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University and College Union Industrial action: Frequently Asked Questions for Staff

Planned industrial action will affect UCL from Monday 25 November – Wednesday 4 December 2019.

Online Industrial Action Reporting Tool 


What is happening?

When will the industrial action be taking place?

There will be eight days of industrial action over a two-week period. The dates are as follows:

Week 1: Monday 25, Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27, Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November

Week 2: Monday 2, Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 December

What is the industrial action about?

Several days of industrial action are planned by the University and College Union (UCU). UCU has called on its members to take action to support a dispute about pay and proposed changes to the USS Pension Scheme, to which many staff who teach and support teaching belong. UCU has met all the legal requirements for calling a lawful strike. UCL is one of 60 universities across the UK that will be affected.

Is UCL negotiating with the local branch of UCU?

No. Pay and conditions and USS pension arrangements are not negotiated locally but instead they are negotiated nationally by two representative bodies for the majority of universities. For USS pensions the national body is Universities-UK (UUK) and pay and conditions the body is UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association).

What is happening with the negotiations?

Negotiations between the University and College Union (UCU) and UUK resulted in a proposed agreement for USS Pension Scheme contributions. This was supported by UCL after consultation with USS scheme members. However, this proposal was rejected by UCU. It is not yet clear what will happen next but UCL is pressing for further talks between UUK and UCU.

UCL will also continue to press for discussions with UCEA and the recognised trade unions over matters of pay and other workplace issues.

Will I still be able to come onto campus during the strike action?

You are still able to come onto campus during the strike and buildings will remain open. You may see a picket line made up of UCU members outside some buildings. They may be holding signs or handing out leaflets, and you can talk to them and ask questions if you wish.

They may ask you not to cross their picket line, but they are not allowed to prevent you from doing so.

I am not a member of UCU but I don’t want to cross their picket lines. What should I do?

UCU members are not allowed to stop you crossing the picket line and you are free to enter your place of work. If you choose to join a picket line or not cross it, you should also report your absence using the online reporting portal to declare that you are taking part in the strike. A day’s pay (1/365) will be deducted for each day that you do not report for work.

How do I explain the strike to students?

A news item about the action has been promoted through My UCL, our weekly newsletter for students, and there is a page of FAQs about the action on the UCL Students website. Please share the information on these pages with students.

How is UCL minimising disruption to student learning?

We are informing students about the action and reassuring them that every effort will be made to mitigate the impact of industrial action on their learning. Students will not be assessed on material they have missed and should not be asked to submit extenuating circumstances requests.

UCL has committed that Lecturecast recordings of past events should not be used in lieu of teaching missed during the strike period, nor will we ask staff for their recordings to be used. However, if an individual member of staff wishes to make recordings of their teaching available to students they may do so.

We will be using the Material Irregularities process (Academic Manual 6.6 and in particular annex 6.2) to deal with any impact on assessment. Faculty Tutors can provide support for departments with using the Material Irregularity process.

As the impact of this action becomes clear, a Learning Opportunities Fund will be established from which students can apply for funds to support their learning. We anticipate this being available from January 2020. 

 Please direct your students to the FAQs about the action and encourage them to use the student-industrialaction@ucl.ac.uk email address for their questions and concerns.

Students are asking for compensation. What can I say?

This question cannot be answered at this time because we don’t know how individual students’ learning will be affected. Please try and emphasise that tuition fees contribute to a student’s whole university experience and are not directly linked to specific contact or teaching hours. It is too early to know what the specific impact may be on individual students' learning.

As the impact of this action becomes clear, a Learning Opportunities Fund will be established from which students can apply for funds to support their learning. We anticipate this being available from January 2020.

What do I do if students are distressed?

UCL's team of expert staff in Student Support and Wellbeing provide a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space, in which students can discuss any issues that concern or affect them. Students can find out more and access support by visiting the UCL website, contacting askUCL or calling +44 (0)20 7679 0100. 

I wish to submit an application for promotion, but the deadline falls during the strike. What should I do?

The promotions exercise is a significant part of the academic reward process and UCL does not wish any applicant to be disadvantaged by the timing of the industrial action.

Therefore the deadline for applications has been deferred by eight working days to 11pm, Friday 13 December. Guidance on the website will be updated and the other timelines in the process will remain the same.

Taking part in strike action

How do I tell UCL that I am taking part in strike action?

Please use the online reporting portal to declare if you are taking part in the strike or “Action Short of Strike”. If you choose not to strike every day, you can enter each day of strike action separately. We ask that you report any days you are on strike in advance or on the day you take strike action. This will help to and minimise the negative impact on students and make sure that any payroll deductions are accurate.

