A copy of the all staff email sent on 21 September 2023

Dear colleagues,

We write together with an update on industrial action, which we believe sets out a way forward here at York, and can act as a platform and example for employers and unions to work together in the sector's interests at the national level.

The context

This is a difficult time for all involved. UCU has live disputes in USS and Four Fights and the University of York is engaged in these via UUK and UCEA respectively. As we reach the end of the current mandate period, following the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB), both University management and the UCU Executive have engaged in a series of difficult negotiations to find a way forward that is best for us here in York, and that can potentially help to move us all towards renewed national negotiations.

Withdrawal of strike action

As a result of a period of negotiation and member consultation, UCU University of York has agreed a series of arrangements with the University, set out below, which have enabled UCU members to make the decision to withdraw participation in the strike days announced for next week (Monday 25 - Friday 29 September). This means the strikes at York will not go ahead next week. Students will be informed shortly of this news.

The agreed arrangements

Specific details for staff and Departments will follow, but in summary:

  • The University has agreed to extend the pause on pay deductions, so there will be no new deductions taken from 23 June onwards. This means staff who have participated in the MAB beyond the 23 June will not be subject to deductions.
  • The University is allocating funding to reflect the progress of marking and assessment, including:

  1. Staff who have been subject to marking and assessment deductions will have a payment to the value of 50% of those deductions included as part of the October/November payroll, including pension contributions.
  2. 50% of the funding will be shared at a Faculty/PS level to go towards professional services staff who have delivered additional work during the boycott and GTAs who have missed earning opportunities due to the MAB. We feel decisions about how to best support and recognise colleagues should be considered at the local level, so we anticipate Departments across the University may choose to do this in different ways.

With the announcement on 6 September about the end of the Marking and Assessment Boycott, colleagues are now encouraged to complete marking and set any outstanding assessments.

We have agreed key principles for how best to complete this work, with the collective agreement to aim for the end of Consolidation Week (Monday 6 November). Colleagues are not expected to work beyond contracted hours, or beyond the constraints of their workload model. Any individuals who consider that they cannot undertake a request to complete all of the outstanding marking should speak to their HoD as soon as the request is made.

More detailed information about how this will be implemented will be provided to staff in the near future.

Working together and challenging each other

As a union branch and employer, we will continue to challenge each other to bridge our different perspectives. The agreement set out above shows what is possible locally, but also what is possible nationally. We will continue to work together to help bridge divisions in the national debate, as well as continue to work on local issues relating to the dispute.

To build on our approach, which we shared with you earlier this year, we remain determined to address key sector issues and lead the way: most recently pushing for the independently led financial review, progressing the terms of reference for action on Four Fights issues, which include the pay spine, casual contracts, fixed term contracts, family friendly policies, pay gaps and workload. We are also committed to building a shared perspective on a sustainable approach to reversing the decline in real wages, by considering ideas like multi-year deals and medium term financial planning, which could be included in a UK level framework agreement. We will continue to make a shared case to the government and the opposition for fair and sustainable funding for the sector. We hope that through working together that we will model exemplary practice which will influence other institutions and our national bodies.

With best wishes,

Charlie Jeffery, University of York Vice-Chancellor and President
UCU York Executive Committee