Branch president Chloe Wallace answers some initial questions about the planned industrial action. This post is from an email sent to branch members 17 November 2021.
You will have received yesterday afternoon notification from Jo Grady that we are called to take strike action on 1st, 2nd and 3rd December, and to work to contract from 1st December indefinitely. You will appreciate, I am sure, that a lot of decisions and plans have to now be taken very quickly both at national level and by Leeds committee and officers. I am mindful that many of you will have questions – I thought I would in this email set out some key points of what we know and what we know we have to decide/work through, to answer any immediate questions and reassure you that we are thinking about the rest of them! This is therefore a long email but necessarily so because of the range of questions people have – I’m afraid we don’t have the capacity to deal with lots of incoming emails with individual questions but we know there are a lot of different questions! But much of it will be reiterated over the next days, and advice and FAQs will be issued nationally, so feel free to skim/ignore if you have no particular questions right now!
1. Democratic process
I’ve had some queries about how the decision announced yesterday was reached. As I’ve explained, following our GM on Tuesday last week, our branch delegate went to a Branch Delegates Meeting on Friday. The questions asked at that meeting were a bit different to those we had originally been asked, but given the motion we passed we believe that Leeds answers were clear. We have been sent the report of voting and you can access it here (voting is weighted by size of branch). On USS Leeds voted for option A on industrial action, option B on reballots and yes on strategy. On Four Fights we voted for Option A on industrial action, option A on reballots and option A on strategy. As you can see, particularly on the matter of the number of days action, views varied and it looks as though HEC have tried to find a compromise. It is now for the whole union to make this work – it is clear that this needs to be a long fight. The NUS have already declared their support of UCU action and have published surveys suggesting robust levels of student support, and student solidarity groups are already organising, including at Leeds – and we will be producing more materials for students as we go.
2. Strike action
Many of you are veterans of strikes and pickets; many will be doing this for the first time. A few key points
- Remember that striking means doing no work at all – you can’t strike from one part of your job but not another (this is a matter both of union solidarity and of the law). So anything that you do as part of your job on those days should not be done. I anticipate national FAQs fairly soon, but want to be particularly clear that you should not plan to reschedule teaching or any other events
- You are not obligated to tell anyone that you will be striking although you will be asked to report your action afterwards. You should not respond to any requests to say you will be striking as that might be used to reduce the impact of the strike. We will send advice as to how to communicate with students (because we recommend that you do talk to students – just not managers)
- You will not be paid for the days you strike. Historically, the University’s position has been that pay deductions are carried out on the normal run of payroll. The last payroll date for December is 1st December, due to the early Christmas break, which means we anticipate the pay deductions should on that principle be made at the end of January. However, it is for the University to decide when deductions happen and how your strike action should be reported – we can, and will, make representations to them about it and we hope that the university will choose not to be punitive.
- We await confirmation about what is to be done in relation to strike pay from HQ – once we have that we will decide what to do about our local strike fund. Our local fund is healthy, although we will be fundraising, and we anticipate being able to support low paid, casualised and hourly paid staff in particular. To prepare for a long period of action, including possible deductions for action short of a strike, we need to do fundraising for the national Fighting Fund – branches without a current mandate are being asked to donate and I encourage you to share the donation link amongst connections and to donate yourself if you can afford it https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund
- We are known for our lively and colourful pickets which we hope can continue, but will be doing things a bit differently due to COVID and the need to be inclusive. Discussions are ongoing but if you have ideas of how we can ensure that our wonderful solidarity can be extended to those who cannot make it to the famous pink gazebo, please do share them.
- We are also mindful that our current remote/hybrid working will mean that striking may happen differently – again, we expect national advice but will also communicate as much advice as we can. For now, we remind you that it is university policy that any recording you make is under your control and cannot be used without your consent.
3. Working to contract (action short of a strike)
Working to contract is one form of action short of a strike (ASOS) and we expect national guidance to be produced. The plan is to escalate ASOS – so if the employers don’t move, we add in other activities (e.g.marking boycott). We need to work to ensure that it bites and thus will need ongoing dialogue and support amongst ourselves – we really do need to take it seriously. But please wait for national guidance. The point of working to contract is that you are within your contractual terms and thus pay should not be deducted (unlike a marking boycott where the university may claim the right to deduct pay by calling it partial performance) – but most of our contracts are quite vague so it needs care. You will hear more from us on this. Please remember however that the mandate for this starts on 1st December – there are legal requirements in relation to notice which mean we can’t start earlier than that
Dr Chloe Wallace
Associate Professor in Law
School of Law
University of Leeds.
Co-Director, Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education
Programme Leader, School of Law 4 year programmes
President, Leeds University UCU
This page was last updated on 2 December 2021