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Staff warn rogue university bosses to prepare for more strike action over pay deductions

9 February 2022

UCU has warned hardline university bosses that they could be hit with even more strike action - on top of the ten days already planned - if they go ahead with 100% deductions in pay for staff taking action short of a strike (ASOS).

  • UCU is aware of six universities threatening to 'lock out' staff and withdraw 100% of pay over action short of a strike.
  • 100% deductions could see universities hit with more strike action. 
  • Employers in danger of escalating dispute by making punitive deductions.
  • Staff voted to take part in ASOS in response to pension cuts and attacks on pay & working conditions.

UCU has warned hardline university bosses that they could be hit with even more strike action - on top of the ten days already planned - if they go ahead with 100% deductions in pay for staff taking action short of a strike (ASOS).  

Some university employers across the UK are planning arbitrary and punitive deductions of pay ranging between 25% - 100%, despite staff continuing to work. The union says these actions from senior management would only 'escalate' the disputes and disrupt student learning further.  

Staff at 68 universities will take up to ten days of strike action beginning next week over cuts to staff pensions and worsening pay & working conditions, with over one million students set to be impacted.

Staff pay has fallen by 20% in real terms in the last twelve years and employers are now forcing through cuts of 35% to pensions. 

Staff also have a mandate to take ASOS, which includes working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities.  

Today, the union is warning university employers that 100% deductions in response to ASOS would be tantamount to a 'lock out', leaving staff with no other option but to take strike action in response.  

The deductions come after UCU made a compromise proposal to resolve the pensions dispute on 26 January, which so far employers have refused to accept. 

Bosses at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), City University of London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Newcastle University, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bradford have all threatened to withdraw 100% of pay for staff taking part in ASOS.

The union is also aware of some universities threatening to make partial pay deductions of staff taking part in ASOS.   

The University of Birmingham has told staff that from Monday 14 February 2022 it will withhold 50% of pay for staff who refuse to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action.   

At the University of Leicester, senior management have emailed staff to tell them that 33% of their pay will be deducted, with a threat the deduction will rise to 100%.

The University of Northumbria has said it will withhold pay for staff taking ASOS that impacts their contractual duties, but hasn't specified how much.  

The University of Durham has said it intends to withhold 25% of staff pay if materials not shared due to strike action are not available to students by Monday 7 March 2022 and that the level of pay being withheld may increase up to 100%.

Last week, the University of Cambridge was forced to step back from plans to deduct 25% from the wages of staff engaged in ASOS after a campaign by both students and staff. 

In new guidance, UCU has told its members that management must explain how calculations for pay deductions are being made.  The union has also warned employers not to make these deductions as it would only escalate the dispute whilst staff try to continue working. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Rogue university bosses are trying to intimidate staff from taking lawful industrial action by withholding their wages. This is a deeply unfair and unprofessional response from management which will only escalate and prolong these disputes.  

'As well as challenging partial deductions, we are also warning senior management that withholding 100% of pay is tantamount to a lock out and that staff will be within their rights to respond by calling more strike action. 

'In action short of a strike, many staff will work strictly to their contract. The fact that some university bosses consider this worthy of a deduction in pay demonstrates the extent to which the sector has become addicted to staff working themselves into the ground and beyond what they are contractually required to do.  

'It is encouraging that the University of Cambridge has recognised we are at a crucial stage in this dispute and has rowed back from making punitive deductions.  

'Instead of taking these vindictive actions, university bosses should be studying UCU's serious pension proposals and making a fair offer on pay and working conditions to resolve these disputes. That would be a much more productive use of their time and energy.'  

Last updated: 9 February 2022