By Press Office 23 November 2021

A message from the Principal (24/11/21)

Dear students,

As many of you will know, the University and College Union (UCU) has called for a period of strike action across the higher education sector in early December 2021. This period of strike action relates to a national dispute on pay, equality, workload and casualisation. This is alongside action short of a strike (ASOS) which will commence on 1 December 2021.   

Strike action will take place on the following days:

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Thursday 2 December 2021

Friday 3 December 2021

Further information for both staff and students regarding arrangements is available on our website.

It is likely that the strike action will mean that some classes will be cancelled and coursework affected.  However, we are asking students to attend classes and engage with course material (whether on campus or online) unless advised otherwise. We will endeavour to tell you via email or the Hub if any of your classes are cancelled but this might not always be possible as UCU members do not have to tell the University in advance if they are taking strike action.

It is our strong view that students should not be penalised because of this national dispute, and we will do all we can to minimise disruption.

We know that UCU members along with all staff genuinely care about the academic welfare of students, and some may have told you already about their plans. During the period of the action, you will be able to enter and leave the campus freely.

Please be assured that the University leadership team understands the strength of feeling amongst staff.  We continue to address at a local level the issues that underlie the dispute at a national level.

We continue to be committed to ensuring fair and equitable working conditions for all, and to continuing our positive work with colleagues in UCU, as well as the other trade unions, EIS and UNISON, to make further improvements. 

Yours sincerely

Paul

Sir Paul Grice

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

 

FAQs

For students:

Why is industrial action being taken?

The  University and College Union (UCU) has called the industrial action nationally over what it regards as universities' failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.  Queen Margaret University is part of a national bargaining arrangement which determines pay across most of the UK university sector. The 2021/22 pay settlement from August 2021 was an increase of 1.5%, with a higher percentage increase for staff on the lower points on the pay scale. The UCU has called for an increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of £2,500.

Can Queen Margaret University resolve the pay dispute by giving staff more money?

No. Trade unions, including UCU, and the organisations which represent university employers, undertake national collective bargaining to agree pay settlements.

What impact is the industrial action likely to have on students?

At this stage, it is hard to determine exactly what impact the industrial action will have. While UCU members make up a proportion of total academic and professional support staff, the membership is unevenly distributed across the University. We do not know how many union members will support the call to go on strike.  It is likely that the strike action will mean that some classes will be cancelled and coursework affected.  However, we are asking students to attend classes and engage with course material (whether on campus or online) unless advised otherwise.  Beyond the strike dates, classes and exams will continue as normal.

What is action short of a strike?

Action short of a strike (ASOS) will start on Wednesday 1 December 2021 and terminate no later than 3 May 2022. ASOS will consist of UCU members only working their contracted hours and not volunteering to do more

Why can’t I get definite information on how the action short of a strike will affect me?

Quite simply, because we don’t know the full impact of the decision by some staff to take this action.  We will work to minimise the disruption, and have put in place contingency plans, which we hope will, in most cases, fully resolve or minimise any issues.   We do not expect that the extended period of working to contract will impact negatively on students.

Will I still be able to come onto campus during the strike action?

Yes, the campus – including all learning, social and sports facilities – will remain open throughout the strike. There may be a picket at the entrance, but students and staff will be able to enter and leave the campus freely.

How will I know if my classes are to be cancelled?

Legally, UCU members do not have to tell the University in advance if they are taking strike action, therefore we may not know which UCU members will exercise their right to strike on the days noted above.

We hope that your lecturers will let you know in advance when classes may be withdrawn or rescheduled.  You are entitled to ask them about this, although they are not obliged to provide an answer.  We advise you to check your email and the Hub regularly during the affected period.

We know that, along with all staff, UCU members genuinely care about the academic welfare of students, and some members may already have told you about their plans. In all cases, you can expect to be able to enter and leave the campus freely.

What about submission of assessments during the strike dates?

Unless you are contacted by your School or Division to inform you otherwise, all assessment deadlines of which you have been notified previously will still apply.

When will more information be available?

We will provide further updates by email whenever information becomes available.

 

For staff:

Why is industrial action being taken?

This period of strike action relates to a national dispute on pay, equality, workload and casualisation. Queen Margaret University is part of a national bargaining arrangement which determines pay across most of the UK university sector. The 2021/22 pay settlement from August 2021 was an increase of 1.5%, with a higher percentage increase for the lower points on the pay scale. The UCU has called for an increase to all spine points on the national pay scale of £2,500.

How will taking part in strike action affect my pay?

Participation in any form of strike action is a breach of contract and therefore the University will withhold a full day’s pay (1/365th) for each day (or part of a day) in which an employee takes part in strike action. 

Pay will be withheld from the next available payroll following the last day of strike action, which in this case will be January 2022. Human Resources will write to all staff following the last day of strike action to ascertain who participated in strike action.

Please note that pay withheld due to industrial action will not be repaid at the end of the dispute.

If I go on strike how will my pension be affected?

Periods of absence from work due to industrial action are non-pensionable. No scheme contributions (employee or employer) will be deducted for any period of time spent on strike and, as a consequence, any earnings lost through industrial action are not included in benefit calculations. 

What happens if I am on leave during the strike days?

Any leave taken on the strike days must normally have been agreed in advance of the period of strike action. The University has a duty to minimise disruption to students, other staff and its stakeholders by ensuring that there is adequate staffing in place wherever possible. Line managers will be asked to take this responsibility into account with respect to any requests for leave during the strike action period. If you have previously agreed leave with your line manager on any of the strike days, then this will be respected and treated as leave. 

Can I work from home on a strike day?

Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University is currently in a transitional period where we are trialing approaches to service delivery and working patterns, including hybrid working, that accommodate the business needs of the University and its stakeholders. This means that a number of staff may be working from home on the strike days under the arrangements described above.

What happens if I am sick on a strike day?

Staff who are unable to attend work due to illness should follow the University’s Sickness Absence Management Policy and Procedure.

What if I do not want to go on strike?

You are not compelled to take action, even if you voted in favour of such action. You cannot be ejected or disciplined by your union for declining to take part in the action.

Guidance on Action Short of Strike (ASOS) is available on the intranet.

I am a member of another trade union, can I take part in the UCU strike action?

No. Members of trade unions who have not completed a ballot will not be able to take part in the industrial action.

 

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