UCU Industrial Action Updates #mystrike

Industrial Action – SUBU Online Poll

The University College Union (UCU) have announced that strikes will take place beginning on Monday 25 November, and continue until Wednesday 4 December. The strikes could take place on any day within that time period. In addition, the UCU have also stated that “action short of a strike” will be taking place starting on Monday 25 November, and could continue until April 2020.

 

  We also encourage students to feedback on their experience of the strikes and the impact it has on them through the SUBU online feedback tool known as SIMON:

GIVE FEEDBACKhttps://mrgsurvey.bournemouth.ac.uk/surveys/s.asp?k=157165687052

 

SUBU's Latest Statement - Tues 26th November 4pm:

 

SUBU update Statement on UCU Industrial Action at BU

As the democratically elected Full Time Officers (FTOs) at SUBU we have requested a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Vinney and his team to ensure that students are provided with reassurance as to what effect the industrial action would have and increase transparency with regards to who is likely to be affected by the strikes. We will also be asking the Vice-Chancellor to use his influence to write to UCEA* and ask them to recommence negotiations that include pay and conditions. This way, an equitable solution for all parties can be found quickly.

 

Our priority is ensuring that the strike causes minimum disruption for BU students and that all students are supported throughout this period, regardless of their views on the strike. We would also like to reassure all students that SUBU services and outlets remain open as usual throughout the industrial action.

 

We support the rights of all staff to challenge unfair practices, including challenging pay and conditions which they democratically deem to be unfair, and recognises strike action as an entirely legitimate means of raising such concerns. We believe that all effort should be taken to ensure that the strike causes minimum disruption to students at BU and that no student is adversely affected by the strike.

 

You can find out more information about how the strike will affect students at BU here:

https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/news/2019-11-13/national-dispute-industrial-action-november-december-2019

 

The FTOs have also been discussing this issue for the past two weeks at the Executive Committee. It was decided at the Executive Committee meeting that took place on Wednesday 20th November that there should be an online poll to gauge student opinion, that would then give us a mandate on SUBUs stance towards the strike. The Executive Committee is SUBU’s highest elected body. It is comprised of the 5 Full-Time Officer, 10 Part-Time Officers and 6 Liberation Officers in an ex-officio capacity. An online poll of students conducted between Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd November asked students what SUBUs stance on the industrial action should be.

 

Below are the results of the online poll:

What should the Students' Union at Bournemouth University's stance be in relation to the upcoming UCU industrial action (strikes)?

915 votes cast in total

46.6% (426 votes) - SUBU should support the strike and stand in solidarity with UCU

46.2% (423 votes) - SUBU should sympathise with UCU but should not support action that would seriously impact students

7.2% (66 votes) - SUBU should reject industrial action and oppose UCU's stance entirely

 

As a result of this vote and the decision of the Executive Committee, SUBU will support the strike and stand in solidarity with UCU by:

  • Issue a template letter and encourage all students to send this to the Vice-Chancellor, asking him to use his influence with UCEA to ask them to recommence negotiations. DOWNLOAD THE LETTER TEMPLATE
  • SUBU Executive Committee Members (FTO and PTO) will stand on the picket line with UCU
  • SUBU will take out refreshments to striking staff
  • The Sabbatical Officers will use their meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor to focus on the strike, and to put pressure on the university to be more transparent with particular reference to assignments and missed lectures
  • SUBU will run a social media campaign asking students to use the #mystrike to keep SUBU updated with regards to how the strike is affecting them. Students who are getting involved will also be using the hashtag #mystrike
  • SUBU will support students affected by the strikes who wish to request compensation through the University Complaints system and subsequently through the Office for Students

 

We also encourage students to feedback on their experience of the strikes and the impact it has on them through the SUBU online feedback tool known as SIMON:

GIVE FEEDBACKhttps://mrgsurvey.bournemouth.ac.uk/surveys/s.asp?k=157165687052

 

We will also be working with our student reps across all faculties and departments to ensure your feedback is captured. It is absolutely essential that we hear from as many students as possible so we are representing the student body as best as possible, so please use the #mystrike.

