Strike action - update (25/01/2023)
The University and College Union (UCU) have announced that they will go on strike for 18 days between February and March in disputes over pay and conditions.
This includes staff at UAL and so is likely to have an impact on UAL students.
The confirmed strike dates are as follows:
February: 1st, 9th and 10th, 14th, 15th, and 16th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, 27th and 28th
March: 1st and 2nd, 16th and 17th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd
What is UCU and why have they voted to strike?
The University and College Union (UCU) is the largest trade union for academic and professional staff in post-16 education, representing over 130,000 staff such as lecturers, administrators, technicians, etc. across the UK, including staff at the University of Arts London, where there is an active UCU branch (UAL UCU).
The strikes come after UCU members overwhelmingly voted 'yes' to industrial action last month in two historic national ballots over attacks on pay and working conditions as well as pension cuts. Despite the result, vice-chancellors have not made any improved offers.
In the pay and working conditions dispute, the union's demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis and action to end the use of insecure contracts. Employers imposed a pay rise worth just 3% this year following over a decade of below inflation pay awards. A third of academic staff are on some form of temporary contract.
In the pension dispute, UCU is demanding employers revoke the cuts and restore benefits. The package of cuts made earlier this year will see the average member lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income. For those at the beginning of their careers the losses are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The UK university sector generated record income of £41.1bn last year with vice chancellors collectively earning an estimated £45million. UCU said the sector can more than afford to meet staff demands.
What is Industrial Action?
Industrial action covers a few types of temporary, collective actions that staff can take if they are dissatisfied with how their employers have dealt with issues in the workplace when negotiations over these issues have failed. It is the last resort with the hope of bringing employers back to negotiations to meet staff demands. These actions can be:
Strikes: Staff stop working during the pre-agreed, temporary strike period. The strike stops at the end of the agreed period or when demands are met, whichever is sooner. Staff lose pay during the time of the strikes.
ASOS (Action Short of a Strike): Staff only work during hours outlined in their contract on the tasks they are contracted to complete. Hence, staff would not work overtime or do additional work out of their contract. This might not sound impactful on paper, but staff in higher education have large workloads and are often expected to go beyond their contracted hours. Therefore, not doing so counts as a refusal to do some work.
Current Action scheduled - how might this affect you?
UCU announced 18 days of strikes in February and March.
On the scheduled days staff on strike will not be working. On such days:
Students might have lectures cancelled and be unable to access other services that staff usually facilitate.
Staff won't do other work like plan classes or mark students' work.
There might be staff and supporters standing on picket lines around university buildings, raising awareness of their strike and encouraging people to support the strike by not using the university on strike days.
On the days that staff are working, bosses can ask staff to priorities different tasks in their contract. For example, if a staff member has been on strike Monday - Wednesday, when they come in on Thursday, their boss might ask them to focus on marking, or on organizing a particular event.
How to Support UCU Action
You can 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 with 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!
Students can hold solidarity demonstrations near picket lines and engage with other students about the issues of the strike.
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.
Students can’t physically prevent someone from entering their place of work or study – or act in a way that would constitute a breach of the peace. You should also be mindful of local codes of conduct before carrying this out, in case your university rules against disrupting other students’ learning, preventing students or staff from entering campus, or is monitoring attendance during the strike.
Making a Complaint
We understand that although students may personally support the UCU strike, they may also have concerns about missed teaching, upcoming assessments and disruption. This is a normal concern to have and we empathize that many of you may be feeling worried, even if your classes have already finished by the time strike action takes place.
Mitigation by course teams after industrial action may not take the form of a “like-for-like” replacement of missed teaching and learning. The intention is to ensure that the agreed learning outcomes of your course can still be delivered.
If a suitable arrangement has not been met with your course team or you remain dissatisfied as a result of the impact of the industrial action, you are entitled to raise this issue through UAL's complaints procedure. You can read more about this here.
We are advising students doing so to consider the points below:
Where possible UAL should try and mitigate the impact on delivering your agreed learning outcomes. Please keep in mind that strike action may be sporadic in nature.
What mitigation has been offered by your course team to help you out during this time?
What measures have been communicated to you and how?
What support has been offered by your course team? Have you been linked to any university services e.g. wellbeing or the Students’ Union?
Is the nature of your discipline/studies particularly affected by the disruption?
How can the Students’ Union Advice Service support you in making a complaint?
We can advise you on the process.
We can help you to put forward an argument in your complaint enquiry form.
We can read over any documents or emails you would like to include.
We can accompany you to any meetings or Complaint Review Panels.
We can support you in referring your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator if relevant.
Contact us to discuss your options:
Contact an Adviser here
Book an appointment here
UAL Services & Support
How to apply for extenuating circumstances - click here.
Academic Support - click here.
UAL Counselling and Health Advice Service- click here.
We are always here to ensure your academic interests and experiences are represented during your time at UAL. This also includes strike action and any experiences/disruption this may bring to you. There is a wide range of feedback mechanisms you can explore in raising your voice and experiences such as:
Contacting your course rep – do feedback any issues to your course rep of whom will be able to raise this with the course team in subsequent course committees. This could be around assessments, access to facilities, timetables and teaching.
Do note that raising an official complaint will need to be conducted through the UAL complaints process.
*If you do not know who your course rep is please email email@example.com
Feedback to Arts SU – if you would like to raise any feedback with any issues or experiences you are having, you can always email this to firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Q&A function – we do have an open Q&A function at the bottom of this page from which you can submit a question and someone from the Students’ Union will respond.
*You will need to log into your SU website account to submit the question.