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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Update 12th April 2022

 

What is the UCU? 

The UCU is the University and College Union. They are a national trade union representing over 120,000 academics and support staff in further and higher education. 

  

Will BU UCU members be going on strike? 

On the 11th of April UCU announced that the Bournemouth University UCU Branch had secured a mandate to undertake Strike Action and Action Short of a Strike in relation to pay and working conditions. This mandate will last until October 2022.

Find out more about the results of the ballot here.

Each branch votes independently and must reach a 50% quorum in order for industrial action to go ahead. This means that industrial action could take place at one university, but not at another. 

Last year the Bournemouth University UCU Branch did not secure a mandate to undertake strike action.

 

When will staff be going on strike?

The dates of the strike have not yet been announced, however, UCU has said the following 'On 20 April, UCU will be holding a special higher education sector conference on the pay and working conditions disputes. Members and branches are being invited to discuss and vote on how the new mandate for action might be used.'

 

We can expect to hear more about industrial action after this time. 

 

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’. In practice this could mean staff refusing to cover for absent staff, not rescheduling lectures impacted by action, not providing additional materials and refusing to work overtime. It could also include a marking boycott, although this is currently not planned.

Staff do not have to let you know if they are taking action short of a strike, but they often will. 

 

Marking Boycott

A marking boycott is not currently being undertaken as a part of ASOS, but this could change, and it could change quickly. The decision as to whether a marking boycott is undertaken would be decided by the UCU nationally.

The UCU would undertake a marking boycott as they believe it is one of the most effective tools at their disposal under ASOS. Their intention is not to disadvantage students but to apply pressure to the university to listen to their demands.

 

What are the UCU Reasoning for Balloting for Industrial Action- Four Fights? 

Nationally UCU industrial action covers two disputes, Bournemouth University UCU branch is only taking industrial action in relation to the Four Fights. 

“The Four Fights dispute is 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.” 

Low pay- nationally 17.6% fall in salaries against inflation since 2009. 

Casualisation- nationally 3545 academic staff on zero-hours contracts and 68% of research academics on fixed term contracts. 

Workloads- nationally 4 out of 5 higher education staff struggling with workload. 

Equal pay- in 20/21 at BU women earned £0.78 for every £1 men earned when comparing median hourly pay. Find out more here. 

You can find out more about the dispute here here. 

You can find out more about the pay negotiations here. 

 

The UCU have stated that nationally 'university employers represented by Universities and Colleges Employers Association have refused to make improved offers or even enter negotiations with UCU.'

  

I've heard that there is a pension dispute, how does that relate to BU?

You may have heard that staff nationally are going on strike to protest against the changes to the USS Pension Scheme. BU is not a member of the scheme and as such this issue does not impact BU UCU members.

What is the timeline? 

UCU initially balloted members at Bournemouth University as to whether they wished to take industrial action. The ballot closed on the 4th of November 2021. UCU's Action Short of a Strike will take place from the 1st of December. The action could last until the 3rd of May 2022. The UCU have stated that this will be a period of sustained disruption. 

There was then a national reballot that closed on the 8th of April, this ballot enables UCU to take industrial action until October 2022. BU UCU branch did secure a mandate to undertake both strike action and action short of a strike. It is expected that we will hear more about the implications of this following the national UCU meeting on the 20th April.

Who can resolve the 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 have the power to ask UCEA to come back to the negotiating table to ensure that payscales are fair, in line with inflation and meet the UCU's demands. 

However, Bournemouth University have it within their power internally to address the gender and ethnicity pay gap, reduce workload and end casualisation. 

 

What impact will industrial action have? 

Right now, we don't know. Students can expect some disruption as a result of strike action and action short of a strike. We will be able to give an update following the UCU national meeting on the 20th of April.

Action short of a strike (ASOS) refers to action such as staff refusing to cover for absent staff, not rescheduling lectures impacted by action, not providing additional materials and refusing to work overtime. 

UCU ask their members to do the following during any strike action-

'When we call a strike, we ask that members do not do any work for all of the days specified by the union. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm, and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails related to work, marking, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. It also means not doing any preparation for work that you are due to do when you return to work after you strike. In a nutshell, if you are employed at one of the institutions on strike, do not do any work at all on strike days.

On strike days, the best possible thing you can do is contact your UCU branch and volunteer to help at the picket lines - and ask colleagues in your department to join you. Picketing is a vital opportunity to demonstrate to the employer the scale of the disruption that the union is able to cause, and get support for your action from students and other colleagues.'

 

The University and Students’ Union will remain open throughout any potential industrial action. 

  

  

What is SUBU’s stance? 

As a democratic organisation our stance on whether SUBU should support UCU should be made by you, our members. At the SUBU Summit you told us that you wanted us to stand in solidarity with the UCU 'four fights', prioritise information, and educate students.  

We stand in solidarity with the UCU’s Four Fights. 

We encourage Bournemouth University and universities nationally to meet the UCU demands during negotiations in relation to the Four Fights. 

We prioritise transparent and accessible information to ensure students know what is happening and when. 

We will promote the UCU and provide opportunities for students to find out more about industrial action. 

While we will always support the cause we may not support action that would cause significant disruption to students and are continually seeking feedback from students on their experience. 

You can read the full policy here 

  

How will SUBU support students? 

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 also in communication with both BU and the BU UCU branch regularly. 

We encourage you to talk to your Student Rep and log feedback via SimOn.

The Advice Team can also support you with providing guidance on complaints. 

  

How can students support staff who take part in industrial action? 

Talk to staff to understand their experience and why they are undertaking action. 

Sign the NUS’s open letter to UUK* and UDEA to encourage them to return to the negotiating table. 

Share material and tweet support using the hashtag #OneOfUsAllOfUs. 

Go along to event organised by the UCU and SUBU . 

*BU is not a part of the pension dispute that relates to UUK.  

 

What has Bournemouth University said? 

Please visit this webpage

 

News articles about UCU Strikes and Industrial action