 

*UCEA – Universities and Colleges Association is the employers association for universities and colleges of Higher Education in the UK.

 

Download a letter template to send to your VC John Vinney

 

- - End of statement - -

 

 

Statement - Friday 22nd November:

                

(Poll closed at 12.45pm, Fri 22nd Nov)

 

What is SUBU’s stance?

The Executive Committee, SUBU’s highest elected body, decided on Thursday 20th November to provide an online poll from 12pm on Thursday the 21st of November to Friday the 22nd of November to gauge current students perspectives on the issue and ensure that SUBU’s stance is student led. The results of this poll are now shown above.

Currently our objective is to provide impartial information to enable students to understand the context behind the current proposed industrial action, and coordinate the collection of feedback, which will in turn allow us to support student needs in an informed manner.

 

Your View

You were asked what should the Students’ Union at Bournemouth University’s stance should be in relation to the upcoming UCU industrial action (strikes)?

"SUBU should support the strike and stand in solidarity with UCU"

SUBU would use its communication channels to actively encourage students to support UCU staff in the manner they choose. SUBU would also provide template letters to all students to write to the Vice-Chancellor lobbying him directly. 

"SUBU should sympathise with UCU but should not support action that would seriously impact students"

SUBU would support the right of all staff to challenge unfair practices, including challenging pay and conditions which they democratically deem to be unfair, and recognises strike action as an entirely legitimate means of raising such concerns. However, we would not support industrial action that would unnecessarily and/or seriously impact students. We would continue to lobby the university to be transparent and proactively communicate the impact of the strikes on students. 

"SUBU should reject industrial action and oppose UCU’s stance entirely"

We would continue to inform and support students and lobby the university to be transparent and proactively communicate the impact of the strikes on students. 

We are keen to understand your experience and the impact of the strike on your studies, please use #mystrike on your social media comments or feedback directly to your Course Rep or email subu@bournemouth.ac.uk (subject mystrike)

 

BU’s statement:

‘We hope that the dispute can be resolved at a national level without the need for industrial action but are working in the meantime to minimise the potential impact on students and staff. BU cannot resolve this dispute at a local level’

 

UCU’s statement:

‘Your lecturers are taking 8 days of strike action on four issues:

  • Excessive Workloads –many lecturers work 50+ a week to get through a normal week’s workload, causing them to be tired, stressed, and ill. 
  • Pay Equality Gap - women and BAME academics earn up to 25% less than white men.
  • Precarious Contracts- too many academic staff are on temporary, part-time and zero-hours style contracts, with low pay.
  • Pay Decline – lecturers’ wages down by 20% in real terms since 2009

 

This strike action is about students too – Lecturers’ WORKING conditions are students’ LEARNING conditions. Video Message from Striking Staff to Students: https://youtu.be/8ENT6eMQhCM

 

FAQ's:

  1. What has SUBU been doing to minimise the impact on students?
  2. Can SUBU prevent strikes from taking place?
  3. Why are staff striking?
  4. What staff are striking?
  5. What will happen during the strikes?
  6. What has the university said?
  7. Will SUBU remain open during the strikes?
  8. What is the University currently doing to protect the student experience during this time?
  9. What happens if students have deadlines during or shortly after this period?
  10. What about students who miss lectures? 
  11. How would this affect my studies?
  12. How will the strikes impact my exams?
  13. What happens to me if I join the picket line or boycott lectures in support of staff?
  14. What about International Students?
  15. I am concerned - where can I go to for support and advice?
  16. Background of the strikes
  17. What has the NUS said?
  18. What have the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) said about the strikes?
  19. Useful resources

 

1. What has SUBU been doing to minimise the impact on students?

In recent weeks SUBU has been working to ensure that the student experience is protected during this time. This has included lobbying the university and representation through your FTO’s through attending university committees. SUBU is also represented on the IAWG (Industrial Action Working Group), where we have been working with the university to increase transparency as to what effect the action is likely to have on students.

