Information for managers
General information and guidance to help managers plan for and manage the impact of the industrial action.
The following guidance has been developed to help all managers to plan for and manage the impact of the industrial action called by UCU. The industrial action, which is in connection with both the 2019/20 national pay uplift and contribution increases to USS pension scheme, is for strike action and action short of a strike. Separate guidance has been made available to staff with responsibility for Boards of Examiners, Learning & Teaching, Research Students, Student Recruitment & Conversion activities.
UCU asked its members to take eight days of strike action over a 2-week period in November and December 2019, as follows:
- Week 1: Monday 25, Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27, Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November 2019 (5 days)
- Week 2: Monday 2, Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 December 2019 (3 days)
UCU has since advised the University that it will call on its members to take a further 14 days of strike action over a 3-week period as follows:
- Week One: Monday 24, Tuesday 25, Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 February 2020 (4 days)
- Week Two: Monday 2 to Friday 6 March (5 days)
- Week Three: Monday 9 to Friday 13 March (5 days)
If UCU decide to call further strike days it will need to give the University 14 days’ notice.
UCU members also voted to take ‘action short of a strike’ from Monday 25th November 2019 in addition to strike action. Action short of a strike consists of union members:
- working to contract
- not covering for absent colleagues unless contractually required to do so
- not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
- not undertaking any voluntary duties, and
- in respect of pay only, not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action.
Staff will not be in breach of their contractual obligations if they work to their contract or decline to take on activities on a voluntary basis.
UCU represents academic and professional support staff, for example lecturers, researchers, tutors, managers, administrators and computing staff. It is likely that action will be taken by staff in these roles at grades 6 and above.
Staff who are not UCU members may choose not to cross picket lines. If no alternative arrangements can be made for such staff to work from another location then they will also be deemed to be taking part in the strike action.
An all staff e-mail has been issued by the Director of HR directing staff to further information on the HR webpages. This information is for staff taking part in strike action and/or action short of a strike, as well as staff who are not taking part in the action. These pages will be updated to reflect ongoing discussions with UCU Edinburgh on matters specific to Edinburgh.
Key messages which you may want to reflect in your own communications include:
- Understanding the strength of feeling amongst staff. The University fully supports benefits for staff that make Edinburgh an even better place to work, and these include fair pay and a secure pension.
- The fact that these are disputes which the University is not able to resolve it on its own, but we will continue to engage with others to see if there are ways of resolving the dispute without industrial action.
- The fact that the impact of action will vary from one part of the University to another.
- The University will be open during the days of strike action and will seek to deliver teaching and other services in as many areas as possible.
FAQs for students regarding the implications of industrial action have been published on our Student Administration website.
These webpages will be updated as and when we receive new information.
Planning ahead of the industrial action
Managers are asked to identify critical areas of activity and service, assess the risk of these activities and services being disrupted by strike action and/or action short of a strike and ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to mitigate the disruption.
In putting in place these arrangements the focus should be on prioritising work that ensures
- the health and safety of students, staff and others
- the impact on student learning and teaching and
- the security of and access to buildings.
Managers are entitled to ask their staff at an early stage if they intend to take part in the strike action. Staff are not under any obligation to disclose their intentions and may or may not chose not to do so. However if asked if they are already taking part in action short of a strike, staff are obliged to respond.
In verbally asking staff about their intentions, managers should take a respectful approach and acknowledge the right of union members to take part in the strike action without disclosing their intentions in advance. They must make no assumptions about who is and is not a trade union member, so need to ask everyone in their team(s) – or no-one at all - to make a voluntary disclosure. They must ensure these disclosures are handled with discretion and must not “chase” staff to respond.
Please note: As trade union membership is sensitive personal data, any correspondence from staff disclosing their intentions in advance of action must be disposed of once the staff member has declared they took part in the action.
Following the strike action, staff who were absent during the strike days will be asked to declare that they took part in the action by completing the online declaration form no later than a week following their return to work from strike action, and by Monday 23rd March 2020 at the latest.
Annual leave booked and approved prior to Monday 24th February 2020 will be honoured. This applies to all staff groups and to any date(s) between 24th February and 13th March inclusive.
New requests for leave to be taken once the strike action has commenced, i.e. between Monday 24th February and 13th March 2020, should be assessed on the basis of business need and the anticipated impact of the strike action, particularly if there is a reduction in staff within your team or department. Consequently, requests that would have been agreed under normal circumstances may have to be declined.
