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Industrial action

Information for students about industrial action at the University of York.

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Your questions

We've provided answers to common questions below, but if you need more information please contact your department.

Contact us

If you have concerns about the impact of this action on your wellbeing, please contact the Student Support Hub:

student-hub@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 324140
Market Square

For any other enquiries:

industrial-action-enquiries@york.ac.uk

About the industrial action

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced 14 days of strike action to take place over a period of four weeks starting 20 February 2020.

Please note it is important that you attend your scheduled teaching, labs and other learning activities unless you have been told otherwise by your department. Not doing so means that you could miss teaching that is taking place and could affect your studies. This is especially important for students who have attendance as part of their visa requirements.

Departments will review teaching that does not take place and will make arrangements to mitigate the impact on students wherever possible.

Mitigations might include rescheduling teaching, providing complementary teaching, supporting learning in other ways and making adjustments to assessment.

Based on lessons learnt from last year we will be working very closely with the most heavily affected departments to explore any additional activities and contingencies we can put in place to minimise the impact of industrial action and deliver alternative learning opportunities or mitigations. Please keep your department informed of lost or affected teaching and learning so that they have an accurate picture of the impact on their students.

If by any chance you come across a picket line, you should be able to enter the building as usual. It is entirely up to you if you wish to engage or not with members of staff taking part in the industrial action. If you feel uncomfortable there is usually another entrance into the building you can use.

If you feel at any point you would like support for your personal wellbeing please see our student health and wellbeing pages for sources of help, advice and support.

Each year national level talks are held under the New Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (New JNCHES) which form the basis of the annual pay review. The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) is responsible for representing the participating employers in the JNCHES negotiations on the basic pay uplift for 2019/20. UCEA negotiates with the five Higher Education trade unions (EIS, GMB, UCU, UNISON and Unite). 

UCEA negotiate at a national level on behalf of 147 Higher Education Institutions. Pay negotiations conducted between March and April this year resulted in employers making a final offer of pay increases of between 3.65 percent and 1.8 percent. For more than half of the academic and professional services staff covered, their pay increases will be higher still, averaging at around 4.8 percent when taking into account pay progression increases as well. 

The final offer was rejected by the five participating unions and the dispute resolution procedure was invoked, and has since concluded, following two dispute resolution meetings on 16 and 25 July 2019. In the absence of agreement, UCEA advised the HE institutions participating in the round to implement the uplifts due from 1 August, as employers do not consider it reasonable to make colleagues wait to receive their increases. The University of York followed this recommendation and August salaries reflected these increases. UCU balloted for strike action over pay as well as pensions and so the proposed industrial action will cover both agendas. 

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (pension scheme) does not have sufficient levels of funding to cover its pension promises in the future. This proposal looks at increasing contributions into the pensions pot to sustain the scheme whilst looking at ways of changing and improving the way the scheme operates. Both employers and unions agree there needs to be a review of valuations and governance and we hope that there will be a return to the negotiation table to have those conversations.

We value our staff and we are committed to ensuring that USS remains one of the very best pension schemes in the country, however, it needs to be sustainable so that members for years to come receive the same levels of benefit.

In the first instance, contact your department or your disability advisor.  Additional support is available to those who need it.

Withheld pay from the autumn term will be used for student-facing initiatives. It's important that we give proper consideration to how best to use this money to ensure it has a positive impact on students who have been affected. 

A list of possible initiatives is being discussed with the presidents of YUSU and GSA at the first of the forthcoming meetings with the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students. 

We want to act quickly and so we will announce and put in place any agreed initiatives as soon as possible.

We understand the decision to take part in industrial action is not taken lightly and we respect the rights of our staff to participate.

We also take the health and wellbeing of our staff and students very seriously. We have made continuous investment in wellbeing services, recently launching a three year health and wellbeing plan, and we are working in close partnership with our trades unions to make further progress.

In terms of pay and conditions we are making good progress at a local level with the trades unions on the key issues of contractual arrangements (casualisation), workload and mental health, gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

At a national level on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions dispute, the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) set up by Universities UK (UUK)  and the UCU published its second report in December. The JEP2 report highlights a number of important recommendations that have been discussed over the last couple of months by the three main parties involved - UUK (representing employers/universities), UCU and USS (the pension scheme) Reports from these meetings have been very positive and a decision has been taken to continue them during February and March.

On the national pay and conditions dispute, there has also been considerable progress in productive talks between representatives of the five trade unions (for staff) and representatives of Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA for employers). 

