19th February 2020

UCU Strike / Industrial Action

Find out about how we are supporting students through strike action and how we are supporting striking workers.

The University and College Union (UCU) will be on strike at 60 institutions, including our University, between the 20th February and 13th March.

This strike is a result of a dispute between members of The University and College Union (UCU) and their employers about pay and equalities, and pensions.

The Students' Union is representing student interests in negotiations between UCU and the University and will keep you regularly and properly informed during the industrial action. This work will be led by SU President Jake Verity and you will find his updates on these pages.

Chapters
  1. Strike Wellbeing and Solidarity
  2. SU Updates
  3. What is a strike or industrial action?
  4. Why are the strikes happening?
  5. Will the Students' Union building be open?
  6. National letter from our SU
  7. Making a complaint and/or requesting compensation due to industrial action
  8. What do students want?

Strike Wellbeing and Solidarity

SU Council has agreed to the aims of the Students' Union during the planned industrial action:

Strike Wellbeing and Activities

Led by our Welfare Officer Beren Maddison, we are prioritising the wellbeing and welfare of students in the SU and university during the industrial action. Find out more about how you can access support, get stress busting information, and join in activities in our Strike Wellbeing and Activities web pages.

Support The Strike

Led by our Education Officer Charlie Porter, we are actively supporting the striking workers in the belief that their working conditions are our students' learning conditions. Find out more about the reasons behind this, how you can get involved, and activities and events you can attend in our Strike Solidarity website web pages.

The SU building remains a welcoming place for students to gather and study with friends in a calm space where everybody feels valued. SU outlets and services will be running business as usual. In addition, Levels 2 and 3 will be dedicated to student support and welfare, and level 4 will host strike support activity during the strike period..

SU Updates

Over the past week our SU President, Education Officer and Welfare Officer have been collecting your urgent questions about the strike, to get answers from the University senior leaders and the UCU.

Here's what they said:

You asked...'When will we receieve compensation due to the strike action?'

The University senior leaders said...

That they won't be considering a proactive compensation scheme. They’re sticking with what they said on their FAQs - “As the present industrial action arises out of matters which are beyond the University’s reasonable control, it is not obliged to compensate its students in circumstances where it takes all reasonable steps to minimise the potential disruption to those students.”

View the University FAQs

Our Officers: We’re pushing for students to receive compensation. So if you have experienced genuine disruption to your studies, you should file a complaint and request for compensation.

You can do that by filling in this form

You asked...'What is the University doing with the money they're not paying lecturers?'

The University senior leaders said...

They are keeping the strike fund in departments. The University has also committed to simplifying communications to students on this.

Our Officers: We think you should find out where this money is. Contact your departmental head to ask 1. How much money is there? 2. How is it being spent?

You asked...'What will happen with our assessments and exams?'

The University senior leaders said...

They say they're contacting all exam boards. They have published an FAQ on this

Our Officers: We think if you have any questions on this, it’s best to speak to your departmental head (they might be on strike until Monday).

You asked...'Can the recovery plans be public?'

The University senior leaders said...

Recovery plans will be created after the strike in order to be accurate, and each student will be communicated to individually on their recovery plan.

Our Officers: We think if you have any questions on this, it’s best to speak to your departmental head (they might be on strike until Monday). If you can’t get answers, email the SU at strike.advice@sheffield.ac.uk for advice.

You asked...'How will course accreditation be affected?'

The University senior leaders said...

They're not concerned about this. Professional bodies are being informed, and as we’re not the only university affected by the strikes there’s little concern that it will impact course accreditation.

You asked...'What's the Vice Chancellor doing nationally to help resolve the dispute?'

The University senior leaders said...

That they won't reveal his position, as they believe it could jeopardise the collective bargaining position. He has committed to making a statement to students about this topic.

You asked...'Does the UCU even care about students?'

UCU said...

The UCU cares deeply about students and is united with the NUS to improve staff working conditions and student learning conditions. Representatives also expressed their gratitude for student solidarity, and that many of its members are also students of the institutions they work for.