Your five Full-Time Officers will also be out and about on campus next week asking for your opinion on the proposed industrial action, what impacts it will have on your studies and wellbeing. We also encourage students to feedback on their experience of the strikes and the impact it has on them through the SUBU online feedback tool known as SIMON. SUBU will also be working with it’s student reps across all faculties and departments to ensure your feedback is captured.

 

2. Can SUBU prevent strikes from taking place?

No, authorised strike action as organised by a trade union is a legal right, and SUBU cannot prevent them from taking place.

 

3. Why are staff striking?

PAY AND WORKING CONDITIONS

The UCU believe the pay of academic staff at universities has dropped by around 17% in ‘real wages’ since 2009 based on findings from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). In more general terms, ‘real wages’ go down for everyone when inflation is higher. For example, if you get an annual pay rise of 2% but inflation is at 3%, it is a ‘real wages’ pay cut of 1% despite the extra pay; this is driven by economic trends and inflation. The UCU are calling for the University to immediately take steps to reverse the supposed pay decline, by increasing staff pay. The working conditions dispute also focuses on the increased casualisation of staff, the gender and BAME pay gap, and increasing workloads.

Find out more about the pay negotiations here

 

4. What staff are striking?

The UCU (University and Colleges Union) membership is made up of Lecturers, Post-graduate Researchers, Demonstrators, Librarians and other professional service staff at BU. Whilst it is not known excatly how many staff are members of UCU it is estimated to be around 300.

127 UCU members from Bournemouth University voted in the ballot, but the number of staff striking is currently unknown. Staff are not required to let the university know that they are striking, however some may let their students know beforehand.

 

5. What will happen during the strikes?

During the strikes your lecturer may be striking if they are a member of UCU. This means they will not come in to teach your lectures, seminars, tutorials or other academic sessions. They will also not be present in their office hours or undertake any work such as marking of assignments or replying to emails. Those who are striking do not need to inform you that they will not be running a particular lecture or other session, although they may choose to do so at their own discretion.

Many lecturers may ask you to not ‘cross the picket line’. This means they would ask you to act in solidarity with those striking and not come into campus through the picket line of striking lecturers; this boundary is usually established at the entrance to a workplace. You cannot be prevented from crossing a picket line.

In addition to the strike, until further notice the UCU will be taking ‘action short of a strike’ (ASOS). ASOS is defined by the UCU to potentially include: working to contract (only the hours defined by their contract, e.g. 9-5pm); not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action; not undertaking any voluntary activities; a marking and assessment boycott. It is uncertain at this time how long ASOS would last after the end of the wholescale strike action.

 

6. What has Bournemouth University said?

You can view the full University FAQ’s here: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/news/2019-11-13/national-dispute-industrial-action-november-december-2019

 

7. Will SUBU remain open during the strikes?

Yes. We are committed to ensuring that SUBU remains open throughout the strikes and remains a welcoming place for students. The Student Centre and all SUBU outlets and services will be open business as usual.

 

8. What is Bournemouth University currently doing to protect the student experience during this time?

BU have issued the following in response to this question:

“We are used to planning for potential disruption, for example during periods of extreme weather.  We have a group of people, including SUBU, working together to ensure that contingency plans are in place and we will continue to share information with you.”

 

9. What happens if students have deadlines during or shortly after this period?

BU have issued the following in response to this question:

“You should continue to complete coursework and submit assignments as planned.  We have not been advised of any disruption to marking or assessments.”

 

10. What about students who miss lectures? 

BU have issued the following in response to this question:

Your student fee covers a wide range of activities and services, including lectures and timetabled sessions.  We will ensure that if any sessions are postponed, the material will be made available to you in different ways.  If necessary, we may review assignments and assessment criteria.  All other university facilities and activities will be available to you as usual.

 

11. How would this affect my studies?

This will depend on the timing of the strikes, and the potential impact of the strikes on each department, as not all staff are UCU members, and not all members will participate in strikes. It is however possible that strikes will have an impact on various aspects of your course, including assessments, marking, and lectures. 

