USS FAQ

This is a page for FAQs raised locally.  Before you look for answers here, be sure you have also consulted the national FAQs here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs

1 Confirmation about when we have to officially inform the university about when we have been on strike.

See Garry Coupland’s email for the details, but it is 2 March for the first 5 days of strike action, and 27 March for the next 9 days.

2 Do we need to use the HR on-line form to report strike action?

Yes, you should use the HR online form.  However, as discussed below, there are some things the form does not address very clearly, so if you are confused, contact HR for guidance.

3 Can we make our own placards?

Sure, but be sure a picket supervisor or union officer approves them before you carry them on our picket line.  We cannot use threats and intimidation and upsetting language like “scab” and things like that.  We are politely but visibly letting the world know why we are on strike and trying to persuade people to support us.

4 How does striking for part time staff work? 0.8 FTE doesn’t work a Monday – does that mean I don’t strike on the Monday’s?

Part-time employees (who take off a fraction of the working week) will be deducted at 1/365th per strike day, just like full-time employees.

5 What is the lower cut off for hardship pay? E.g minimum grade

Anyone who is a member of UCU can apply to the hardship fund.  Please see the local hardship fund page for further information.

6 How can we protect international students? Ability to meet border agency requirements re attendance.   Encourage them to swipe in even if we aren’t there?

This guidance is from our regional full-time official: “If a student wishes to go in because of concerns about attendance and visa guidelines/restrictions, then they should turn up to the lecture – where we hope that it won’t be on because of strike action by the person supposedly giving that lecture.  There are other ways that they can show their support.”  I would suggest international students should swipe in to establish their attendance for UKVI purposes whether or not a lecturer is there.

7 I work 0.5 on a Thursday. Will the university systems allow me to strike for half a day?

Part-Time employees (who take off a fraction of the working week) will be deducted at 1/365th per strike day, just like full-time employees.  We don’t know how you report that with the on-line form.  Ask Garry Coupland.

8 Can the university legitimately expect the staff to make up classes missed because of the strike?

I don’t know about “legitimate” but they may ask you to reschedule classes missed.  Please see the guidance from the national UCU here and also refer to the PowerPoint slides I sent out from our EGM on 14 February 2018.  One thing to bear in mind is just how difficult it is to reschedule teaching under normal circumstances.  How can it possibly work with hundreds of us out for days at a time?

9 Are there any plans to extend the strike action to a fifth week if things do not change?

The industrial action includes action short of a strike beginning on 22 February and continuing until it is called off.  The UCU at a local and national level will be assessing the situation continuously and deciding the best way to proceed as we go along.

10 What is the position of non-members who want to support the strike?

If non-union members go on strike, they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as union members, as long as the industrial action is lawful.  The strike in relation to the USS pension dispute is lawful industrial action.  However, if problems arise afterwards from your participation in the strike and you are not a member of UCU, then UCU will not be able to provide support.  The simplest solution is to just join the UCU.

11 Many of my colleagues support the strike but cannot afford to take all the days off. Are 2-3 days better than 0 days?
12 While I am not teaching this semester, I support the strike. I plan to strike all days and not rearrange admin meetings.  Can I do this?

Yes, please do.

13 How will not re-scheduling classes, viewed by management as action short of strike, be visible to management and how exactly will pay be deducted for this?

That is not a question that UCU has an answer to.  It is a problem for University management to sort out.  They are, of course, legally obliged to do it fairly and without discriminating and without victimising employees for participating in lawful industrial action.

14 What about essential maintenance of equipment that must be carried out on strike days?

It is not your equipment; it is the University’s, and I am sure they are making arrangements to take care of this.  If not, they would be returning to negotiations already.

15 Should I advertise that I’m on strike while it’s happening? I.e. With ‘out of office’ etc

We will be drafting a model autoreply for email, and we will post it here and elsewhere in the next day or so.

16 As a non-teaching researcher I’m worried that my striking won’t have a big impact. Is there anything I can do to make a bigger impact on the uni and make my voice heard?

Come along to the picket lines, attend (or speak at) the teach-in, come to the local hardship fund fundraiser, ring and/or visit your MP, talk to your neighbours and non-university friends about the strike, discuss the dispute and the strike on social media — the list is endless.

17 Garry Coupland’s email stated that if we don’t re-schedule teaching from strike days we’ll be in breach of contract and they can dock 100% of our pay. Surely this is incorrect/illegal?

Sadly, it is legal: https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-action-faqs#23.  However, as Coupland’s email also says, “Should you decide only partially to tender your services, those services you do provide will be voluntary on your part.”  So if you’re being docked 100% for not rescheduling a class, anything you do is for free (unless we misunderstand that).

18 Not everyone rolls in between 8-11. Doesn’t it make sense to picket say 11-2?

On some days we will be picketing specific locations later in the day (check with a picket supervisor or the office for details).  In general, we would urge people to go to the teach-in activities at that time (or just have a rest!).

19 Can striking affect probation?

That would be victimisation, and it is very illegal.  The UCU at local, regional, and national level would respond very robustly to that, and we will be monitoring this closely over the next year or two.  I’m sure the University management would not dream of doing such a thing.