Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)

Guidance for taking effective ASOS

Members will be taking action short of a strike (ASOS) starting Wednesday 23rd November and continuing until further notice. 

This action consists of:

UCU’s national webpages detailing Q&As related to Action Short of Strike are available here.

Working to contract

Working to contract means abiding strictly by the terms of your employment contract. If you’re in any doubt about what you are required to do, check your contractual documents—your offer letter, statement of main terms and conditions and/or any staff handbook. 

Taking action short of a strike does not mean that you can refuse a reasonable request from your manager to undertake something that isn’t covered by the examples above. How reasonable any request is will depend on the terms of your contract and custom and practice. 

If you are unsure whether a request is reasonable — for example, if a manager makes a request and does not provide a concrete reduction of workload in writing, you can inform your manager that you are seeking trade union advice on this matter and will respond in due course. 

More tailored guidance for professional services staff on working to contract can be found here.

UCU have detailed FAQs relating to working to contract.

Not Rescheduling

This includes any scheduled teaching activity which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and applies to all UCU members, not just those directly responsible for the relevant lecture or class. 

You should refuse to reschedule this activity when asked, stating in response that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike. If a colleague or manager reschedules these activities for you, you should refuse to partake in them.

Not sharing materials related to cancelled activities

There are several models of teaching which this applies to:

  • If you teach a module which follows a flipped classroom model, or in which all materials are released at the beginning of term, we ask you to withdraw the materials which are commensurate to the time you will be on strike. Please do not release these materials following the strike action.
  • If you teach a module which is entirely cumulative (ie-each week necessarily builds on the previous content), you may wish to in effect withdraw the materials and teaching from the end of the module, rather than the middle. We nonetheless ask that you do withdraw the amount of materials that are commensurate with the amount of strike action. 
  • If you teach a module which has e.g. lectures on Monday, and smaller group sessions on Thursday, and only one of these days was a strike day, you may judge that adjusting the content for those weeks is sensible. 

There may be other examples, but the policy that we are trying to illustrate is one which follows two principles:

  1. We all withdraw our labour for strike days and do not mitigate it once we return, and;
  2. individual instructors are best placed to identify the way to pedagogically implement the first principle for your own modules. 

Not covering for absent colleagues

Unless providing cover for colleagues is explicitly part of your job description you should refuse to provide cover. Examples of this could include refusing to take on the duties of a colleague taking sick leave.

Where you feel absence cover is part of your role, or you are part of a team where duties are shared, you should feel confident to ask your line manager which activities you should depritoritise to accommodate this absence cover within your workload.

Not undertaking voluntary activities

Where you have a choice whether to undertake some work, you should choose not to do it. This can include for example, partaking in weekend open days for some staff, declining certain meetings etc. If you are unsure which activities are voluntary check your contractual documents, speak to your line manager, or contact the branch for advice.

In line with University of Sheffield policies negotiated with management in 2017, the branch has called on members to withdraw from participation in Saturday Open Days and Saturday Interview Days, as participation in these days is voluntary. 

The exception to this position is for members whose contracts explicitly list Saturday Open or Interview Days as one of your duties. If you are not sure about your own particular case, please get in touch with a department rep or with the branch.

Where activities are voluntary but you feel they should be formally reflected in your workload, e.g. academic citizenship activities, contributions to EDI work, you should raise this with appropriate managers.

UCU have detailed guidance on ‘voluntary activities’.

General tips for members involved in Action Short of a Strike

ASOS varies widely across our membership who are engaged in a large number of different job roles. As such there is no one size fits all approach to making ASOS effective, however we recommend the following:

    • Keep to your contracted hours (typically 35 pro rata), taking care not to overwork if working flexibly. This is especially important if your contracted activities are unclear or you have a clause in your contract covering ‘any other activities commensurate with the role’.
  • Prioritise a balanced workload. If allocated activities take longer, re-negotiate deadlines, ask your line manager or a UCU rep for support. Push back where these activities encroach on time for personal development, research, etc.
  • Organise with colleagues. No one knows your work area better than you and your colleagues within it. Discuss ASOS with each other, sticking to contracted hours, and not undertaking voluntary activities. Encourage non-members to engage with this also. ASOS is about fighting against unreasonable demands that we are not compensated or rewarded for, but coerced into under the guise of ‘collegiality’, ‘good will’, and ‘student experience’.