UCU Strikes FAQ's

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 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 130,000 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. 


So will there definitely be strikes? 

Yes, it has been announced that UCU members at Queen Mary will take strike action on three days this term:

  • Thursday 24 November
  • Friday 25 November
  • Wednesday 30 November.

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.  


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).


And what about action short of a strike? 

UCU has announced that action short of a strike will begin on 23 November. This will 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.  


What’s the problem about pensions? 

Good question! A valuation of the USS Pension Scheme was conducted in 2020, and as a result of this, members and employers have been told that they need to pay more money into the pension scheme to ensure there is enough funding to keep the pension scheme running. UCU and Universities UK have challenged the valuation (they don’t think these increases in the amounts paid in are necessary), but so far, it hasn’t been possible to find a solution that everyone can agree on. Universities UK has proposed a solution that would drastically change the scheme, and UCU is fighting against these changes. 


Want to know more about the details?  


And how about the issues relating to pay and conditions? 

UCU have four fights: Pay, workload, equality and casualisation. The four fights cover a number of specific issues, for example, calling for a full equal pay audit, payment to all staff for extra hours worked, and local action plans for reduce work-related stress. 

UCU have created an infographic that explain the four fights. 


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 is the Students’ Union going to do about this? 

We know this is a topic that many students want to have a say about, so we are currently gathering feedback from students. If you have any feedback about strikes, please get in touch with one of the Executive Officers.

A motion was also 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. We are currently considering our next steps and will update all students shortly.


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 su-representation@qmul.ac.uk



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