Fighting fund banner


Fears for cancelled lectures as universities threaten to 'lock out' staff

11 April 2014

Lectures could be cancelled across the UK after universities said they would not pay staff involved in a marking boycott for any of their other work.

The unprecedented approach from universities comes ahead of pay talks between unions and universities on Tuesday (15 April) aimed at halting a marking boycott from UCU due to start on Monday 28 April.

Universities have issued warnings to staff that if they participate in the union's marking boycott they will dock 100% of their pay and anyservices provided during the boycott will be considered voluntary and not paid.

The union said the threats amounted to little more than bullying and removed any pretence that universities had students' best interests at heart. The increasingly bitter pay dispute has been running since October when UCU members first went on strike.

UCU said it wanted the dispute resolved as quickly as possible without disruption to students' work, but added that universities effectively locking staff out would have an even greater impact on campus life.

University staff have seen their pay fall by 13% in real terms since 2009 and have taken strike action six times this academic year. The employers have so far refused to improve their 1% pay offer, which prompted UCU to prepare for the marking boycott.

The boycott would mean that staff would refuse to mark students' work (including coursework essays, portfolios, dissertations, films, works of art etc) or to communicate marks to anyone, potentially impacting on students' ability to graduate.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Universities that deduct 100% of pay from staff participating in our marking boycott will be showing a clear disregard for their students. This threat is little more than an attempt to bully staff from taking part in industrial action as part of a legitimate grievance against efforts to drive down their pay.

This dispute has been running since October and the only reason a marking boycott is on the cards is because of the employers' refusal to make a decent pay offer. Staff have taken strike action six times and we have been left with no option but to move towards this ultimate sanction.

'You cannot claim to have students' best interests at heart and then escalate the situation by effectively locking staff out of their place of work.

'Nobody wants to see a marking boycott, but we are encouraged that the National Union of Students passed a motion in support of our action at their national conference last week. The time has come for the employers to come back to the negotiating table with a serious and fair pay offer.'

Last updated: 10 December 2015