Staff who request to work from home during a day of strike action may do so but they must seek their manager’s permission in advance. Permission should be only given where working from home would be normal business practice for that member of staff were there no strike action on that particular day, i.e. in any other circumstance.
Staff who choose to work from home without prior permission will be treated as absent without permission and deemed to be taking part in strike action, including pay being withheld.
Managers should bear in mind that a significant proportion of staff are not members of UCU and so it is likely that most staff will attend work as normal.
Managers should put in place plans to support staff who do come to work. Consideration should be given to:
- ensuring staff know how to access buildings which might be affected by picket lines
- checking if staff are worried about crossing picket lines and reassuring them that it is ok to do so
- considering whether staff anxious about crossing picket lines could work at a different location, including from home if it would be normal practice for them to do so in other circumstances, and
- ensuring staff know who to go to about work matters if their supervisor/manager is on strike and who to contact in the event of any difficulties.
Crossing Picket Lines
Staff are expected to attend work as normal if they are not taking part in the strike action, and consequently may have to cross picket lines w set up by UCU members at entrances and exits to University workplaces. You should let staff know about any alternative entry and exit routes to and from their normal place of work.
While the University supports freedom of thought and expression within the law, in accordance with our Dignity and Respect policy, all staff are expected to demonstrate respect and integrity in their interactions with others during industrial action, including at picket lines.
Managers are legally entitled to cover the work of staff on strike and/or taking action short of strike by reallocating work to appropriate staff who are not taking part in the industrial action. Managers should consider whether there are other, suitably qualified members of staff who may be prepared to cover for the colleague who is on strike either on the day concerned or at a later date. We recognise that this will only be an effective approach if staff are willing to do this and that you will be best placed to make these individual judgements.
Note: in doing so please be mindful that given the nature of UCU’s action short of a strike, UCU members will not cover the work of those on strike and should only be expected to do so if they would be contractually required to do so in other circumstances. While non-UCU members may be willing to cover, care needs to be taken to ensure they would also be expected to do so in other circumstances.
It is also important to be aware that the work of staff taking industrial action cannot be allocated to agency workers, nor can new agency workers be hired to cover the work of staff taking industrial action or the work of staff covering for those taking industrial action. It is a criminal offence for an employment agency to supply temporary workers to undertake the work of staff who are participating in industrial action.
Staff with responsibilities for learning and teaching, and student experience can refer to a dedicated SharePoint site.
Reporting and record keeping on strike days
Staff who do not attend for work as expected on a strike day will be recorded as on strike. This includes those who refuse to cross a picket line, are unable to work from another location or choose to work from home without prior permission.
Managers must put in place a process to identify those who are absent on each strike day. This may involve physically checking attendance on the days in question.
If it is unclear whether a member of staff was on strike or working away from the University (e.g. if they had no scheduled classes/meetings), they should be asked to confirm if they were on strike and are obliged to respond.
Where staff have reported sick on a day of strike action, there must be a return to work conversation between the member of staff concerned and their line manager. Following that conversation, the manager is responsible for ensuring an accurate record is made of the reason for absence.
Staff who took strike action/chose not to cross the picket line are required to declare that this was the reason for their unauthorised absence.
Heads of HR have identified ‘named contacts’ within each School, Deanery and Professional Services Department who will be responsible for identifying, and maintaining a record of who is absent without prior permission on any day of strike action. An on-line self-declaration form has been designed to ease the burden of reporting absences. The declaration form must be completed by staff within a week of their return to work from strike action, and by no later than Monday 23rd March 2020.
The data from the employee's form will pre-populate a spreadsheet accessible only by nominated members of the HR team based at Dalhousie Land. During the week of 16th March, HR will send the named contacts a report listing the declarations submitted by staff who work in their business areas(s). Named contacts will need their area(s) to check these match the records they have maintained of unauthorised absences during the strike period. Named contacts will then need to follow-up on any missing declarations and ask the staff concerned to complete the on-line form.
Managers with responsibilities for delivery of teaching will be expected to keep records of courses / teaching activities which were not delivered as a result of industrial action. It will be important to be able to cross-reference the data on which staff are on strike with locally held data on the teaching activities delivered (or in this case, not delivered) by those members of staff on the day(s) in question.