Human Resources

Industrial Action 2022

Updates and information for staff on potential industrial action relating to UCU’s disputes regarding USS and the ‘Four Fights’.

The University and College Union (UCU) has secured a mandate for industrial action across many UK Universities in a ballot that closed on 4th November. The mandate is for both strike action and action short of a strike, on proposed changes to USS and its ‘Four Fights’ of casualisation, gender, ethnicity and disability pay inequality, workload and the 2021/22 pay award.

Key dates

UCU have confirmed that action short of a strike will be continuous and effective from 1st December 2021. This action short of strike will include:

  • members working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more,
  • not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action,
  • not covering for absent colleagues,
  • removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action.

Next steps

The University will enact contingency plans to mitigate significant disruption to the delivery of learning and teaching, and student experience, whilst maintaining academic standards.

Students will be updated regularly at:

Industrial action information for students

The University’s Commitment

We are committed to helping our colleagues save and plan for retirement. The USS pension scheme remains generous, even with the recent changes, and its flexibility reflects the needs of many colleagues. However, we recognise the struggle that the increased cost of living is having and appreciate the value of the benefits has reduced. So in our national negotiations we are doing everything we can to influence changes and to find a long-term, responsible outcome to this ongoing challenge. Similarly, we continue to engage in national negotiations around pay, to ensure a fair but affordable offering for staff.

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 are also setting up a joint union working group to review how we manage our large, mainly research-focussed, population employed on fixed-term contracts.  
  • Workload: we already have in place collectively agreed workload allocation models for academics and are committed to ensuring the University is a good workplace with sustainable workload levels. We recognise and appreciate the discretionary effort that many of our staff give to the University to enable us to achieve our success. Programmes such as Curriculum Transformation and Growing Research Together will provide further opportunities for us to improve ways of working in the future.  
  • Inequality: we have institutional level action plans on gender and race to increase the diversity of our workforce and address inequalities, including pay gap challenges. Our gender pay gap for grades 1-9 is 8.8% based on average salary, and initiatives such as the recent Chancellors Fellows appointments in 2021 are aimed at further closing this gap with a focus on developing an even more diverse group of future academic leaders.

In addition to the measures outlined above, we recently announced an exceptional payment for staff of £500, or pro-rata equivalent for staff who work part-time, to recognise the huge contribution staff have made over the past very challenging two years. This is in addition to the steps that the University has already taken this year, including doubling investment in our annual staff reward schemes.

These commitments are underpinned by the range of generous staff benefits that we already offer, including on flexible working and family friendly policies, and our commitment to the Voluntary Living Wage.

Information and resources

Effect of Taking Action Short of a Strike on your Employment Contract, Continuity and Length of Employment

The University of Edinburgh has decided that its initial approach for those working to contract or declining to take on activities on a voluntary basis will not have pay withheld.

You will be partially performing your contract if you refuse to:

  • reschedule lectures or classes which were cancelled due to strike action
  • share materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action
  • cover for absent colleagues (unless contractually required)
  • perform duties which befit your role, and are accounted for and prioritised within your work plan and contractual working hours. 

Unlike strike action, taking action short of a strike does not affect your continuity of employment or reduce your length of employment.

Effect on Pay

Although entitled to do so, the University has decided its approach will be not to withhold pay if you are partially performing your contract due to taking action short of a strike. We do however reserve the right to amend this position depending on the impact of the action on University business, particularly student learning, progression and wellbeing.

A briefing to support University staff in understanding the current UCU disputes around pensions and the ‘Four Fights’ is also available:


A range of information and resources from Universities Superannuation Scheme, Universities UK, and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association to support staff in understanding the matters underpinning the two disputes is available below:

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

How will changes to USS benefits affect scheme members? (PDF)

The 2020 USS Valuation – summary for staff (PDF)

The USS 2020 Valuation - Topical FAQs (PDF)

USS pension scheme – summary for students (PDF)

Glossary of key terms

Russell Group

Video: Why proposals to reform USS pensions are need to keep it affordable
Video from the Russell Group about 'USS - and the question of affordability'.

Universities UK (UUK)

Video: uuk-pensions-lower-cost-option-october-2021 (external UUK video)
External video from UUK about USS Pensions.

Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA)

Current pay negotiations