FAQs relating to industrial action by University and College Union (UCU) members
The industrial action and why it's happening
What is the industrial action?
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted to take strike action at Queen Mary and in many other UK universities.
The industrial action includes up to 14 days’ strike action in February and March. It is a national action by the University and College Union (UCU) because of a dispute over proposed changes to pensions for staff who are members of the national USS pension scheme. We appreciate that the proposed changes to pension provision would have a significant impact upon many of our staff and understand their concerns.
A consultation on the proposed changes to the pension scheme will run for 60 days from mid-March. More about the proposed changes to the pensions and consultation process is available on the staff web pages: http://hr.qmul.ac.uk/workqm/pensions/uss-defined/ussconsultation2018/
When will it start and when will it end?
The UCU has announced that they have asked their members to participate in strike action on the following dates:
- Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February
- Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March
- Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March
- Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 March
Where strikes go ahead, they would start at most higher education institutions (HEIs) on Thursday 22 February to run on specific dates over a period of four weeks. Queen Mary is one of four HEIs where strikes would start the following week on Monday 26 February due to our academic calendar.
Which members of staff are taking industrial action?
Only Queen Mary staff who are members of UCU have a mandate to take part in this industrial action. Staff do not have to tell us that they are going to take action until the action commences.
What is the university doing?
The Industrial Action Strategic Contingency Group, chaired by Professor Rebecca Lingwood, Vice-Principal (Student Experience, Teaching and Learning), has been convened and will help prepare for any action, and put plans in place to minimise the impact on you and your studies. Even though staff who intend to take strike action do not have to tell us in advance that they will do so, each School and Institute is looking at the potential impact to students and doing everything they can to minimise disruption.
Who is involved in the dispute?
The funding of university staff pensions is however a national issue that is managed by the pension Trustees with oversight from the Pension Regulator, and cannot be resolved locally by this university. If you would like to read more about the dispute, both Universities UK and the trade union UCU have made FAQs available. The pension provider USS has also provided information on their website.
Queen Mary is not responsible for the content of external websites.
How might the strike action affect me?
Queen Mary is working hard to persuade UCU members that if they wish to take disruptive action this should be targeted at the institution and not cause distress to students. We may not know in advance whether you will be affected. Unless you are told otherwise by your School or Institute, you should assume that all teaching and assessment will carry on at scheduled times in the usual way. Students will not be disadvantaged in relation to their assessments and examinations as a result of sessions being cancelled due to strike or industrial action.
Will all of the campus be open on strike days?
Students are expected to attend university as normal, unless they have been informed that a session has been cancelled. The campus will be open as normal on strike days and you will be able to go into all buildings.
When arriving on campus on strike days it is possible that you may need to pass staff taking part in the strike at the entrances to the university. Please be assured that the trade union has issued guidance that indicates that all pickets are intended to be peaceful in nature. Access to campus entrances will not be blocked and you should feel able to pass freely and easily without confrontation.
How will I know if my teaching events will be cancelled?
If possible, we will let you know in advance if an event is going to be cancelled. However, this may not be possible as staff taking part in the strike are not required to tell us in advance so you may not find out until the day an event is due to take place.
Some staff will choose to informally tell you that they are striking in advance of the missed session.
Will lecture capture still be available?
Lecture capture will carry on as normal for those teaching events that are taking place.
Should I still record my attendance at lectures?
Where teaching goes ahead, attendance will be monitored as it usually is.
I am an international student on a Tier 4 visa, what does this mean for my attendance record?
If any of your timetabled teaching time is cancelled, your School or Institute will inform the Registry office, and they will ensure that you will not be marked as out of attendance. This means that there will not be any impact on your visa status.
Will I be examined on topics covered in lectures or other teaching events which were cancelled?
Students will not be disadvantaged in relation to their assessments and examinations as a result of sessions being cancelled due to strike or industrial action. This is a national issue and the people who oversee the assessments and examinations will know that students across the UK may be affected.
What should I do if there is an assessment deadline during the strike period?
Please submit your work as normal unless you are advised differently by your School or Institute.
Will this affect my outcome at the end of the academic year?
Students will not be disadvantaged in relation to their assessments and examinations as a result of sessions being cancelled due to strike or industrial action.
Should I submit an extenuating circumstances claim if any of my teaching is cancelled?
If your teaching is cancelled because of strike action, it will not be necessary to submit an extenuating circumstances claim as the university will be aware of the issues.
If some of my teaching time is missed then can I apply for a partial refund of my fees?
We may not know in advance whether you will be affected. Members of the trade union do not need to tell us in advance if they intend to take part in the strike, although we are encouraging them to help us mitigate the impact on students. Once we know what the impact has been, we will be better able to consider how to respond.
Will this affect students on postgraduate research programmes?
Supervisions, review meetings and vivas for research students are arranged on an individual basis. Please contact your School or Institute in the first instance if you have any concerns. Alternatively you can contact the Research Degrees Office: email@example.com
If I want to raise a complaint as a result of the strike action, what should I do?
If you wish to raise a complaint, you should follow the university’s normal complaints procedure. Information about this can be found here here.
For independent and confidential advice about your complaint, you can get advice from Annie Mitchell who is the Advocacy and Representation Manager in Queen Mary’s Students’ Union: firstname.lastname@example.org (please note Annie is a staff member of QMSU, not a student officer).
I have a query that isn’t answered here. Whom should I contact?
Nothing in these FAQs overrides the Academic Regulations, which always take precedence.