Information about strike days and action short of a strike.

Next phase of industrial action

UCU members have been deciding the next phase of the dispute and industrial action through a legal ballot, branch meetings, delegate conferences and meetings of national representatives. The outcomes will be announced shortly. Keep an eye on emails from UCU head office and the local branch (check the junk folder in case Outlook is over-filtering), and the UCU national website ucu.org.uk

Action in the previous phase of action

Following the collective democratic decision, all members of UCU University of Leeds Branch were called to strike, initially on 1, 2 and 3 of December 2021, and to take industrial action short of a strike from 1 December. The spring term strike dates were:

  • week 1, five days: Monday 14 to Friday 18 February
  • week 2, two days: Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 February
  • week 3, three days; Monday 28 February, Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 March

followed by Monday 21 March to Friday 25 March, alongside Unison members on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 March.

This action is not instead of negotiating, it is because the negotiators for the senior management of universities, including ours, are not seriously engaging in the negotiations, they seem to want to defeat university staff rather than work with us. By their intransigence, senior management of universities have left us having to take industrial action to try to get them to come back round the negotiating table with some meaningful offers instead of excuses-why-not.

For all questions about the industrial action including action short of a strike and working to contract please see:

HE disputes frequently asked questions (national UCU website)

If your question isn’t answered there, your UCU department rep may be able to help, or email ucu@leeds.ac.uk. Branch officers are often unable to answer the number of individual questions they sometimes get in advance of a strike, so in the run-up to any action – please check the national website first before emailing them.

Resources

Leeds UCU slides for students

TikTok explainers tiktok.com/@leedsucu (from December 2021 strikes)

National UCU graphics and posters

Out of Office message for strike days – feel free to modify:  I am on strike today in support of my trade union’s (UCU) disputes with our employers over cuts of 35% to guaranteed pensions, pay cuts, casualisation, equality pay gaps and unsafe workloads.

Email signature – feel free to modify: I support the UCU industrial action over cuts of 35% to guaranteed pensions, pay cuts, casualisation, equality pay gaps and unsafe workloads.

You can find all the background information and the latest news on the UCU national website at ucu.org.uk/hedisputes

There’s more on the continuing attempts, by its own trustees with the acquiescence or support of the senior management of universities including ours, to critically undermine our healthy and robust pension scheme at leedsucu.org.uk/pensions

For more updates see branch members’ emails and the branch Twitter, Facebook and TikTok accounts.

Sign up for picket duty (includes question about making picketing accessible for you)

There will be picket lines at every entrance to the campus from 7.30am to 11am. There will also be a virtual picket between us all and our work on on our screens and desks at home!

(If you can’t get in for 7.30am, for example because of transport, caring responsibilities or health reason, come when you can.)

On the day, sign in at the pink gazebo by the main entrance (to the left of the Parkinson steps) when you arrive to picket.

At the end of the picket come round to the pink gazebo.

The Running Picket will happen most/all strike days – meet 9:30 at the pink gazebo to warm up. All welcome – one lap of the campus is approximately 3km but some people do 2 or 3 laps.

Online picketing:

  • join virtually using social media (tag @leedsucu and use the hashtags #OneOfUsAllOfUs and #UCUStrike) Photos of #dogsonpicketlines and #babiesonpicketlines etc all very welcome!
  • contribute to our new Solidarity padlet https://padlet.com/uculeeds/solidarity – please add any solidarity photos from far and wide, pics of what you are doing instead of work. (Please add captions to any image for accessibility and include your name)
  • virtual running picket – do your run at home and tweet or padlet your photos

Rallies

There will be an end-of-picket rally each day at 11am at or near the Parkinson steps.

Picket line songbook: as pdf or Google Doc

Pickets, rallies and neurodiversity. Information for students, support staff and technical staff (people not in UCU), who might need to avoid noise and crowds. (Requested by LUU Neurodivergent Society.)

UCU members in University of Leeds Branch are able to access both the national UCU fighting fund and the local industrial action hardship fund, subject to the rules of those funds.

Members of the branch, as well as branches of other trade unions and political parties, have donated to the national and local funds to support members so everyone can strike.

How to apply to, or donate to, the national UCU fighting fund

The local industrial action hardship fund is aimed especially at members who are hourly paid, on low pay or otherwise in a financial situation which would prevent them from striking. Striking is not easy, we’ll all need to make sacrifices, but if you are in this situation then this fund is here to support you and enable you to participate in the strike.

Applications to the local hardship fund need to be made after you would have been paid, because you will need to include evidence the deduction or lack of payment. The branch cannot guarantee an application to the hardship fund will be accepted and the amount paid will depend on the number and size of applications and the number and size of donations.

