As you may be aware, members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted in favour of short of strike action (ASOS) from Tuesday 4 May 2021. UCU is the national union for academic and professional staff. We have no information on who that includes and members will follow the strike action at their own discretion.
Please note, this is different from previous industrial strike that included walk-outs and not providing lectures and seminars. Further details can be found on the UCU website here, but the ASOS means staff taking short of strike action:
- Do not undertake work beyond that contracted.
- Do not cover for absent or otherwise unavailable colleagues.
- Do not reschedule lectures, classes, meetings, appointments, or other tasks cancelled due to industrial action.
- Do not undertake voluntary activities. Do not volunteer ideas or actions: make managers manage.
- Do not use any of the University’s online systems on Fridays.
- Do not send emails before 9.00am or after 5.00pm – and not at weekends.
- Do not engage in meetings over 50 minutes duration.
- Boycott marking and assessment.
Why are staff taking action short of a strike?
This year, UCU members are striking against the proposed changes to the University structure under their ‘Shaping for Excellence’ programme. You may have already seen SU-backed student-led campaign against the restructuring that was approved by student council earlier this year and led to months’ worth of work and communication with the University alongside the Students Against Redundancies team. As a Union we do not support the programme and have not been given the insight or detail into the programme we feel we need on how the University had considered the impact of the change on students currently studying, steps to avoid negatively affecting staff wellbeing (in turn limiting staff capacity to support students) and potential impacts on academic freedom. You can find a written account here by a member of the UCU committee that outlines why this action is being taken.
We assume that the boycott of marking and assessments will have the greatest impact to students. We have a few weeks until this will mean breaking point and potentially impact the awarding date of degrees for finalists. We believe it is possible for the University to mitigate this and work with UCU to come to a resolution.
What is the SU doing?
Your Union Officer team met with members of the UCU committee last week to discuss the ASOS, concerns around mitigating disruptions to the student experience and potential support. In our capacity as the Students’ Union Executive Officer Team we wholeheartedly support UCU’s decision. However our current support of the ASOS may change if student awarding outcome deadlines are compromised.
We are publicly calling on the University to prioritise students, display good will and bring the conversation back to the table with UCU to resolve this dispute. Appropriate and respectful working conditions for staff means happy learning conditions for students. Students do not deserve more disruptions to their year and have had significant setbacks to their physical, social and mental wellbeing already this academic year. In a year where over 1,000 students voted no confidence in the University Senior Management team it is imperative that the University demonstrates the importance of the student experience.
We also know that for some of you this will be a third year of disruption to your studies and that is not okay but this is reflective of a serious issue between employer and worker conditions. Tuition fee reimbursement is difficult and almost always require national mandates from government, however you are well within your rights to receive strike action reimbursement for any disruption to the essential components that affect your student assessment, progression and award.
What can students do?
The University have released information including their complaints form for compensation, but this won’t be available to submit till July and can be found here. We do not want to reach the escalation point where you are affected and have to use this, so this month before June is vital to get your support and use our complaints template to send to the Vice-Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org ), asking them to resolve this before it further disrupts the student experience. Student voice is powerful and your contributions are important.
Below are the contact details of relevant members of the University Senior Leadership Team:
President and Vice-Chancellor (email@example.com) Prof. Nishan Canagarajah is responsible for all University activities and leads the direction for overall business and academic strategies.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) Prof. Edmund Burke is the second most senior staff member in the University and helps manage communication with the staff unions.
Registrar and Secretary (Geoff.email@example.com) Geoff Green manages the Student Partnership with the Student Union.
There is an FAQ list available here to keep you updated, which the Union and the University will continue to keep updated throughout the short of strike action.
We also understand this can be causing some students a lot of stress in an important term for academic outcomes, The University has partnered with the NHS to provide students with free access to Togetherall - a confidential, online mental health support community, run by trained professionals and available 24/7.
If you have any questions or want to send us your stories, you can email us at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will ensure these are seen by those with the power to provide support and resolve the situation or contact the Student Union's Advice Service (email@example.com) who will ensure you are given any advice on submitting complaints.
If you do or don’t agree with this statement we encourage students to submit what you believe the Union stance should be using the ideas system. Any idea that receives over 20 likes will be taken to union council to vote on Thursday 3rd June.
Mia, Tony, Elle, Adnan, Hannah & Karli
Students’ Union Executive Team