You asked...'What will the UCU do if they don't get the resolution they want, will they just keep striking?'

UCU said...

The UCU said strike action of recent years has been a last resort coming after a decade of neglect from employers. Representatives also said that long-term solutions are needed, and that on Monday they will be balloting members for potential future industrial action.

If your studies have been genuinely disrupted and want to file a complaint and request for compensation, fill in this form

If you need specific advice on your individual circumstances, on anything that hasn't been sufficiently answered by the University's FAQs you can email the SU at strike.advice@sheffield.ac.uk

We know that many students are asking about compensation as a result of the strike.

If you're looking to pursue a compensation claim, we continue to recommend that you fill in this form.

This will allow you to register your interest in making a complaint, including claiming compensation. The Student Advice Centre will then contact you once the industrial action is over to provide advice. This is the recommended route to seek compensation, based on guidance from the Office for Students, the OIA and NUS. A number of students across the country were successful in gaining compensation in relation to the strikes in 2018 through this route.

We strongly recommend you do not pay for a solicitor, or use a legal route that requires you to pay court fees. This is unnecessary, and you risk losing money if your case doesn't win.

You can find out more information on SU guidance when seeking compensation on the website.

The eight days of planned industrial action by the University and College Union (UCU) has now finished. I want to say thank you to all students for their support whilst our University staff protested over fair pay, equality, and a safe and secure retirement.

At the Students’ Union we actively support the striking workers, because the forces of marketisation eroding staff working conditions are doing the same to our learning conditions.

The SU pledged to support the strike whilst leading an active welfare and support campaign for students during strike action, and represent student interests during negotiations. We’re now working with the University on a plan to ensure students get a fair and reasonable outcome following lost teaching and reduced access to services. I’m sure you understand that negotiating this may take some time.

No agreement has been reached for UCU members, and so striking workers now enter ‘action short of a strike’. This means that staff will work to their contracts and job descriptions, they won’t take on any other form of unpaid labour that they may have done in the past.

We will keep you updated with any news on the UCU disputes as soon as we hear. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact strike.advice@sheffield.ac.uk.

Thank you again,

Jake Verity
President
Sheffield Students' Union

Dear Students,

Myself, your Education Officer Charlie Porter and Welfare Officer Beren Maddison met with the Vice Chancellor of the University, Senior University Figures and members of the University and College Union (UCU) branch yesterday (Monday the 25th of November) to discuss student issues arising from the current strikes.

This was a constructive meeting in which we discussed a number of topics around both student welfare, and student learning and teaching.

Some of the topics that we raised included:

  1. Reimbursement scheme for students’ out of pocket expenses on things such as travel and childcare
  2. Implications for attendance monitoring for international students who don’t want to cross picket lines
  3. Ensuring student views are taken into account through Academic Representatives in decision making in how any strike funds are spent

We’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure you are represented as best as possible over the forthcoming weeks and months, and as soon as any details emerge on the above points we will update you further.

Yours sincerely,

Jake Verity
President
Sheffield Students' Union

SU President Jake Verity, has written an open letter to University Vice Chancellor, Koen Lamberts, about supporting students through forthcoming industrial action and ensuring their concerns are prioritised.

What is a strike or industrial action?

Industrial action is a general term for actions taken by members of a trade union in protest against their employer. The most common form of action is to go on strike, which is often the last resort after negotiations have failed. A strike is when workers refuse to continue working because of an argument with an employer about working conditions, pay levels, or job losses.

This strike is a result of a dispute between members of The University and College Union (UCU) and their employers about pay and equalities, and pensions. This might lead to some classes being cancelled on days when University teachers are taking industrial action.

What is a picket line?

A picket line is a form of protest, which involves workers establishing a boundary, often at the entrance to their place of work, which other people are asked not to cross. You may be asked by workers on strike not to cross picket lines established in front of University buildings.

You should not be physically prevented from entering a building with a picket line, and there is official guidance on picket line behaviour. You may want to take the opportunity to speak to teaching staff on picket lines to find out more information about the strike.

