to be undermining the strike. It is your personal choice as to whether you want to cross the picket lines, but we would urge students to seriously consider the ethical implications of doing so.
“Can I go into University buildings during the strike?”
The University buildings will be open and available, so you can go to them if you choose to. We urge you not to cross these picket lines wherever possible. However, please do not feel that you cannot access wellbeing, doctors’ appointments or disability services - we encourage you to look after your own wellbeing first.
“Should I attend to my academic commitments?”
If your lecturer has informed you that they will be on strike and your lectures will not be on, you have no obligation to attend these. If your lecturer has not told you that they are striking, or you are aware that they are not, it will be up to you as to whether you go to your lectures or not. To go to your contact hours would be to cross the picket line, and we encourage you not to do this.
“How can I support the strike?”
There are many ways you can show solidarity with striking staff during this time. You can:
- Show your support at the picket lines! Picketing is a legal activity, and these lines are aimed at spreading awareness, gaining support and convincing as many people are possible to join the strike. Staff immensely value student presence on these picket lines, so pop along to say hello to your staff, give them a cup of tea and a biscuit and tell them that you support them!
- Email your lecturers to show that you support them. It can be a really difficult time for striking staff, so knowing that they have the support of their students could make it a lot easier.
- Sign up to host a Teach Out event. We will be collaborating to host a series of Teach Outs, which are alternative activities to promote education outside of the traditional university teaching schedule.
- Let others know you are supporting the strike by wearing a purple square, and sharing your support on social media. You can pick up a purple square from SUHQ Reception!
- Write to the Vice Chancellor asking that he uses his voice as a member of UUK to oppose these plans.
- Email UUK and UCEA Presidents telling them you support the strikes, asking them to put forward real proposals which properly address staff concerns over this.
- Promote the local strike fund. Staff will not be paid for time they are on strike, so promoting these funds would be really useful to helping them during this time. Staff are risking a huge amount financially to take part in this campaign, so any financial support that can be given to the strike fund is massively appreciated.
“I’m a PGR who teaches - can I go on strike?”
Yes - postgraduates who engage in teaching can become a member of UCU for free! You can join here: www.ucu.org.uk/join
“What will happen to my assessments? Will examinations contain subjects that haven’t been taught?”
Unfortunately, at this point, we do not know the answer for this. This is dependent on your department’s examination structure, and how long the dispute goes on for. We will be holding the University to account by assuring that the disruption to students is minimised. It’s important to remember that UCU and your lecturers that are on strike do not wish to cause disruption to yourselves, but to the University.
“How will I know if my lecturers are going on strike?”
Staff have no obligation to tell you that they are going on strike – however, some of them may make you aware of this prior to your lectures. This will entirely be an individual choice, however, meaning that it will not always be easy to know if your lectures will be taking place or not.
“How can I call for my interests to be supported, without undermining the strike?”
It is completely legitimate to feel angry and frustrated about this strike – however, please remember to channel this frustration towards the people who actually have the power to end this dispute! The sooner that UUK reverse their decisions on pension reforms, the sooner the strikes will cease and staff can go back to doing what they love - teaching, researching and supporting our education.
"Am I entitled to compensation for lost contact hours as a result of the strike?"
We do not believe that dividing total tuition fees by the number of contact hours gives an accurate indication of the 'cost' of contact time, as fees also pay for a number of University facilities and resources outside of tuition alone. As noted previously, we urge students to direct their anger towards those who are responsible for the ongoing situation faced by staff, and who have the power to bring the strikes to an end. The issue of compensation is one you may want to raise in this process.