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Guidance for staff

Guidance for employees on Industrial Action

Industrial Action by the University and College Union (UCU)

September 2023

Updated 28 September 2023

We recently communicated that national UCU will be taking further industrial action, in the form of 5 days of strike action, in relation to ongoing national disputes about pay and working conditions. This is as part of their current mandate running until 30 September.

In addition to the national strike days, the local branch of UCU (UMUCU) have informed us of additional strike action, which is a response to the University’s local pay withholding position with the MAB.

UMUCU confirmed the strike dates as

  • Week 0 (Welcome Week): Tuesday, 19 to Friday, 22 September
  • Week 1: Monday, 25 to Friday, 29 September

As part of the current mandate UCU continue to take action short of a strike which commenced in November 2022 and will run until 30 September 2023.

On 25 September the University communicated that it was agreed that strike action will be called off with immediate effect.  

Therefore, the final confirmed strike dates were:

  • Week 0 (Welcome Week) Tuesday 19 – Friday 22 September
  • Week 1: Monday 25 September 2023

This guidance explains what industrial action involves, how and when employees need to report taking part in action and details of any pay to be withheld as a result.

Students should review the guidance that the University has provided regarding this strike action on our student FAQs page, and through regular updates on Student News.

1. Strike action – Strike Days

UCU members may choose not to carry out any of their contractual duties on any of the strike days detailed above, which in this guidance will be referred to as Strike Day/s.

2. Action short of a strike (ASOS)

UCU has notified us that it will induce its members to undertake continuous action short of a strike starting on Wednesday 23 November 2022 and ending no later than Saturday 30 September.  UCU has informed us that in this instance ASOS will consist of its members:

  • only 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 lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.

UCU members cannot lawfully undertake any other forms of ASOS until UCU provides our University with 14 days advance written notice. 

3. Marking and Assessment Boycott

On 5 April 2023 UCU confirmed an extension of “Action Short of a Strike” (“ASOS”) to include a marking and assessment boycott (MAB) from Thursday 20 April 2023. On 6 September 2023 UCU withdrew from the MAB and it ceased with effect from 6 September 2023.

4. Reporting Strike Days

Before Strike Days:

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

After Strike Days:   

UMUCU have been consulted about the reporting process for this period of industrial action and their feedback has been incorporated into the reporting process and the online form. 

Once the action has taken place, employees who have taken part must report their action.  Colleagues can do this by completing the following form:

Failure to report: Employees who fail to indicate whether they have taken part in strike action (or ASOS) after being asked by their line manager will be treated as not responding and it will be assumed they took part in industrial action, which will lead to pay being withheld.

4. 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 any of the Strike Days and submitted the relevant online strike action reporting form by the strike deadline of Wednesday, 4 October 2023. If this deadline is met then;

  • For strike action taken between Tuesday, 19 September – Friday, 22 September pay will be withheld in October payroll. 
  • For strike action taken on Monday 25 September – pay will be withheld in November payroll.

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 employees 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. 

5. Reporting Action Short of Strike (ASOS)

Employees should complete the following form after each period of ASOS between 23 November 2022 and 30 September 2023:

Participation in Action Short of Strike (ASOS) Form

Participation in ASOS September 2023 should be reported by Wednesday, 4 October 2023.

6. 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 employees 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.    Employees should submit the Participation in Action Short of Strike (ASOS)  after each period of ASOS and before the deadlines detailed above.

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

7. 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 employees, students and visitors to campus.

Each picket should be made up of a maximum of six people (as per the Government Code of Practice on Picketing) 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.  Employees 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 organised by the UCU. Any University employee who is not a member of the UCU is expected to carry out their contractual duties as normal during periods of industrial action, however if they choose not to cross a picket line and therefore participate in strike action (provided they are not a member of any other union) they are protected from dismissal and have the same rights as trade union members who have voted for strike action. However, they should declare their refusal to cross the picket line when subsequently asked by their manager.

Employees 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 People & OD Partner.

8. 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 employees own contributions will be deducted in full so there is no break in their membership.  The University reserves the right to change this position at any point.

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

If employees do not wish to continue contributions in full,

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”.

9. 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

Updated 26 September 2023