Picket lines for this strike will generally finish at 11am each day.

Why are the strikes happening?

Our Education Officer Charlie has produced this guide that gives you all of the key information as to why the strikes are happening and information for you to understand the issues involved in the UCU Strike.

Or you can download Charlie's briefing guide .

Will the Students' Union building be open?

Yes!

The Students’ Union will be open as usual for students to gather, socialise, and study with friends during strike action. We appreciate the strike period can be an isolating and stressful time, but the SU building is full of different events, information, and spaces for you to make use of regardless of your feelings about the strike.

Students’ Union outlets and services will operate as usual. In addition, the Disabled Students’ Committee and Welfare Committee will host a programme of support chats during the strike. These will give you an opportunity to chat to other students about the strike, or anything else you want to discuss.

Level 4 will host a programme of activities in solidarity with striking workers, including teach- outs. The SU Officers and UCU members will also be available to answer questions about the strike.

National letter from our SU

Ahead of the strike action this March, our SU President Jake Verity is collaborating with other SUs around the country to help seek a resolution and stop the disruption to students.

Read More

Making a complaint and/or requesting compensation due to the industrial action

The Students’ Union provides free, independent advice to students on academic matters. This form will allow you to register your interest in making a complaint including claiming compensation in relation to the industrial action. The Student Advice Centre will then contact you once the industrial action is over to provide advice about any potential complaint. We strongly recommend that you read the information below before completing this form. If you have any questions regarding this matter please email strike.advice@sheffield.ac.uk.

The Students’ Union and The University will be working together throughout any industrial action to minimise the impact on students learning. It is inevitable that some teaching will be cancelled during any strike action. Once the industrial action is over, the University will put in place plans to recover missed teaching and learning for students. This may not take the form of a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of missed teaching, the intention is to ensure that the agreed learning outcomes are delivered.

The guidance from both the Office for Students and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HIgher Education suggests that students need to consider the impact on their learning outcomes, rather than simply any scheduled classes that have been missed. This is the reason that suggest you complete this form and await the conclusion of the industrial action before submitting your complaint.

The University has provided the following information through its information page.

As the present industrial action arises out of matters which are beyond the University’s reasonable control, it is not obliged to compensate its students in circumstances where it takes all reasonable steps to minimise the potential disruption to those students.

The University remains committed to delivering an educational programme for each student during any period of industrial action and it will seek to ensure that students remain able to complete their programmes of study and graduate as anticipated.

All reasonable attempts will be made to make contingencies for students to continue their studies without detriment to their learning opportunities and assessment outcomes. These may include rescheduling lectures, agreeing extensions to assessment deadlines, and assessment boards may be given exceptional instructions to ensure students are not disadvantaged or penalised. The current industrial action is happening as a result of a national matter which this University cannot resolve by itself. However we will continue to work with our national representatives to press for a fair resolution as quickly as possible.

If any student is dissatisfied as a result of the impact of the industrial action then they remain entitled to raise their concerns by way of the University’s student complaint procedure.

The Office for Students, the regulator for universities, has provided guidance on this issue which you can access here.

In addition, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (the body that rules on complaints from students about universities) has this guidance based on the complaints that were submitted following the industrial action in 2018. This includes a link to case studies on the complaints that were considered in relation to the industrial action in 2018 - Guidance note from the OIA

What do students want?

Strikes: what do students want?
12-1pm
Thursday 5th March 2020
Location: Studio (Students' Union, Level 2)

We’re now in the third round of strikes in three years. If you were in a room with the University’s Vice Chancellor and the UCU, what would you ask?

At this event our SU President, Education Officer and Welfare Officer will be collecting your questions to take to the University and the UCU for answers. We’ll be holding an open forum for any student to talk about the strikes, what you’re concerned about, and most importantly, the questions you want answered. Coffee, tea and snacks will also be provided!

Can’t make the event? DM your question to our Instagram or Twitter @SheffieldSU or submit them via this form.

Find out about how we are supporting students through strike action and how we are supporting striking workers: via our UCU Strikes web hub.

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