Teaching and learning

It’s difficult to say at this point in time what level of impact we might see as we cannot predict how many staff will actually take part in industrial action. We do ask our staff to inform their department of their intention to strike, but they are under no obligation and so we often will not know the extent of the take up of support until the strike action begins.

All other University resources and support will remain open and available to students including catering outlets, shops, the Library, the Sports Village and student support services.

It is important that you attend your scheduled teaching, labs and other learning activities unless you have been told otherwise by your department. Not doing so means that you could miss teaching that is taking place and could affect your studies. This is especially important for students who have attendance as part of their visa requirements.

If your teaching does not go ahead, you will still be able to access all other facilities on campus, including the Library, and make use of online learning tools and resources.

If your scheduled teaching activities are cancelled your department will inform you as soon as they are made aware. Staff taking industrial action are not legally obliged to alert us in advance of their intention to strike and so there may be instances when we will only know about strike action if your lecturer does not turn up. We hope these instances will be rare or not happen at all.

If your department makes arrangements to mitigate lost teaching (for example, rearranges or makes alternative teaching and learning available) and you incur out of pocket expenses as a consequence (for example, additional child care or travel costs) you may submit your case for reimbursement by emailing industrial-action-enquiries@york.ac.uk. Claims will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and we may ask for evidence.

We truly hope that the majority of our students will see little or no impact on their studies and that mitigations will resolve most disruption to teaching and learning.

Where industrial action has taken place, departments will review any impact over the strike period and take action first to prioritise any adjustments to assessment, and then to plan to make any other mitigations required.

Students can be assured that exams and other assessments will not rely on anything that has been missed. Students will be informed of any further learning opportunities or resources to mitigate for missed teaching.

If at any point you still feel you have been adversely affected, there is a complaints process you can follow which starts with talking to your department or visit submitting a complaint in relation to the UCU strike action for more information.

This web page will be kept up-to-date. We will also email you with updates from the University Internal Communications address. Your department will also send you information and updates so please keep an eye on your inbox. Other queries can be emailed to industrial-action-enquiries@york.ac.uk 

If your teaching has been affected by the industrial action, then Exceptional Circumstances Committees can consider the impact on whole assessments, but this will be monitored and initiated by the department.

If you have personal circumstances other than the industrial action, or personal circumstances which have been compounded by the industrial action, you can of course apply for Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment in the normal way. You will need to provide independent third party evidence of the circumstances and their impact on you. The existence of the industrial action will not, in itself, be considered an exceptional circumstance except for whole cohorts taking a module.

We aren’t expecting that they’ll have to be. Departments will be adapting assessments, if necessary, to remove material where the teaching hasn’t been available. So, you’ll only be assessed on what you’ve been taught, with priority being given to the things that have been determined to be the most important skills and knowledge you can reasonably expect to have achieved in your degree. You will be told immediately if any sections of the syllabus are being removed from the assessment so that you can plan your revision accordingly.

But, given that the assessments are being set according to what you’ve been taught, we expect to retain the same high academic standards that will ensure the quality of your degree.

Departments have considered the impact of any missed teaching on deadlines for assignments. In some cases, they have determined that whole cohorts have been affected by missed teaching, and that an extension could mitigate that effect. Where this is the case, they have offered extensions to all students by the power of the Exceptional Circumstance Committee. Where this has not been offered for all students, it is because either the effect of the industrial action has already been mitigated in other ways, or because departments believe that there has been no impact which can be mitigated by extra time.

If you have personal circumstances other than the industrial action, or personal circumstances which have been compounded by the industrial action, you can of course apply for Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment in the normal way. You will need to provide independent third party evidence of the circumstances and their impact on you. The existence of the industrial action will not, in itself, be considered an exceptional circumstance except for whole cohorts taking a module.

Yes. Boards of Studies have been advised to consider what is missed, and to adjust assessments accordingly. For some modules, this will mean removing questions where material hasn't been covered, and for others, it will mean ensuring that there is adequate choice in the assessments to guarantee that students will not be required to write on material that hasn't been covered. 

In keeping with the University's commitment to maintaining academic standards, marks will not be changed or increased in response to the industrial action, instead the University is committed to ensuring assessments accurately reflect a student's achievements on the learning outcomes for the course.

If you supervisor is taking strike action, they may not be available during the period of industrial action. If this is the case, they will likely have an out-of-office notification on their email explaining their position. If you haven't heard directly from a supervisor that they are taking action, you should assume that your supervisor is available.

Contact us

If you have concerns about the impact of this action on your wellbeing, please contact the Student Support Hub:

student-hub@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 324140
Market Square

For any other enquiries:

industrial-action-enquiries@york.ac.uk