Your union will only take strike action once every other avenue of influence has been exhausted and when your branch officers think there is no other way to make members' views clear. It is a very serious sanction and that's why we ask that every member observes the strike. Every member who does not observe the strike is directly undermining the union's bargaining power and making it harder for the union to protect all its members. When we call a strike we ask that members do not come into work and do not reschedule their classes. The best possible thing you can do is contact your local rep and volunteer to help out on the picket lines. It isn't illegal, it isn't dangerous and it can be fun.
Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking strike action?
It is often the case that managements will send out formal-sounding letters telling you to declare in advance whether you will be taking industrial action. To be clear, you are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike. In order to fulfil legal requirements, employers have been provided with statistical information about UCU members taking industrial action, but not individual names. However, if your manager asks you after the strike whether you took action, you should answer truthfully.
In previous one-day strikes it has been the experience of UCU that most employers do not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Also, institutions that do choose to withhold contributions often make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay. Further, in relation to USS, the current advice from USS to USS institutions is that employer deductions will be made unless the employer advises to the contrary prior to any period of absence. Members are reminded that they are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action or action short of a strike.
We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don't like taking any action that affects students. It is the same for many public services. However, when we take action, we are generally making a case for greater investment in or defence of the quality of the service we provide. In the case of job cuts, for example, we argue that our students will be hurt far more by management's actions than by our own. Observing the strike is defending the interests of staff and students alike. Undermining the strike might feel like the right thing in the short term but will only serve to encourage management and we will all suffer more in the longer term. Formally, it is management's responsibility to explain to students if classes are to be cancelled on strike days. However, you may wish to talk to your students before the strikes explaining why the union is taking this action. We will have a leaflet available explaining to students why we feel it is necessary to take action.
Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
All effective industrial action may be a breach of your contract of employment. But because UCU has carried out a statutory ballot and the action has been formally called, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.
You should expect to have a day's salary deducted for taking part in the strike. Some institutions state that 1/260th of your annual salary will be deducted for each day of action. Any loss greater than this may be challenged by the union.
Peaceful picketing is entirely legal. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them.
I am not a UCU member. Can I take part in the strike?
We would like everyone to respect the picket lines and not go into work, but if you are not a UCU member we will not be able to support you if the college decides to take disciplinary action against you. However, it is your general support that counts—if you can get permission from your line manager to take annual leave or work from home, this would be support.
(HE) I am a clinician and a UCU member, and I have clinical commitments on strike day. What can I do?
We fully understand that clinical staff including medics and psychologists have professional commitments to provide clinical cover. Clinicians are advised not to withdraw from any commitment to direct clinical care and activities in support of such. Any clinician concerned about the definition of these terms is advised to contact their own professional defence organisation, and ask them to contact the relevant professional body (eg the GMC) on their behalf. The UCU will therefore respect this. A clinician who intends to strike should be aware that this will only count as lawful action as part of the UCU strike and if s/he is a UCU member.
The point of the picket is to peacefully persuade members not to cross our picket lines ie to not go into work. Picketing is a legal activity and pickets should wear an armband indicating they are on duty. Placards and posters should be displayed stating 'OFFICIAL PICKET'.
Will participating in strike action affect my entitlement to statutory maternity pay (SMP)?
You are entitled to SMP (subject to fulfilling the other statutory requirements) if you have been continuously employed for 26 weeks ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the expected week of confinement (EWC). The calculation of continuous employment does not, however, include any week during which you participate in strike action. So, if you take strike action and have worked for your employer for less than 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before your EWC you will lose your right to SMP. If you are in this situation, please advise your branch officers immediately.
If I am a member in a non-striking institution and I have scheduled business at a striking institution, can I be dismissed if I do not cross a picket?
The position of UCU members who decide not to cross the picket line is that while it is possible you could be disciplined or dismissed these are very rare occurrences and the dismissal may, in certain circumstances, be deemed to be an automatically unfair dismissal.