Following Strike Action
What to do after strike action, including how make a claim for financial support.
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Members will also be taking action short of a strike (ASOS) starting Wednesday 23rd November and continuing until further notice.
This action consists of:
- working to contract
- not covering for absent colleagues
- not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
- not undertaking any voluntary activities
- removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action.
These actions are described further below.
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.
If you are a professional services member of staff, you too are covered by ASOS and working to contract.
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:
- We all withdraw our labour for strike days and do not mitigate it once we return, and;
- 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.
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’.
Below we give details on how you can apply to the central UCU fighting fund, and the local Sheffield UCU hardship fund. We recommend that the first port of call for members who need financial support be the central fighting fund—UCU nationally has vastly more resources than we do locally.
We know that national strike pay may still leave some members experiencing hardship, however, either because of the level of deductions or because of their personal situation, and our local hardship fund is very healthy and able to support members in these circumstances.
Most importantly, if you need financial support in order to be able to participate in strike action, then we want you to know that you are encouraged to apply. Our members are in a wide array of financial situations, and we do not want these to be an impediment to your participation in this collective action.
Please email us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Note that the clock has reset for any strike fund claims for the beginning of action in November 2022, i.e. members can claim for up to 11 days again from the second day of action (25th November 2022).
UCU Fighting Fund
Details relating to the National fighting fund are available here.
Members earning below £30,000 pa are able to claim £75 per day following the second day of action, and members earning more than this are able to claim £50 per day.
SUCU Hardship Fund
The SUCU hardship fund is made up of solidarity donations and branch funds, and is designed for members who are disproportionately hit financially by taking part in industrial action, e.g:
- sole-income households,
- members on hourly-paid,
- part-time or fixed-term contracts,
- people who have recently had periods of lower pay due to parental/adoption/sick leave or other industrial action;
- or due to other personal circumstances.
Claims from lower paid members and those on insecure contracts will be prioritised.
All information will be treated as strictly confidential. It will be seen only by the SUCU administrator and the SUCU Committee members responsible for agreeing payments.
Donations to the fighting and hardship funds
This section contains information on how to donate to the central UCU fighting fund, and the local Sheffield UCU hardship fund. If you know any organisations or individuals who might be in a position to donate to either or both, please do let them know this information.
We want members to be financially supported so they are able to take part in industrial action without impediment, and a strong fighting fund is crucial to our action.
We ask members who have a dispensation not to strike (due to e.g. long term illness or parental leave) to consider donating your earnings for strike days to either the central UCU or local hardship fund.
Details on donating to the central UCU fighting fund can be found at this link.
If you wish to donate to the Sheffield UCU hardship fund, you can do so using these details:
- Account name: UCU Sheffield 70 Hardship Fund
- Sort code: 60-83-01
- Account number: 20391171
- Account Type: Business
- Please get in touch if you have any questions.
Prior to strike action
It is your legal right to NOT formally notify anyone in advance that you are intending to take strike action. If your manager asks you in advance or during action, you can and should reply that your union has advised you that you shouldn’t answer this.
After strike action
If your manager asks you after strike action whether you took it, and whether you are participating in action short of a strike, you must answer them truthfully.
University management are asking you to complete a notification form for the November strike action, and they have also created a notification form for action short of a strike.
It is our recommendation that you complete a notification form for strike action after you have taken the strike action when asked to do so by a University manager, but not one for action short of a strike.
We recommend members not fill in the ASOS notification form. If ASOS actions make it important for members to complete these forms, we will let members know, and also update this guidance.