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Industrial Action by the University and College Union (UCU) in winter 2020

How do I report that I was on strike?

If you participated in any of the strike days during February and March, you should complete the online Strike Notification Form in iTrent Self Service no later than 10am on the first day you return to work.

Just enter your username and password, click on the  ‘+ add other’ button,  enter the dates you were on strike, then click 'Save'.. A more detailed explanation of how to do this can be found online: iTrent Guide to recording strike days.

Any colleagues who have any questions about how to report their participation in the strike should email humanresources@exeter.ac.uk. Postgraduate Teaching Assistants should follow the instructions under 'I'm a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, how does taking strike action affect my pay?' below.

Your participation in the strike with be recorded in the University’s HR systems so that the adjustments to colleagues’ pay, and the reasons for them, are properly recorded and applied in accordance with University policy. For academic staff, the names of colleagues who have taken part in the strike action, together with the dates they are on strike, will be shared with colleagues in Colleges to help them assess the impact of the industrial action on students’ learning. This information will help them determine what action is necessary to maintain student learning and to ensure this is put into effect. Colleagues receiving information on individuals who have taken part in strike action are aware of their data protection responsibilities. The information will be retained in Colleges no longer than necessary to ensure that the impact has been assessed, appropriate mitigation measures are put in place and the 2019/20 academic assessment processes completed. The University is satisfied that its use of this information is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations.

As you will be aware, national level talks have been taking place throughout January, February and March in order to find a resolution to the on-going USS pension and national pay negotiation disputes. Here at Exeter, we are working actively with colleagues, student representatives and trade unions, through the Fair Employment For All working group, to address concerns about the employment of occasional teachers and the use of fixed term contracts. This will build upon the positive improvements we have already implemented for Postgraduate Teaching Assistants. We are also engaged with trade unions on workload and wellbeing initiatives and gender and race equality. These local initiatives build on the new national offer made by UCEA at the end of January. The Fair Employment For All working group will meet regularly from February to May and submit recommendations before the end of the academic year.

To read more about what is being done to address these issues nationally and locally, please refer to our FAQ below.

If you have any questions, then please email: industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk

Please find below some Frequently Asked Questions about the industrial action.

 

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

Key information

What is being done to resolve the dispute?

We are already working jointly with the Exeter 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 established 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 the national level, there have been four national-level meetings between UCEA and trade unions focusing on the issues of workload, gender pay gap and ethnicity pay and casual employment in the Higher Education sector. Following the meeting on 24 January, UCEA (representing universities as employers) have made a modified offer 

On the USS pension scheme, a series of tripartite group talks is ongoing between representatives of UUK, UCU and USS to discuss reform to the USS pension scheme. They will continue to meet through February and March.  Statements from all their meetings can be found online. We are hopeful that these talks will lead to a mutually acceptable outcome that ends the current pension dispute.

On 19 February, Universities UK and UCEA issued a joint open letter to all staff at universities affected by strike action. The letter provides an update on the significant progress to address concerns of university employees on pay, working conditions and pensions.

The Vice-Chancellor wrote to all colleagues and students on 17 February to provide an update on the actions we are taking to bring the disputes to an end.

 

 

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

If you participate in any of the strike days, it is important for you to complete the online Strike Notification Form in iTrent Self Service no later than 10am on the first day you return to work. Just enter your username and password, click on the  ‘+ add other’ button,  enter the dates you were on strike, then click 'Save'.. A more detailed explanation of how to do this can be found online: iTrent Guide to recording strike daysAny colleagues who have any questions about how to report their participation in the strike should email humanresources@exeter.ac.uk. This information will be shared with managers in your College/Department/Service to support any action necessary to maintain student learning. (Postgraduate Teaching Assistants should follow the instructions under 'I'm a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, how does taking strike action affect my pay?' below.)

 

Following a change in government rules in 2018, there is no risk to the sponsorship or leave to remain of a Tier 2 visa holder who takes part in lawful legal strike action. If a Tier 2 visa holder takes part in industrial action, on your return to work you should immediately report your absence online by clicking on the  ‘+ add other’ button and entering the dates you were on strike. This information will be recorded as “industrial action” and will not be reported to UK Visa and Immigration.

Your participation in the strike with be recorded in the University’s HR systems so that the adjustments to colleagues’ pay, and the reasons for them, are properly recorded and applied in accordance with University policy. For academic staff, the names of colleagues who have taken part in the strike action, together with the dates they are on strike, will be shared with colleagues in Colleges to help them assess the impact of the industrial action on students’ learning. This information will help them determine what action is necessary to maintain student learning and to ensure this is put into effect. Colleagues receiving information on individuals who have taken part in strike action are aware of their data protection responsibilities. The information will be retained in Colleges no longer than necessary to ensure that the impact has been assessed, appropriate mitigation measures are put in place and the 2019/20 academic assessment processes completed. The University is satisfied that its use of this information is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations.

How will the strike action affect my pay and pension?

All staff ARE expected to work normally during the industrial action. If you take 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. 

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

Postgraduate Teaching Assistants who take part in the strike action should email humanresources@exeter.ac.uk immediately after they return to work. Please include in your email the days you were on strike and the hours you were scheduled to work on these days. In addition to this, Postgraduate Teaching Assistants should claim for the hours they were scheduled to work on the days they were on strike in the usual way via iTrent. This ensures payments can be made correctly, and pay deductions for the strike period can be made in accordance with University guidelines. 

If you are paid via eClaims and you take strike action you should email e-claims@exeter.ac.uk immediately after you have returned to work. Please advise HR of the work you are scheduled to carry out on the day(s) you are 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 and 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. In recognition of the disruption experienced by students, the University will also be covering the cost of graduation robing for students graduating in ceremonies in both Summer and Winter 2020.

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 have asked colleagues to notify Human Resources if they take strike action, through iTrent Self Service. IN addition to this, Colleges and Services are provided with lists following strike action. If there are discrepancies in information provided, the employee will be contacted to clarify details. Disciplinary action could be taken if there are no mitigating factors with regards to any failure to notify of strike action taken.

We realise that this further strike period and afterwards will be very 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 http://www.exeter.ac.uk/students/industrial-action/. A dedicated email address for students to ask questions is industrialaction@exeter.ac.uk.  

It is our intention that the May 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.

During the period of industrial action in November/December 2019, if any international students missed any teaching sessions as a result of the industrial action their attendance was not recorded and therefore their attendance record was not affected. This meant if students held a Tier 4 visa their status was not affected by the industrial action.