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Guidance for staff

On 16 November 2021, we received confirmation from the UCU that it will be taking industrial action in the form of strike action on 1, 2 and 3 December 2021 and action short of a strike continuously from the 1 December 2021 ending no later than 3 May 2022.

The industrial action at our University is in respect of pay and employment conditions, where the UCU vote just exceeded the legal 50% threshold for action (50.4%). In total, 728 staff voted in favour of such action. We have more than 12,500 staff across our University.

We recognise the right of colleagues to take this action, but are extremely concerned about the impact on our whole community, particularly on our students who have suffered so much over the past 20 months. We will do everything we can to minimise any impact on their teaching, learning and wider experience.

This guidance explains what industrial action involves, how and when staff need to report taking part in action and details of any pay to be withheld as a result. Taking part in industrial action is a personal choice, whilst some UCU members will take part, others may choose not to. Any member of University staff who is not a member of the UCU is expected to carry out their contractual duties as normal during periods of industrial action.

  1. Strike action – Strike Days:

UCU members may choose not to carry out any of their contractual duties on specified date/s (1, 2 and 3 December 2021) which in this guidance will be referred to as Strike Day/s.

  1. Action short of a strike (ASOS):

The UCU has notified us that it will induce its members to undertake continuous action short of a strike starting on Wednesday, 1 December 2021 and ending no later than Tuesday, 3 May 2022.  UCU has informed us that ASOS will consist of its members ‘only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more’. UCU members cannot lawfully undertake any other forms of ASOS until UCU provides our University with advance written notice.

  1. Reporting Strike Days and ASOS:

Before Strike Days/ASOS: Line managers can ask staff if they intend to take part in Strike Days/ASOS prior to the action taking place to ensure that duties aren’t assigned to staff who are taking part in action. We expect staff to respond promptly and honestly to such requests, however staff taking part in industrial action do not have to confirm they intend to do so before the action takes place. 

After Strike Days/ASOS: Line managers must ask staff if they have taken part in industrial action after the date the action begins and staff must respond.  We trust colleagues who have taken part in action to inform their line manager and complete the relevant self-reporting form (see below).  Staff who have not taken part in any action do not need to complete the online reporting form but should inform their line manager when asked, that they have not taken part in any action. Any member of staff who fails to report taking part in strike action or ASOS, but who is later found to have taken part in such action, will have pay withheld.

Once the action has taken place, staff who have taken part must complete one or both of the following forms depending on what action they have taken – this is so that any pay can be withheld as appropriate:

  • Strike Day reporting form – staff should complete this as soon as possible and before the deadline of 4 January 2022 for strike days in December 2021;
  • Action short of a strike reporting form – staff should complete this after each period of ASOS and before the deadline of 4 January 2022 for ASOS in December 2021.

After the deadline date of 4 January 2022 for strike action taking place in December, details of those staff who have completed the reporting form will be shared with Heads of HR who will work with line managers to ensure that everyone who has taken part in industrial action has self-declared using the online form.  

Subsequent deadlines for staff to report their participation in action short of a strike (ASOS) are as follows:

  • 1 February 2022 for ASOS taken in January 2022
  • 1 March 2022 for ASOS taken in February 2022
  • 1 April 2022 for ASOS taken in March 2022
  • 3 May 2022 for ASOS taken in April 2022
  • 1 June 2022 for ASOS taken in May 2022 
  1. Withholding Pay for Strike Action on Strike Days:

The University has decided to withhold pay at 100% of 1/365th of annual salary for each day of strike action taken on Strike Days.  

We trust all employees to have informed their line manager if they have taken strike action on Strike Days and submitted the relevant strike action reporting form immediately after they have returned to work following each period of strike action.

The Directorate for People and Organisational Development will not be able to respond to individual requests for details of the actual amounts of pay that will be withheld, however staff will be able to see the detail in their payslips on My View Please note that where any late notifications of strike action are received, colleagues will have their corresponding pay withheld in the next available payroll. This will be shown in their payslips on My View.

We are discussing with our Students’ Union how any strike pay which is withheld can be used to benefit our students. 

  1. Withholding Pay for Action Short of Strike (ASOS):

UCU has informed us that the ASOS will consist of its members only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more.  Colleagues with Academic and Academic-related contracts, and Research and Teaching staff at our University are: “required to undertake such hours as necessary for the proper discharge of their duties”.

Provided that the ASOS carried out by individuals does not impact upon the “proper discharge of their duties” then this should not result in partial performance of duties and the University will not withhold pay.  However, if ASOS does impact upon the “proper discharge of their duties”, the University reserves the right to withhold pay up to 100% at a rate of 1/365th of salary each day of ASOS.

We are discussing with our Students’ Union how any strike pay which is withheld can be used to benefit our students. 

  1. Picket Lines:

It is anticipated that there will be some picket lines at some locations on campus on each of the strike days. Picket lines are there to enable those taking part in strike action to pass on information about the reasons behind the action to staff, students and visitors to campus.

Each picket should be made up of a maximum of six people who are expected to pass on information in a peaceful and respectful manner.   Our University will not tolerate threatening, abusive, insulting or intimidating behaviour at any picket line.  Staff and students should not be prevented from gaining access to University premises in order to carry out their work or studies.

This strike action is being undertaken by the UCU.  Members of staff who are not members of the UCU but fall within the categories of employees who the UCU has notified us it intends to induce to take industrial action, may participate.  However if a member of staff is a member of another trade union, and that trade union has not endorsed or authorised industrial action, the action will be deemed unofficial.

Members of staff who refuse or fail to cross a picket line and who consequently cannot carry out their work will have their pay deducted at the same rate as those taking part in strike action.  If you have any questions about working during strike action, or wish to report unacceptable behaviour at a picket line, you should contact your HR Partner or Head of HR.

  1. Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) rules:

The USS rules provide for the situation where a member is absent from work due to a lawful trade dispute with their employer.  In these circumstances, where pay is withheld (in full or in part) in respect of the period of action, scheme membership can continue if contributions are maintained on full pay, ignoring any pay withheld.

On this occasion, the University has agreed to maintain its contributions in full and staff’s own contributions will be deducted in full so there is no break in their membership.  The University retains the right to change this position at any point.

No action is needed by staff for the continuation of membership with full contributions.

If staff do not wish to continue contributions in full,

  • employer/employee USS contributions will not be made in respect of the salary withheld. Staff are asked to complete the pro-forma (UCU21a). This form should be returned to line managers/Heads of School as soon as possible after each period of strike action. Line managers/Heads of School should forward completed forms to pensions@manchester.ac.uk.

The University reserves its judgment on whether it would maintain its contributions in full so that there is no break in membership where ASOS does impact upon the “proper discharge of their duties”.

Death in Service Cover and Ill Health Protection

If members do not wish to maintain their USS membership in full for the period of strike action, the USS Pension Scheme will on this occasion maintain death in service cover and ill health protection in such circumstances. The Trustee reserves the right to review this policy and the right to charge additional contributions if the industrial action is extended or further action is proposed.

Adèle MacKinlay
Director of People and Organisational Development, November 2021