What is a strike?
Strikes are a kind of industrial action often considered a last resort. It involves members of a trade union, in this case UCU, choosing to withdraw their labour during a dispute, often when negotiations have stalled, or a compromise solution has not been found. The ‘right to strike’ is internationally regarded as a basic human right.
When workers go on strike, they will form what is called a ‘picket’ outside their place of work. This is to encourage other workers to show solidarity with the strikers by refusing to cross into the workplace – for many, not crossing a ‘picket line’ is a point of principle.
What is action short of a strike?
Action short of strike is when staff take other action, such as limiting some work-related activities. On this occasion, UCU has confirmed that the planned action short of strike will consist of staff only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more.
The intention of ASOS is to slow down productivity and cause disruption by withdrawing the additional hours of activity that take place through goodwill, outside of contracted requirements.
Why are UCU striking?
The UCU are involved in two disputes, the first over Pay, Equality, Workload and Casualisation and the other over changes to the USS Pension Scheme.
They are striking because that have not been able to reach a resolution about these issues.
What is a picket line, and do I have the right not to cross this?
A picket line is where workers and union reps (‘picketers’ or ‘pickets’) stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking. Pickets may also ask people not to:
Pickets must not prevent people from going to work or doing their usual work if they want to do so.
According to the National Union of Students there is nothing in Code of Practice: Picketing which says it is illegal for students to show solidarity with staff who are on picket lines by joining them in their capacity as students.
Students cannot, however, be part of the picket lines as an official picket. This means that they cannot be identified as an official picket would be, for example with a UCU armband
Students cannot engage in the activity of an official picket, including persuading employees of the workplace to not enter. They also can’t physically prevent someone from entering their place of work or study – or act in a way which would constitute a breach of the peace.
Students can hold solidarity demonstrations near to picket lines and engage with other students about the issues of the strike.
You can also stand with staff on or near a picket line, but it should be clear you are not an official picket – it’s best to have a chat to the picket line supervisor (who will be easily identifiable) when you get there to say you are there to show solidarity and ask what is most useful for you to do!
Will my assessments be impacted?
You should complete and submit your assignments by the agreed deadline as normal. Most of your tutors will not be taking part in the strike action and will be invigilating at exams, marking work, and providing feedback as usual. Even if you have been told by one of your tutors, they will be taking part in the strike you should still submit your work by the stated deadline.
Your libraries, computer rooms, and other learning environments and services will be available as normal throughout the period to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.
If you feel that the strike action has impacted on your ability to submit an assessment, please contact your school so they can advise on the most appropriate course of action to support your circumstances.
How do I know my lectures will be impacted/ cancelled?
The university is working hard to ensure all teaching, exam invigilation, and other contact time progress as normal. Although the University is aware of a planned action from the 1-3rd Dec, staff do not have to inform the University in advance that they intend to take industrial action, so this might not be possible in every case. Where a member of staff takes industrial action on one day, it should not be assumed that they will continue to do so on other days. Therefore, you should attend classes as normal expect told otherwise.
How do to make a complaint about the impact of strike action/ action short of a strike?
If you feel that the steps that the University has taken to mitigate the impact of the strike on you have not been sufficient, you can submit a complaint through the strike-related student complaints process, and you can also contact the Students’ Union for advice.
What (other) rights do I have as a student?
The university have also published an FAQ guide ahead of the strike action and this can be found here