Industrial Action 2022/23
Updates and information for staff on potential industrial action relating to UCU’s disputes regarding USS, Pay and working conditions.
**In an email of 29 May 2023, the Principal detailed the current impasse between the University and UCU. With a view to mitigating the impact on students, the Principal made an offer to all staff participating in the boycott to give individuals an option to remove themselves from the boycott.
The offer was put to staff that if you agree to mark and assess all boycotted work for final year and single year students by 15 July and for continuing students by 30 July, the University will return any withheld pay.
If you wish to accept this offer, you should (as soon as possible) email email@example.com confirming that you agree to agree to mark and assess all boycotted work, prioritising final year and single year students by 15 July and continuing students by 30 July. In return, we will confirm this with your school, return any withheld pay and remove you from the withheld pay instructions sent to Payroll on a monthly basis.**
The University and College Union (UCU) has secured a mandate for industrial action across many UK Universities in a ballot that closed in March 2023. The mandate is for both strike action and action short of a strike, on changes to USS and its ‘four fights’ of casualisation, gender, ethnicity and disability pay inequality, workload and the 2022/23 pay award.
Marking and Assessment Boycott
UCU have announced an escalation of action short of strike, in the form of a Marking and Assessment Boycott.
The Boycott will take the form of continuous action, commencing on Thursday 20 April 2023. In the light of the Principal’s offer, staff who wish to end their participation can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, otherwise participation will be assumed to continue until the current mandate ends on 30 September. You do not need to submit another declaration if you are continuing your participation in the marking and assessment boycott. Only new participants should submit a declaration.
A Marking and Assessment Boycott covers all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions). This has been defined by UCU below.
UCU: What type of work is covered by the boycott?
The University is aware that a Marking and Assessment Boycott will cause greater impact to students' award and progression to students than any other form of industrial action and as a result will be implementing withholding salary accordingly.
We have prepared some frequently asked questions for staff in relation to the Marking and Assessment Boycott.
Staff FAQs - Marking and Assessment Boycott
The University will enact contingency plans to mitigate disruption to the delivery of learning and teaching, and student experience whilst maintaining academic standards.
There is a dedicated webpage providing students with up-to-date information on the industrial action.
Industrial action information for students
A dedicated staff SharePoint site containing further useful information and the online employee declaration form will be live from Thursday 20 April 2023.
Industrial action information for staff
We are committed to helping our colleagues save and plan for retirement. The USS pension scheme remains generous, and its flexibility reflects the needs of many colleagues. Via the negotiating bodies (UUK for pensions) we seek to ensure an offering which is responsible and affordable both in the short term for current members and for future members. The 2023 Triennial valuation process will begin with the valuation of scheme assets as at 31 March 2023. The formal process of valuation will take a number of months and we will be active participants in the consultation process seeking the best possible, but sustainable, outcome for staff.
The 2022/23 pay offer made by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) (ranging from 9% to 3%) was at the limit of affordability for universities and colleges nationally.
This year's pay negotiations were brought forward in recognition of the financial challenges facing staff. Following negotiation with the Trade Unions, UCEA has confirmed the 2023/24 pay award will range from 8% to 5%. A proportion of the uplift was backdated effective from 1 February 2023, with a second uplift at the usual time in August 2023. The February 2023 increase to the UCEA pay spine is £1000 or 2% of basic salary, whichever is greater, with the remaining uplift in August 2023. In August, in addition to the second uplift, many staff will also benefit from contractual incremental progression through the University spinal points.
We continue to take opportunities to improve conditions for staff which are within our control. We recently announced a joint Unions review of the grade scale within the University which will deliver options in May 2023. For more information on this, please see details of the University’s grade scale review statement.
On three of the other aspects of the UCU’s ‘four fights’ dispute, which are not nationally negotiated, we have made and continue to make significant progress, ahead of many of our peers in the sector:
- Casualisation: We have had an agreement in place with UCU since 2019 to ensure consistency of treatment for Guaranteed Hours staff in teaching and research-focussed roles. A review of adherence to this agreement has started to ensure we are meeting our commitments. We have set up a joint Union working group to review how we manage our large, mainly research-focussed, population employed on fixed-term contracts.
- Inequality: We have institutional level action plans on gender and race to increase the diversity of our workforce and address inequalities. We acknowledge that, while there have been small, incremental improvements over the last few years, our whole population average salary gender pay gap remains high at 15.99%, and this is reflective of the gender bias in some of our grades and roles. It is particularly impacted by the inclusion of our grade 10 population where the population is almost 70% male. When this senior management group is excluded, the average salary gender pay gap for grades 1 to 9 almost halves to 8.8%, falling the lower down the grades you go. More information on the current pay gaps can be found in our Equal Pay Report 2021 which can be found on our EDI webpages. The 2023 report will be published late April.
- Workload: We already have in place collectively agreed workload allocation models for academics. We recognise and appreciate the discretionary effort that many of our staff give to the University to enable us to achieve our success. A consultation on workload will commence in 2023.
To inform and support staff throughout this period, we will be publishing further information on a dedicated SharePoint site to answer many of the queries you may have, whether you are choosing to take part in the industrial action or are looking for further information on how this may affect University operations. This includes information and guidance relevant to all staff and for line managers.
If you do choose to participate in the industrial action you will be required to complete and submit an online declaration form, confirming your participation.
A form will be made available on the dedicated SharePoint site from 9am on Thursday 20 April 2023 for staff participating in the Marking and Assessment Boycott. Staff will be asked to declare the date they commenced their participation.
The current period of participation will end on Tuesday 4 July 2023 (inclusive) as this is the final date for publication of progression decisions and course marks for all continuing students. Further details on participation beyond this date will be communicated in due course.