 

12. How will the strikes impact my exams?

This will depend on your subject, the staff members involved in the strike, and the lectures and content affected. In BU’s FAQ, they state that ‘We expect that the exams will proceed as planned in January.  We will review requirements nearer the time if necessary to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.’

In addition BU advises: “You should continue to complete coursework and submit assignments as planned.  We have not been advised of any disruption to marking or assessments.”

 

13. What happens to me if I join the picket line or boycott lectures in support of staff?

BU have provided the following comment:

“Picketing is a regulated activity and can only be undertaken by workers employed by BU who are party to the dispute and a union official picketing with members that they represent, i.e. fellow members of BU staff, or UCU regional officials.” 

 

14. What about International Students?

If you are an international student on a Tier 4 visa you will not be deemed to have missed a contact point if that contact point was denied to you due to the strike.

 

15. I am concerned - where can I go to for support and advice?

If you are concerned about the upcoming strike action please get in touch with askBU, academic advisors, programme leaders or SUBU advice. Student Reps will also be able to provide feedback to the University and to SUBU about your experience during the strike.

Information about complaints, exceptional circumstances and student protection plans is available here: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/students/help-advice/important-information

 

16. Background to the strikes

The University College Union (UCU) announced the outcome of their ballot on proposed industrial action regarding the USS Pension (Universities Superannuation Scheme) earlier in the month.

Two different questions were asked to UCU members in the ballot, reflecting the complex nature of this issue; ‘Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?’ and ‘Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of strike action up to and including a marking and assessment boycott?’.

At Bournemouth University, the turnout of UCU members voting in the ballot was 127, over the 50% threshold required by Trade Union law to pursue action based on the outcome.

As a consequence the UCU has informed BU that it plans to take strike action on 25, 26, 27, 28 & 29 November and on 2, 3 and 4 December 2019, as well as action short of a strike (ASOS) with effect from 25 November 2019. ASOS consists of:

  • Working to contract
  • Not covering for absent colleagues
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • Not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities.

 

17. What has the NUS said?

NUS and UCU issued a public statement of mutual support concerning the ongoing disputes in higher education on the 30th of September 2019.

“NUS and UCU are sister organisations committed to promoting the interests of our members and to defending education. We are proud of our work together in calling for a better deal for students and staff, and in challenging the marketisation of education. We want to create an education system that is funded, accessible and lifelong, a system that reflects the needs of modern society."

You can read their full statement here

 

18. What have the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) said about the strikes?

The OIA are the national body for dealing with student complaints.

Here is their statement:

"Following the announcement last week that there will be industrial action on pay and pensions, it is important that affected providers take steps to minimise the impact on students. This includes both minimising any academic disadvantage and making up for lost learning opportunities.

We have previously published information about our approach to complaints arising from industrial action, including a briefing notecase summaries and some themes that emerged. We hope this will be helpful to providers and students’ unions. The OfS has also issued a note External link (Opens in a new tab or window) setting out their approach to the impact on students of disruption caused by industrial action.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“Many students will be very concerned about the impact that this industrial action will have on their studies. There were many good examples of how providers tried to reduce the academic impact of the industrial action that took place last year. But it’s just as important to make sure that students don’t miss out on learning opportunities, and some providers did not always do this as well. It is especially important for students who are in the final stages of their course or on a short or intensive programme.

Not all students will be affected in the same way. For example some disabled students, some students with mental health issues, and some international students may be more severely affected. Providers need to think carefully about additional measures they might need to take to support those students.

Students need to know how to raise any concerns they may have through internal complaints processes. They need to be able to make informed choices about how to pursue their concerns if they are not resolved internally.  During the last pensions-related strike action some students were encouraged by a number of law firms to pursue legal action rather than raising issues through internal procedures. To the best of our knowledge none of the intended class actions have resulted in concrete outcomes for the students involved. Students who are unhappy with how their provider has dealt with their concerns can bring their complaint to us for independent and impartial review.”"

 

19. Useful resources:

News articles about UCU Strikes and Industrial action
Information on Industrial Action
Information from the UCU
Information from the UUK
General Resources