Industrial Action staff FAQs

Industrial action FAQs – January 2023

When will the strike days be?

UCU has announced its intention to hold a further 18 days of strike action during February and March. The first day of strike action will be on Wednesday 1 February, 2023.

Followed by strikes on the below dates:

  • Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
  • Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
  • 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 form of ASOS will UCU be taking?

UCU has not confirmed ASOS dates in 2023. ASOS details are outlined below:

  • Working to contract
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities
  • 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
  • Not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action  

Will my pay be deducted if I take ASOS in the form of working to contract?

For staff engaging in the following three forms of ASOS currently sanctioned by UCU there will be no reduction of pay, provided that staff continue to work their contracted hours and duties and respond to reasonable management requests to prioritise their workload to minimise the impact of strike action on student learning, outcomes and experience:

  • Working to contract
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities
  • Not covering for absent colleagues

The University regards the following forms of ASOS as partial performance of duties, which will not be accepted. Should a member of staff engage in these following forms of ASOS and fail to mitigate the impact of such actions to the satisfaction of the Head of Department, the University will pay staff at the rate of 50% only until such time as the Head of Department is content that the matter has been adequately mitigated:

  • 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
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action

In the case of rescheduling lost teaching, there will be no penalty if the member of staff agrees with their Head of Department or School a suitable method of mitigating lost student learning.  This approach was discussed at some length last year with BUCU.

The University reserves the legal right to further reduce pay for ASOS and withhold up to 100% of pay for ASOS where such action amounts to partial performance of contract, and particularly if a member of staff refuses to either fulfil their contracted hours or duties, respond to a reasonable management request, engages in a form of ASOS not currently sanctioned by UCU or where such action affects student education or experience. 

UCU has not currently sanctioned a boycott of assessment, feedback or marking.  If UCU were to sanction such a form of ASOS, the University will confirm its approach to reduction of pay. 

All forms of ASOS, regardless of whether they incur withholding of pay, must be recorded by the staff member taking such action via Core Systems.

Why are University staff striking?

UCU have decided to strike in response to a range of issues; the disputes are generic across the sector rather than specific to the University of Birmingham.

Pensions

Where can I find out more information about pensions?

General information about pensions provided by independent external experts is available here and a helpful video from the Russell Group is available here.

When will the new valuation of the USS Scheme be undertaken?

A new valuation of the USS Scheme is due in the spring of 2023, but no changes to the Scheme, whether that be in relation to contribution rates or to benefits, can be implemented until the Trustees have concluded that process in a manner which satisfies their legal responsibilities, a process which typically takes many months.  

Industrial action

What will happen on strike days?

On each strike day a number of staff members are likely to refuse to attend work or perform their duties – which may result in cancelled teaching sessions. The University will, however, be open and operating otherwise normally, including the Main Library, all study spaces and other services across the campus.

A strike by staff is a rare but legitimate protest. The University respects the rights of union members to take legitimate strike action, alongside those who do not wish to do so. The University expects the views and wishes of all staff and students to be respected.

When will ASOS take place?

UCU have confirmed that the period of Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) will commence on 23 November 2022 on an indefinite basis until the expiry of their mandate for industrial action, which is 20 April 2023.

Can staff based overseas take industrial action?

Staff based overseas who may be contemplating taking industrial action, are advised to consider the local laws and customs of the country within which they are based, some of which (for example, Dubai) ban engagement with strike action, or work stoppages of any kind.  

If on a strike day I move my activities which were scheduled to take place on campus to online, will I be deemed to have taken strike action?

If under normal circumstances, (i.e. there had been no strike action), activity would ordinarily have taken place on campus (e.g. a lecture), it is not permissible for a staff member to unilaterally decide to move the activity online in order to avoid having to cross a picket line. In such circumstances if scheduled on campus activity does not take place because a member of staff chooses not to cross a picket line, they will be regarded as having taken strike action and their pay withheld accordingly.

I am due to work from home on a strike day do I need to declare strike action?

If you are due to work from home on a strike day but decide to take strike action (i.e. you refuse to work or perform your duties), then you will be regarded as having taken strike action and must declare this accordingly.

Picket lines

What is a picket line?

A picket line is the term used for a gathering of staff who are on strike. It is common for people on picket lines to wish to hand out leaflets or explain why they are on strike. Staff on a picket line cannot prevent other members of the University community from accessing campus as usual. ‘Crossing a picket line’ simply means that a person is going about their normal business on campus and should not be subjected to any criticism for passing a picket line.

Members of the University community can of course engage with those on the picket line and listen to their views but should not be put under any pressure to avoid crossing a picket line. It is a criminal offence for pickets to use abusive behaviour to people walking past, or crossing the picket line, or to block people or vehicles trying to get into the workplace.  It is important to note that the vast majority of the University community is working as normal and will be crossing picket lines.

By law, picket lines are only allowed on public land, for example on the public paths at the entrances to campus, and not on private land within that area. This means that once an individual passes through the campus entrances they are on private university land where picketing is not allowed.

What will happen if I choose not to cross a picket line?

Any members of staff who choose not to cross a picket line, i.e. who take strike action, will have 100% of their pay withheld for each day that they strike.

Will I still be able to get to work?

Yes, picket lines are not allowed on University premises, but are likely to be held at, or near entrances to campus. Whilst you may have to cross a picket line to get to your place of work, you should not be put under any pressure to avoid crossing a picket line. It is a criminal offence for pickets to use abusive behaviour to people walking past, or crossing the picket line, or to block people or vehicles trying to get into the workplace. It is also important to remember that the vast majority of the University community is working as normal.

How will the industrial strike action affect me?

Unless you are taking industrial action, you should attend work as normal. If you are on campus you will be able to access your place of work as you normally would. If any of your colleagues are taking industrial action, it is possible that your line manager will ask you to provide cover in critical areas to ensure that any disruption to the University’s services to both students and staff are as minimised as possible.

Pay

Will my pay be affected if I take strike action?

Any members of staff who choose to take strike action, will have 100% of their pay withheld for each day that they strike. Pay will be withheld at the rate of 1/365.

What will happen to my pension contributions if I take strike action and/or ASOS amounting to a breach of contract?

An employer is not obliged to make pension contributions for a member of staff who is taking strike action and/or ASOS which amounts to a breach of contract. In order for pension contributions to be maintained, both the employer and employee contributions must be made.

The University has determined therefore, on an exceptional basis, that it will make both the employer and employee pension contributions for any member of staff who takes strike action and/or ASOS which amounts to a breach of contract.

Recording strike action and/or ASOS

How should strike action and/or ASOS be recorded?

Any staff taking either strike action and/or ASOS are required to record their action directly via Core Systems (accessible via Core Systems) following the steps outlined below:

  1. Log into Core Systems
  2. Under ‘Me’ select ‘add absence’
  3. Click on ‘type’ and a list of absences appear, select absence type ‘strike’ or ‘action short of a strike’
  4. Enter dates of absence and click ‘submit’

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