UCU strike action – February / March 2018
As many of you will already be aware the University and College Union (UCU) has voted to take industrial action. UCU is the trade union for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK.
The reason they have voted to take industrial action is because national negotiations to reform the USS Pension Scheme (one of the largest university pension schemes) have failed to reach an agreed settlement. Many members of staff at the University of York are members of USS scheme and also members of UCU.
As a consequence industrial action by UCU is planned to take place over a four-week period, commencing on Thursday 22 February. The strike dates are:
Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days);
Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days);
Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days);
Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days).
During this period UCU members (some of which may be academic staff members in your departments) may refuse to work and form picket lines (groups at entrances to campus). Many of those taking part will lose their pay for the strike period so it is bound to be an emotional time for those involved.
We are aware that the planned industrial action by UCU members is causing distress for many students. GSA officers will continue to push the university for open and honest communication about the actions and how they may affect you. We continue to be in constant dialogue with the University and UCU and as promised we are keeping you up to date with any information we receive as and when we get it.
Many students have come to us asking if they will get money back for any lost teaching. The University has stated that “in the ‘Terms and Conditions of our Offer to Students’, industrial action is one of a small number of exceptional circumstances that are beyond the control of the University.” This would mean that the University is under no legal obligation to reimburse students for lost teaching time. At this stage it is clear the University’s main aim is to minimise or where possible avoid the industrial action having a major impact on its students.
The University is hopeful that industrial action will be avoided and the dispute will be resolved. In the meantime, they are working with all our departments to draw up contingency plans aimed at minimising the impact on students and their studies.
The University promised that it will do all that it reasonably can to continue to provide excellent educational services during the industrial action. Contingency plans are being developed to mitigate any loss or damage faced by students as a result of the industrial action, for example by rescheduling teaching, providing cover for absent staff and accommodating assessments and exams. Through this they hope to minimise disruption to students and their studies and, in particular, that courses will, overall, be delivered as planned.
In terms of the impact on your degree outcomes, students will only be assessed on material where they have received relevant teaching. A variety of contingencies and alternatives are being considered at both an institution and departmental level to ensure coverage of learning outcomes, or that assessments can be altered to measure attainment on what has been covered. Departments will consider how individual combinations of modules will affect particular students.
Students are advised to turn up to all scheduled classes unless specifically told otherwise and to ensure that they check regularly for updates from their Departments.
The GSA has also been discussing how PGR students who have viva meetings during the strike period will be affected and are aware that departments are contacting affected students individually. If you are concerned about the potential impact on your viva of thesis submission please contact your department or supervisor.
The university has developed an official channel to respond to queries related to the industrial action, students can make enquiries through this official channel via email to industrialactionqueries@york. ac.uk.
Any student who wishes to discuss their individual circumstances should contact their Department.
Our advice to all students at this time is to stay in contact with your departments, check your email accounts regularly and save copies of any communications you have with your department in case you need them at a later date.