Industrial Action – FAQs for Students

Background:

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents some academic staff at the University of Lincoln, has given formal notice of their intention to take industrial action in a national dispute over pay.

The union has announced dates for strike action across 150 universities, including Lincoln, on Thursday 24 November, Friday 25 November, and Wednesday 30 November 2022. The union also confirmed its intention to take action short of strike, starting on 23 November 2022.

The University of Lincoln's priority will always be to put our students first. Our focus will be on minimising disruption to teaching and the student experience from the announced industrial action.

The following FAQs provide more information about the industrial action and steps being taken to support students.

What is the industrial action about?

The current industrial action forms part of a national dispute affecting around 150 UK universities, including the University of Lincoln. It arises out of a national disagreement between the UCU, a trade union of which some of our academic staff are members, and university employers, about pay. UCU rejected the university employers' offer of a 3% pay uplift for all staff and 9% for staff on lower salaries for 2022/23. The union is seeking a national pay settlement of 2% above the current rate of inflation, or 12%, whichever is higher. Universities say such a pay increase is unaffordable for many institutions. Lincoln, along with a number of other universities, implemented the offered pay increase this summer so all staff could benefit from a pay rise and so budgets could be set for the current academic year. UCU members are exercising their lawful right to take industrial action, following a ballot of members. You can read more about the dispute on the UCU website and on the university employers (UCEA) website if you are interested in the background.

What is strike action?

Strike action is when staff withdraw their labour (refuse to work) for a defined period. At universities, this can include refusing to undertake activities such as teaching classes, marking coursework, attending meetings, sending emails related to work, and carrying out administrative tasks on the specified strike days. It also includes not preparing for work scheduled after the staff member returns from strike.

What is Action Short of Strike (ASOS)?

Whereas strike action involves staff members withdrawing their labour entirely for a defined period, action short of strike (ASOS) means continuing to work but refusing to do some activities deemed to be outside the terms of the employment contract. Sometimes this is called ‘work to rule or ‘work to contract’. UCU says the planned industrial action will include action short of a strike, starting on Wednesday 23 November 2022, with its members only “working to contract” potentially until the industrial action ends on 20 April 2023. The definition of ‘working to contract’ is open to interpretation but may mean some academic staff will not undertake activities they consider outside of their contracted duties, for example, by attending open days.

Are all academic staff taking strike action?

No. About a third of academic staff at Lincoln are members of UCU and some may choose not to participate in the strike action.

Should I attend classes on the day of the strikes?

Union members are not obliged to tell their employer in advance if they intend to take part in strikes but some may choose to do so. The University will be fully open on the days of the strikes and we expect most timetabled sessions will go ahead as scheduled, so we encourage students to attend university as planned. The University will try to inform you as soon as possible if your teaching session is going to be affected by strike action but this may not always be possible in advance. Please do be prepared to undertake independent or group study if necessary on the day. If your class is cancelled unexpectedly, please let us know so we can ensure all students on your module are treated fairly in how we cover any missed learning outcomes or if we need to make any subsequent changes to assessments. You can use this online form https://lncn.ac/classcancel to notify us of a session which has not gone ahead.

Will any classes cancelled due to strike action be rescheduled?

The University is planning to minimise as much as possible the impact of the UCU strike action on teaching, learning and the student experience. We will aim wherever we can to make sure that all learning outcomes from cancelled teaching sessions will be covered elsewhere, although this may not be through the same staff member or the same sort of session. Where that might not be possible, we will adjust assessments so that you will never be asked to complete an assessment which covers teaching that was missed.

Will non-academic services be impacted by the strikes?

Most university services will not be affected by the strikes. Key services like the Library, Careers, Wellbeing Service, Student Support Centre and cafes will be open as normal. It is possible some Personal Tutor appointments could be affected but your School Office will be open and able to help you rearrange appointments.

What is a picket line?

Staff members taking part in industrial action can lawfully form official picket lines. These are usually small, peaceful gatherings near to striking workers’ main workplace. It is likely there will be picket lines on the days of the strikes located near the main entrances to the University campus where union members and supporters might display information about the strike or hold flyers. Students and staff are free to enter the University when there are picket lines. Picketing staff can talk to people as they pass about the purpose of the industrial action but must not use intimidating or abusive behaviour. UCU provides guidance for members on picketing and the Government also has a code of practice. We ask everyone in our university community to be respectful of others' views, whether or not they support the strikes, and to preserve our One Community values.

Why doesn't the university just pay staff more to resolve the dispute?

University pay negotiations are conducted annually at a national level between the main higher education trade unions (including UCU) and the university employers' association. Universities have raised concerns that UCU's pay demands for 2022/23 would push some less wealthy institutions into deficit and might mean some universities would not be viable. Just as inflation is putting a great strain on individuals, families and businesses, universities are also facing higher costs, while their main source of funding, undergraduate tuition fees, has been frozen for the past five years. This year, the University of Lincoln is forecasting an operating surplus of just under £2m - less than 1% of our annual turnover. Every extra 1% in pay increases for staff requires an extra £1m of income in the budget to cover the cost.

Will my attendance record be affected if my class is cancelled?

Where classes are cancelled, our attendance monitoring system will be updated to confirm the cancellation. This will have no impact on your percentage attendance reports.

Are there any impacts on exams?

To make sure our Postgraduate (Taught) Examination Boards can run smoothly, we have made a minor adjustment to the originally planned dates of the exam boards. The new dates can be found in the table below:

CollegeOriginal BoardNew BoardOriginal Results ReleaseNew Results Release
College of Science and College of Arts 30 November 8 December 7 December 15 December
Lincoln International Business School 1 December 8 December 8 December 15 December
How will my academic progress be safeguarded?

We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of strike action on teaching and learning through, as far as possible, arranging for all learning outcomes from cancelled sessions to be covered elsewhere (noting this may not be delivered by the same staff or the same sort of session). If it is not possible to cover all learning outcomes in this way, we will adjust assessments so that you will never be asked to complete an assessment which covers teaching that was missed. To ensure all students are treated fairly, any adjustments to assessments will be for all students on that affected module. If you have particular concerns about the effect of the industrial action on your academic performance or assessments, please do talk to your Personal Tutor or the Head of School. Your School Rep may also be a good person to have this discussion with as they can pass on your concerns to the School anonymously.

What if I incur costs on a day all my teaching is cancelled due to strikes?

If you feel that you may have costs associated with being on campus on a day of strike action when all your scheduled teaching that day was cancelled with no prior warning, we are able to provide financial support to help cover those costs. You will need to provide details of your costs (with receipts if possible) or details of mileage where your costs relate to travel in your own car. You can download our Refund Form for Travel Costs. We suggest you should wait until the end of the planned period of strike action before letting us know about any costs you may have incurred.

Who do I ask for further advice?

If you want to know if a specific class will take place, please ask the member of staff due to teach it, but please remember staff do not have to tell you if they intend to participate in industrial action.

If you are worried about the impact of strikes on your studies as a whole, you can contact your Personal Tutor for advice and reassurance. If your Personal Tutor is taking strike action you may prefer to contact your Head of School.

For independent and confidential advice, you can contact the SU Advice Service, your Student Rep or the Student Support Centre.

How will I be kept informed?

We will endeavour to keep you updated as details of the planned action are confirmed. Please continue to check your University email account and these website FAQs.