If I go on strike but don’t record this via the online portal, what will happen?

If you do go on strike but omit to inform UCL of this via the online portal by Friday 6 December, your Dean, Director, or Head of Department can enter this information on your behalf. If this happens, you will receive an email to notify you. If the contents of this email are incorrect, you will have the right of appeal against any pay deductions that have been made.

If I take strike action, how and when will my pay be affected?

A day’s pay will be withheld for each day you take part in the strike and deducted from the February 2020 payroll. If you leave UCL ahead of the February payroll deadline, deductions will be taken from your final salary payment.

Pay deductions for full time staff will be made at the rate of 1/365 of your annual salary per day.

Deductions for part-time staff will be calculated on a pro-rata basis, based on contracted hours on strike days. If you were due to work on a day that you take strike action, the pay deducted will reflect the number of hours that you were expected to work on that day.

If you work sessionally, please report any strike action you are taking using the online portal. The person who authorises your payments locally within your Department will ensure that your next scheduled payment is amended.

If you have any questions about how deductions are calculated, please contact payroll@ucl.ac.uk.

What happens to the money deducted from my pay if I take strike action?

Any money deducted from salaries as a result of strike action will be put towards student learning.

Will I continue to receive pension contributions from UCL if I take strike action

Pension scheme contributions will be maintained by you and UCL on days where pay has been deducted for strike action. This will also ensure that you continue to accrue pensionable service and maintain death in service cover. Please contact pensions@ucl.ac.uk if you have any questions about how the industrial action may affect your pension.

If I have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) can I still take industrial action?

Yes, this is viewed as ‘authorised leave’. Unpaid leave arising from strike action is an allowable reason for salary to drop below the minimum threshold to qualify for a CoS.  Please record all industrial action via our online portal, so the reasons for any pay reduction will be recorded and available as evidence if needed.

Taking part in “Action Short of Strike” (ASoS)

What is Action Short of a Strike (ASoS)?

UCU has declared that it intends to implement ASoS as part of its planned industrial action, starting on 25 November 2019 and ongoing to 29 April 2020.

Some elements of ASoS are likely to constitute a breach of contract, e.g.

  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • Boycotting marking and assessment

Actions that may constitute breach of contract (dependent upon local practice) include:

  • Refusing to cover for colleagues

Actions that are unlikely to constitute a breach of contract are:

  • Working to contract i.e. undertaking the minimum explicit and implied contractual requirements
  • Not undertaking genuinely voluntary activities
If I take part in ASoS, how and when will my pay be affected?

UCL views ASoS as partial performance of your employment contract and reserves the right to deduct pay at the rate of up to 100%, i.e. 1/365 of your annual salary for each day on which ASoS is taken. The precise percentage of pay deducted in the event of partial performance during ASoS, will depend upon the level of disruption caused to university activities, student learning and the work of other colleagues.

Taking leave during the strike

What happens if I am sick on a strike day

Sickness absence must be reported to your line manager in the usual way and recorded via MyView. Failure to attend work due to unwillingness to cross a picket line is considered to be unauthorised absence from work for which pay will be deducted, but failure to attend work due to reported sickness is not unauthorised absence and you will be paid.

Can I work remotely or take annual leave on a strike day?

Annual leave applications and requests to work remotely for strike days (which are not already authorised) will be given careful consideration and only agreed if they fit with the department’s staffing requirements.

What happens if I need to request special leave for domestic or personal reasons?

Requests will be considered on their merits and in line with UCL’s policy on Leave for Domestic and Personal Reasons.

Supporting staff during the strike

I’m worried about the impact of this action on my workload and wellbeing. Is there I someone I can talk to?

Please discuss with your line manager in the first instance. You may also contact Care First, UCL’s employee assistance programme. They can offer confidential information, advice and counselling services. Support for staff is free and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

To discuss any issues that concern or affect you, please dial Care First’s Freephone number 0800 197 4510. If you are outside the UK, telephone +44 (0)1452 623246.

What should I do if I witness or experience intimidating or bullying behaviour during the strike?

Bullying and abusive behaviour is always unacceptable and goes against our Dignity at Work Statement. This applies equally during periods of industrial action when feelings can run high. If you do experience offensive or bullying behaviour, please report it to your line manager.

To report inappropriate behaviour please visit Report and Support.

For immediate assistance please use UCL’s emergency number, internal extension 222 (020 7679 2222). This will put you through to the Security Control Room.

Do you have any further questions?

To provide UCL with comments and feedback regarding the strike, please submit them via our online form. Submissions using this form are anonymous, unless you choose to share your name.