Industrial Action by the University and College Union (UCU) in winter 2019

On 31 October the University and College Union (UCU) announced we were one of 60 higher education institutions in the UK whose members voted in support of taking strike action, or action short of a strike, in relation to the on-going USS pension dispute and/or national pay negotiations.

The dates for the strike action were:

  • Monday 25 November – Friday 29 November (5 consecutive days)
  • Monday 2 December – Wednesday 4 December (3 consecutive days)

UCU also advised their members to begin action short of a strike (ASOS) from Monday 25 November. 

We worked hard to minimise the impact this industrial action had on our students and colleagues. We have been in regular contact with our students so they are aware of the plans we have in place. We also developed a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page for our students.

In addition to this, we have also developed a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section for our colleagues, which can be found below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the planned industrial action. This FAQ list will regularly be updated.

Information about strike days and what to do if you went on strike

If you participated in any of the strike days, it is important for you to complete an online Strike Action Notification Form and submit this to the Human Resources team by no later than 10am on the first day you return to work . This information will be shared with managers in your college / department / service to support any action necessary to maintain student learning.



  • Recovery of learning for disrupted teaching during the strike action
  • Review/amend January exam papers
  • Mark assignments to meet three week turnaround/formative deadlines if possible. If this is not possible, please keep your local Hub informed of when the marking will be complete.
  • Supporting REF preparations, in particular providing information for/writing of environment statements and impact cases studies, and outputs nominations where required.

All staff were expected to work normally during the industrial action. If you took part in industrial action is a breach of your contract of employment. The University will withhold 1/365 of your annual salary for each day you are on strike. For part-time staff this will be calculated on a pro-rata basis. 

In recognition of the support colleagues are providing to prioritise our students’ learning, and the fact that the eight days of strike action took place over two payroll periods, the University has decided that pay deductions for the strike action between 25 November and 4 December will be spread evenly over January and February 2020.  For full details on the University’s Policy on withholding of pay during industrial action see

Pension contributions will continue to be paid by both the employee and the employer based on your pay before any withholding of pay due to strike (or action short of a strike): this means that the period of strike action will count towards your pension benefits.

There is more information on this on the HR webpages

How will the strike action affect my pay and pension?

Postgraduate Teaching Assistants who took part in any strike action should complete an online Strike Action Notification Form and submit this to the Human Resources team immediately after their strike action ends. This form can be used to advise HR of the work they were scheduled to carry out on the day(s) they were on strike.

If you are paid via eClaims and you took strike action you should email immediately after you have returned to work. Please advise HR of the work you were scheduled to carry out on the day(s) you were on strike.

You will be paid for the hours you were scheduled to work and should submit your claim via eClaims as normal. You should have attended work on the hours you were scheduled to work. Alternative work may have been provided by your College at the same time you were scheduled to support the cancelled teaching session.

The HR webpages explain the decisions the University has taken on withholding pay for partial performance of your contract of employment. Colleagues returning to work after taking strike action have been advised of the activities they should prioritise before the end of the autumn term on Friday 13 December 2019. The University will not withhold pay if you complete the priority activities on time.

You are contracted to work the hours, and you must attend work and you will continue to get paid. If you have any queries, about the alternative work that you should be doing, please discuss with your line manager.

The University is working with the Guild and Students' Union in Cornwall to determine how to spend the pay that is withheld from staff who participate in industrial action. As well as supporting the work of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees (APACs), which will review and make decisions on degree awards and progression, additional resources have also been allocated to key services such as Student Wellbeing. All remaining withheld pay will be allocated to activities that support students affected by the strikes and we will continue to allocate further resources over the course of the next few months as the work to mitigate the industrial action continues. Our considerations relating to the allocation of these resources will also take into account the impact of industrial action across various parts of the University, including across Colleges and campuses.

The chart below provides an indication of the ways in which resources from withheld pay during the period of industrial action in Spring 2018 were allocated. 

We realise that this strike period and afterwards has been unsettling for many of you, and for many of our students, and we remain hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action. Since the ballots were announced in June we’ve been regularly meeting with colleagues across the University, as well as the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union, to carefully manage the potential impact any planned industrial action may have on our University community, and to put in place welfare measures that are the right ones for colleagues and students.

We would like to highlight resources available to support you, if needed. This includes our new self-help tool, Pro-Counselling, which can be used to access 24/7 telephone counselling via our online portal, an online wellbeing space, and face-to-face counselling.

How are students affected?

Students have received regular email updates, and a student-facing web page with FAQs has been set up A dedicated email address for students to ask questions is  

It is our intention that the January exams will go ahead as planned. We aim to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the questions set with regard to material that was disrupted during the strike action. It will not be mandatory for students to answer examination questions covering academic content where the delivery was disrupted during the strike.

Yes. There are recognised and long standing procedures at the University in relation to assessment, marking, progression to the following year and awarding of degree classification that will be enforced. The industrial action will not stop students being able to graduate or continue to the next year of their studies.

On the basis of the information currently to hand, the University is not considering any form of reduction in fees or compensation because we have mitigation plans in place to ensure that students suffer no detriment as a result of any impact that may be incurred. The University is keeping full records of any and all impacts of the industrial action to ensure this is the case.

No. Any international students who are required to register their attendance for Tier 4 Visa purposes should be reassured that any teaching sessions they may have missed as a result of industrial action would not have been recorded and so will not affect their attendance record.  Students’ Tier 4 visa status will therefore not have been affected by the industrial action.

Further information

The University’s policy on withholding of pay during industrial action is set out online at

We are already working jointly with the UCU branch on issues relating to the use of casual and fixed term employment, the gender pay gap and equality, workloads and wellbeing. We have also establishing a Working Group on Fair Employment For All to agree changes to working arrangements so that all regularly timetabled teaching is delivered by staff employed on standard contracts of employment; the use of fixed term contracts is reduced; and Postgraduate Teaching Assistants receive standard paid time allowances for preparation, marking and associated activities.

At national level, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents higher education institutions in national pay negotiations, has proposed further joint work on the non-pay elements of the trade union claim and joint meetings with trade unions have taken place on 26 November, 17 December and 10 January.

On the USS pension scheme, the second report of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was published on 13 December. Both UCU and Universities UK have welcomed the report and 5 meetings have been arranged in January 2020 to progress its recommendations. These talks, which will be facilitated by the independent chair of the JEP, will involve UUK, UCU and the USS Trustee. The UCU Higher Education Committee will meet on 30 January to consider the UCU’s next steps and information will be shared with the University community once the outcomes of this meeting are known.