For details of how to apply see local industrial action hardship fund

If you can please donate to the UCU University of Leeds branch hardship fund by direct bank transfer to: UCU Leeds LA29 (Hardship Fund), Unity Trust Bank, Account Number: 20391511, Sort Code: 60-83-01.

Who are UCU and why are you striking?

Strike rally on Parkinson steps with Leeds Student Staff Solidarity banner

UCU is a trade union of over 13,000 academics, researchers, tutors, administrators, IT staff, librarians and postgraduate research students in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education & training organisations across the UK. As a trade union, we fight for good working conditions for our members and for the health of the sector as a whole.

We are fighting across two separate disputes, which cover a range of issues.

Leeds UCU a quick guide to 4 fights and pensions, for students

Working conditions and pay: excessive and unsafe workloads which have been perpetuated for years and have got even worse over the pandemic; massive over-reliance on precarious contracts; engrained and embedded inequalities including pay and progression gaps; real terms pay cuts. You can find out more about this dispute, known as the Four Fights dispute, here https://www.ucu.org.uk/he2021

Pension cuts: massive changes to our retirement benefits which will see a typical member lose 35% of their pension. You can find out more about our pensions dispute here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss

That sounds familiar…..?

Yes. If you were a student in 2019-20 you will remember that we took industrial action during that year on these disputes. In fact, if you go back to 2017-18, you may remember our industrial action on the pensions dispute. In 2018, we were made promises which led to us ending our strike; those promises have since been broken. In 2020 we stopped striking and returned to work, moving to remote working and teaching and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a thank you, we were given a 0% pay rise last year, staff on fixed term contracts were laid off and our working conditions have got worse. This has to stop.

Aren’t these national issues, not Leeds issues?

National issues are Leeds issues. Leeds staff are being hit by pension cuts and real terms pay cuts. Leeds staff are hugely overworked. Too many Leeds staff are on insecure contracts. In 2020, Leeds reported a gender pay gap of 18.5%, higher than the sector average. Across universities the race pay gap is 17% and the disability pay gap is 9% – Leeds doesn’t have the race and disability data but we know this gap exists at Leeds.

All of these issues impact students. If you are an undergraduate or taught postgraduate, some of the people teaching you are postgraduate research students, often hourly paid and on very poor contracts which they need to fund their studies. Your lecturers, personal tutors and support staff are exhausted, working long hours and often on insecure contracts – this means they can’t do their job properly and you suffer. The lack of staff of colour and disabled staff has an ongoing impact on what and how you learn. And students are our future – some of you may well want to join us as academics, researchers or professional services and support staff. We are fighting for you too.

We need national action to improve the higher education sector UK-wide. Leeds management can give authority to the national bodies that represent them in negotiations to make improved offers and they need to do so in order to resolve this dispute.

Can’t you go back to negotiations and avoid strike action?

We would love to – but our employers refuse to make any better offers. Universities have been told what they need to do: tell their negotiating bodies to make a better pay offer, commit to meaningful national agreements and action on job security, workload and equality pay gaps; withdraw the current proposed changes to pensions and seek a negotiated settlement. If they don’t do this, we will strike.

What is a strike?

We do no work on the days we are on strike: no research, no administration, no teaching, no meetings, no emails. In return, we are not paid for those days.

On strike days, you will see physical and virtual picket lines – striking union members standing at campus entrances with leaflets and banners. Please come and talk to us and ask us your questions!

What can I do to support you?

If a member of staff – a lecturer, tutor, support staff or anyone – that you know tells you that they are striking, tell them you support them – this will mean a great deal to them!

If you are a postgraduate research student – join us. If you do paid work for the university (or any other university), you can join on full free membership and strike with us (we have a strike fund to help with the income you will lose). If you do not do paid work for the university, you can still join on student free membership and stand in solidarity with us. (And yes, free means you don’t pay whilst you are a student)

Find us on FacebookTwitter and Tiktok

The National Union of Students support our action and have launched a petition calling on employers to come back to the table: please sign it at https://www.nus.org.uk/articles/student-views-on-ucu-strikes-revealed-by-nus

There’s a student group called Leeds Student Staff Solidarity: connect with them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LeedsStudentStaffSolidarity), Twitter (@SSSleeds) or email them at Leedsstudentstaffsolidarity@gmail.com

Students can show solidarity by not crossing the picket line and not attending lectures or classes. BUT, if you are on a Tier 4 visa you should attend all lectures and study activities as normal or it is likely to be counted as an unauthorised absence, reportable to the Home Office.

