INITIAL POST (17th March)
In this post, we reiterate advice given in December 2019 after the first tranche of strikes, with the major difference that we are also asked to take new measures in the wake of the (partial) campus closure due to coronavirus. UCU has produced updated advice for members on coronavirus and their rights at work.
We will be asking the university, given the additional burdens on all teaching staff at this time and who are working incredibly hard, that the threat of withholding pay for ASOS is lifted, and the policy below needs to be reviewed urgently. The EUCU President made it clear in her discussion with the registrar yesterday that we will all want to do all we can to shift our teaching to digital and deal with the many students who are contacting us as an upmost priority. We realise as a union it is important right now that we all work together for the sake of everyone at the university and the wider community. The PVC/Registrars email should be reviewed in light of the situation as it is now and clear advice on priorities without the threat of sanctions is given to all staff.
As things stand currently:
The University’s policy of withholding pay for strike action reads “If you are participating in the UCU action short of a strike and you complete the priority activities following the timescale set out in the email sent from your Pro-Vice-Chancellor (for academic colleagues) or from the Registrar (for Professional Services colleagues) on Monday 16 March 2020, the University will not withhold any pay for breach of contract for action short of a strike. This includes the expectation of providing information to your College by Friday 27 March 2020 on the measures you have put in place in relation to these priorities. If you do not complete the priority activities in accordance with the timescale set out in this message, then the University will withhold 25% of each day’s pay from Monday 16 March 2020 until the priority activities are completed. ”
Members from across all Colleges have received an email from their respective College Deans on Monday 16th March, all these emails were almost identical and were seeking to minimise the effects of our industrial action, specifically
By 20 March:
- “Review/amend any summer term exam papers to ensure students do not have to answer questions on content that may have been interrupted during the strike – please bear in mind we have agreed with students that there will be no mandatory questions set on material missed as a result of the strike, even where it has been covered by alternative provision. In order to ensure that the Exams Office can re-print papers where necessary it is vital that you email any changes to papers to the relevant Hub. Changes notified to us after that date can only be handled via the use of erratum slips.
- Provide support to any final year/Masters dissertation students to ensure that they are supported with their projects.”
By 27 March:
- “Ensure the learning opportunities of any missed teaching are recovered by providing alternative educational provision by the end of this term. This could include putting material on ELE to support students to achieve the learning outcomes from sessions that might have been disrupted during the strike.
- Reschedule any missed timetabled assessments at the earliest opportunity.”
By 20 March: We need to minimise the disruption to students and staff caused by the Coronavirus as a priority and be able to plan for next Term.
By 27 March: This request is now not relevant to the current situation.
In general, the demand that teaching staff perform extra teaching activities in the period immediately following a strike over and above those they would have performed in that period, in such a way that overall no teaching is lost, undermines the right of teaching staff to withdraw their labour.
It is quite possible to conform to the requirements of the OfS without making this demand.
In the present case, demanding that teaching staff cram an extra fourteen days worth of teaching into the remainder of term, alongside teaching already scheduled for that period, creates a serious burden of stress on those staff and raises individual health and welfare implications. It may put the institution in breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (sec. 3), which apply to mental as well as physical health.
Such cramming would in any case be logistically impossible given the move to online teaching next week. It would also be detrimental to students’ education and indeed their wellbeing, especially at this time, when they are under huge stress.
Our ASOS does not include a marking and assessment boycott. UCU provides more detailed advice for working to contract and advice for academic-related and professional services staff. We will continue to update you here and provide further guidance in response to the threat.