As many of you are aware, UCU is currently considering taking strike action or another form of industrial action. Read our frequently asked questions here.
As many of you are aware, UCU has announced that they will take strike action and action short of a strike again this term. We’re receiving lots of questions from you about this, so we’ve put this FAQ together to help you understand what UCU is, the issues UCU members are facing and what to expect this term.
What is UCU?
The University and College Union (UCU) is a trade union that represents over 120,000 members. The members of UCU include academics, lecturers, researchers, librarians, postgraduates and other members of staff at universities and other educational organisations in the UK.
Like other trade unions, UCU represents its members on matters such as pay, pensions, workload, contracts, equality, working conditions and health and safety.
Why are we talking about strikes?
Members of UCU are dissatisfied with pay, workload, equality, casualisation and changes to their pension scheme. UCU have been negotiating with employers to improve pay and working conditions and to find an acceptable solution to the dispute about the pension scheme, but so far, these negotiations have not achieved an outcome that UCU is satisfied with. UCU is now taking strike action and action short of a strike.
What does this have to do with Queen Mary?
Many staff members (and postgraduates) at Queen Mary are members of UCU. UCU members at Queen Mary are also affected by the issues relating to pay, workload, equality and casualisation, and they are affected by the changes to their pension scheme.
It has recently been announced that UCU members at Queen Mary will be taking strike action and action short of a strike. This may cause some disruption to your teaching activities and availability of support and services, and you may see picket lines on campus.
So will there definitely be strikes?
Unless the conflict is resolved before then, UCU members at Queen Mary will take strike action on the following days this term:
Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February
Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March
Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March
What is the Students’ Union going to do about this?
The Students’ Union is supportive of UCU’s industrial action. A motion was put to the Annual Student Meeting on 28 November for the Students' Union to support the UCU strike action. This motion passed and has become Students' Union policy.
As set out in the policy, the Executive Officers have released a statement in support of UCU. The Students’ Union is also in contact with the local branch of UCU to ensure information is made available to students (for example in this FAQ). Finally, the Executive Officers are lobbying for pay deductions (taken by the university from striking UCU members) to be donated to the Student Hardship Fund. As of mid-January, the university has not agreed to this request, but the Executive Officers will continue to lobby for this at relevant meetings, including at the Industrial Action Strategic Contingency Group and meetings with the university’s Senior Executive Team.
I’m a postgrad and I’m also employed by the university – how does this affect me?
If you are a member of UCU, UCU should be informing you about the upcoming strike action and action short of a strike. The local branch of UCU also has lots of information on their website that you may find helpful.
The Students’ Union represents postgrads in matters relating to your experience as students, but we are not able to help you with employment disputes or matters relating to your employment. Please contact UCU if you are experiencing issues relating to your employment.
What happens during a strike?
UCU members that are striking will not be working. This means that you may experience that some of your teaching activities are cancelled. For example, you may experience that your lectures for a module are cancelled because the lecturer is on strike. The strikes may also affect other services,?such as the library (remember that librarians can also be members of UCU, so they may also take part in a strike).
You may also see picket lines on campus, where striking UCU members are present at the entrance points to campus. The staff members on the picket lines are instructed to be friendly and will not try to prevent you from entering campus. However, they may approach you and talk to you about the dispute. If you have a few minutes to spare, we encourage you to stop and speak to the staff on the picket line.
During the strike days, the Students’ Union will be open as normal – the Students’ Union is an independent charity, so we are not part of the dispute between UCU and the university. If you live on campus, you’ll also be able to access your accommodation as normal, and Advice and Counselling will be available as normal.
And what about action short of a strike?
Action short of a strike (also known as ASOS) can include working to contract, which means that UCU members only work the hours they are contracted to, even if this means that there are tasks they are unable to complete. Another example is not covering work for colleagues that are absent.
How can I get more information about the dispute?
UCU have put an FAQ together that explains the dispute in more detail. Please note that FAQ also includes information for members of UCU, so it is also a helpful resource if you are a member of UCU.
Queen Mary UCU branch have written this information for students on the mandate for action. Queen Mary University of London have updated their FAQs on the industrial action.
We also encourage you to speak to your lecturers and other staff members – many UCU members really appreciate it when students show an interest in the problems behind the industrial action. If you speak to staff members, please remember that staff members are not required to tell you whether they are members of UCU (or any other trade union) and plan to take part in industrial action.
How can I show support for UCU?
Here are some ideas for how you can show your support:
Tell your lecturers and other staff members that you support them
If you have to cross a picket line, take your time to stop and speak to the pickets
Reach out to QM UCU’s student liaison and ask how you can get involved
I have another question – can you add it to this FAQ?
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered by this FAQ, you can email it to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.