Lobby Leeds University Union to support UCU in this dispute.

Complain to the Vice Chancellor of the University (vice-chancellor@leeds.ac.uk and copy to ucu@leeds.ac.uk). Whether you are in favour or against the strike your opinion is important and student concerns need to be heard. UCU always asks that the pay we lose through striking is put towards the Student Hardship Fund and student mental health support, and you could ask for this too.

Teach outs

We are be striking but we love teaching and learning, so striking staff are offering teach outs on subjects which interest them, for students, for staff, for members of the community, for everyone, for free.

Teach out programme

Informal members meeting 21 February

Informal meeting for members Monday 21 February at 4pm. This is a space to hear any updates we have about the dispute and generally to meet people and have discussions. It’s members only – it is not a decision making meeting but will be a useful space to hear from people and discuss what is happening. 

For meeting link see email from Chloe Wallace sent 4pm 17 February.

Why university staff are striking and taking industrial action short of a strike

Note: this is from December 2021. For the latest updates from UCU nationally about the disputes see ucu.org.uk 

UCU members are taking strike action in two national disputes, one over pension cuts and one over pay and working conditions. Leeds University UCU members will be on strike.

UCU has called on university bosses to urgently start negotiating to avoid disruption across UK campuses before Christmas. The disputes are over cuts of 35% to guaranteed pensions, pay cuts, casualisation, equality pay gaps and unsafe workloads.

In the pension ballot, 76% voted for strike action and 88% voted in favour of action short of strike. In the pay & working conditions ballot 70% backed strike action with 85% voting for action short of strike. The National Union of Students (NUS) is backing staff taking industrial action. NUS national president Larissa Kennedy said:  “Staff teaching conditions are student learning conditions, and we mustn’t forget many postgraduate students on casualised teaching contracts will be striking.”

The union is asking for pension cuts to be revoked; and for employers to improve their pay offer and commit to meaningful agreements and action on casualisation, workload, and equality pay gaps. But employers are currently refusing to revoke pension cuts or to even acknowledge issues like casualisation.

Staff pay has fallen by 20% after twelve years of below inflation pay offers; one third of academic staff are on insecure contracts; the gender pay gap sits at 15% and the most recent Higher Education Statistics Agency figures reveal that, of 22,810 professors in the UK, under a third (27%) were women and only 155 (1%) were black; staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.

As well as the three day walkout, staff at 64 universities have a mandate to take action short of strike. This will also begin on Wednesday 1 December and will include strictly working to contract and refusing any additional duties. This is set to go on indefinitely for the five months staff have a mandate to take industrial action for.

UCU also intends to reballot a number of branches that missed the 50% turnout threshold imposed by Tory anti-trade union laws. The union said the three day strike will just be the start of sustained disruption for the sector if employers fail to negotiate.

UCU intends to escalate its disputes next term, in the new year. If employers do not make improved offers, further industrial action is likely to continue into the spring, at which point branches that gain a mandate in their reballots will be able to join the action.

A recent report by the Office for Students shows total remuneration for vice chancellor’s averages £269k.

The union’s hardship fund prioritises the lowest paid strikers, which includes postgraduate students whose income is from giving infrequent hourly-paid lectures. We are seeking donations from the rest of the labour movement and those who support our fight to save higher education from the ravages of marketisation. To donate send by direct bank transfer to: UCU Leeds LA29 (Hardship Fund), Unity Trust Bank, Account Number: 20391511, Sort Code: 60-83-01.

Local press contact: ucu@leeds.ac.uk

For details of strike days and rallies please see that tab “about the action, for members”. For best picket line photos/visuals aim for between 8.45am and 10.45am. There will be picket lines at entrances all round the campus. For best general photos/visuals: end-of-picket rallies 11am on Parkinson Building steps (by the main university entrance).

We usually can’t provide urgent comment because branch officers are working delivering education and usually can’t take calls, but if more urgent than an email please call the branch administrator on 0113 343 5904, who may be able to arrange a fairly-urgent comment. On strike days please contact the national press office or, if on location, there will be a branch officer coordinating picket activity by the university main entrance, usually by a pink gazebo.

Contacts for UCU national press office

Media student interview requests: for practice interview requests about the strikes/dispute please email ucu@leeds.ac.uk. We will email the request around UCU reps and see if anyone can make time to do it. It is a really busy time for UCU reps, who are organising a strike on top of their massive day-job workload, so while we will do practice interviews if we can, we often can’t.

This page was last updated on 4 May 2022