Updated 20 September 2023
What is the UCU?
UCU (University College Union) is a trade union representing over 120,000 staff working in Further and Higher Education across the UK. Some members of BU academic staff are members of the UCU BU branch - this includes some lecturers, course leaders, researchers, visiting tutors and postgraduate students.
You can find out more about UCU here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/
BU UCU members and Action Short of Strike (ASOS)/ Industrial Action
Most recently, BU UCU branch members voted to take strike action from Monday 25 September to Friday 29 September 2023.
In 2022-23 UCU undertook a ballot for Strike Action and Action Short of Strike (ASOS). This was in respect of a dispute on pay following the outcome of national pay negotiations 2022-23.
A total of 40,028 UCU members cast votes, representing a turnout of 56.4%. Of those who voted, 85.65% voted in favour of strike action and 89.92% voted in favour of ASOS.
This means UCU secured approval for action until 20th September 2023.
Following this ballot, UCU gave notice of a marking and assessment boycott (which is classed as ASOS) which began on 20th April and was suspended from Friday 1st September, following an e-ballot of members.
The decision by UCU to undertake a marking and assessment boycott was because they believe it to be an effective tool at their disposal under ASOS. Their intention was not to disadvantage students but to apply pressure to the university to listen to their demands.
You can read the latest statement from UCU here.
What is Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)?
Action short of a strike means ‘Only working contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more’.
The continuing ASOS consisted of:
- 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 and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.
Staff do not have to inform BU in advance of their intentions to strike or take action short of a strike.
What is a Strike?
A strike is when workers withdraw their labour, i.e. refuse to work, disrupting ‘business as usual’ to create change. Strikes are taken as a last resort after more conventional attempts at negotiations have failed. They are used as a way to compel employers to come back to the negotiating table.
Strikes are lawful and UCU members will lose pay for the time they are on strike. You may have seen lots of news coverage about recent or planned strikes by the Rail Workers Union, Train Drivers, Nurses, Barristers and Communication Workers too.
What is a Marking and Assessment Boycott?
A marking assessment boycott means that UCU members will stop all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions).
Summative marking and assessment covers work expressed numerically, in writing, via an online form and verbally e.g., coursework and examination marking, assessment of fieldwork, exhibits, practical work, scientific experiments, presentations, posters etc.
It also includes assessment-related work e.g., exam invigilation, processing of marks, submission of completed marking through any university administrative procedure, assessment-related administration such as distribution of scripts/papers to be marked, organisation of/preparation for exams/assessment boards/meetings, and attendance at exam boards/meetings.
The boycott applies to all forms of higher education and professional training – full-time, part-time, and distance learning.
How will I know if my assessment results are affected?
BU will contact you if your results are impacted by a marking and assessment boycott to explain the impact and let you know the actions they are taking and when you can expect to receive your results.
If BU do not contact you with this information, your results will not be affected by a marking and assessment boycott and you can expect your results in line with the published timescales.
How does SUBU support students affected by Action Short of Strike (ASOS) or industrial action (strikes)?
As our members, you are always our priority. We will support you by providing transparent information and by representing your views.
Where industrial action takes place, we shall be in constant contact with the university and UCU to ensure that your student experience is protected. We are in communication with both BU and the BU UCU branch on a regular basis.
We encourage you to talk to your Student Rep and log feedback via SimOn.
The SUBU Advice Team can also support you with providing guidance on complaints.
What are UCU's Reasons for Strike Action?
Nationally UCU industrial action covers two disputes, Bournemouth University UCU branch is only taking industrial action in relation to pay and working conditions. This is concerned with levels of pay, equality, the use of different types of casual contracts and workloads.
In the pay and working conditions dispute, the UCU’s demands include action to address excessive workloads and unpaid work, a pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, action to end the use of insecure contracts and actions to close the gender, ethnic and disability pay gaps. The UCU have stated that “Employers imposed a pay rise worth just 3% this year following over a decade of below inflation pay awards. A third of academic staff are on some form of temporary contract.”
You can find a short summary of the dispute here or watch the below video.
Who can resolve this dispute?
As this is a national dispute BU cannot resolve this alone. The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are responsible for national pay negotiations and pay scales. UCU rejected their most recent offer.
As a member of UCEA, BU has the power to ask UCEA to come back to the negotiating table to ensure that pay scales are fair, in line with inflation and meet the UCU's demands and has it within their power internally to address the gender and ethnicity pay gap, reduce workload and end casualisation.
Bournemouth University has issued a statement that work with regard to the non-pay elements is continuing, in conjunction with trade union colleagues.
What impact can the ASOS or industrial action have on students?
SUBU works with UCU locally and BU to find out more, but it is difficult to predict how you will be affected, particularly ahead of time. UCU represent staff across a variety of academic roles, but not all BU staff are members. Staff who choose to take part in strike action, both industrial and ASOS, do not have to tell BU of their intention beforehand.
Students can expect some disruption as the Action Short of Strike could mean that your work does not get marked/assessed.
BU advises students to continue to attend university and submit assignments as planned unless you are told otherwise.
What is UCU's message to students?
The BU UCU branch has issued the attached statement to students, specifying what actions they are taking and why. This statement is specific to the previous industrial action and ASOS that took place in 2022-23.
You can also find an explainer video on UCU's Facebook page, which explains why the strikes are happening.
How can students support staff who take part in strike action?
Follow the actions on social media @BU_UCU #ucuRISING. You can share UCU's social media messages, so it reaches more people and gains further support.
If you have any other questions, email SUBU email@example.com and we will pass them along to UCU.
What has SUBU said?
The Students' Union stands in solidarity with university teaching staff across the UK who take part in strike action. We believe that staff working conditions have a direct impact on your learning experience now and in the future. Together, we must fight for a fairer education system, for those who both work and study within universities across the UK.
During the academic year 2022-23 students voted in favour of SUBU supporting UCU's industrial action, including strike action, at a SUBU Summit. The policy (which can be found in full here) states:
- The Students' Union to support UCU's industrial actions, demonstrations and teach outs to the students
- The Students' Union to release a statement declaring its intention to support industrial action, including strikes
- The Students' Union to ensure students are informed (including on why strikes are taking place and support available), run digital campaigns and student-led initiatives.
We fully understand that strike action might impact students and SUBU continue to have conversations with BU to seek clarification on how this might affect your academic experience. We will continue to share this information on our social media and on this information page. We also urge students to regularly check communications from the university for any updates.
Our role as a Students’ Union is to support our members and we will continue to do so throughout the strike action. If you have any concerns or questions please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, our social media channels or pop in to the Student Centre and see us.
What has Bournemouth University said?
Bournemouth University have published an FAQ page for students. You can find this here.
*Four fights. The four fights are “about addressing systemic problems that have plagued the sector for over a decade: wages that do not keep up with the cost of living; precarious employment practices; workload intensification; and pay gaps for women and Black and disabled staff.”
1. Low pay- nationally 17.6% fall in salaries against inflation since 2009.
2. Casualisation- nationally 3545 academic staff on zero-hours contracts and 68% of research academics on fixed term contracts.
3. Workloads- nationally 4 out of 5 higher education staff struggling with workload.
4. Equal pay- in 20/21 at BU women earned £0.78 for every £1 men earned when comparing median hourly pay.
News articles about UCU Strikes and Industrial action