skip to main content

UCU Industrial Action: Frequently Asked Questions for students

Written by Internal Communications
Published date 14 February 2020

UCU, the trades union for academic staff, is undertaking strike action on a number of days over four weeks, starting on 20 February. This industrial action is part of an ongoing national dispute relating to staff pay increases from 2019.

UAL will do everything possible to minimise any disruption to your studies. You should come into college as usual. Your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable or assessment arrangements.

We have also prepared a document with answers to frequently asked questions to help support you and respond to the questions you have been raising.

1.            Why have UCU voted for industrial action?

Pay for academic staff is negotiated on a UK-wide level between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which is the body which represents 174 universities nationally, including UAL, and UCU, the trades union for academic staff.

UCU at UAL have voted in favour of joining the ongoing industrial action in universities across the UK relating to a dispute over increases in pay. As well as the increase in pay, which UAL implemented in August 2019 and which constituted an rise in salaries above inflation, UCU at a national level has raised concerns about contractual arrangements, workload and mental health as well as gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

UCEA has had constructive dialogue with the trade unions on all these areas and made meaningful and substantial proposals. We hope that UCU will accept UCEA’s offer to make progress on these important issues and avoid the need for a strike.

2.            What is UAL’s position on the concerns being raised by UCU?

We don’t accept the claims that the UAL branch of UCU have made regarding the issues above, and have written to them directly to tell them that. Read more about our reply to each claim.

We do understand academic staff concerns about academic workload. We have offered to work with UCU to address this issue collectively. This offer has yet to be taken up. In the meantime, we aim to introduce several measures to reduce staff workload, ready for the new academic year. First, we will complete our work on academic workload and progression. Second, we will standardise remission hours for course leaders to allow them the time to undertake this. We will also specifically measure the academic staff experience through a new survey. Our existing actions to reduce workload have and will continue to include employing more academic staff.

UCU raise other concerns in their dispute. Many of these are not relevant to UAL, because we perform well against sector comparators on pay and conditions. Since 2009, staff have seen a real-terms pay increase against official measures. Our gender pay gap is already one of the smallest in the sector, though we are working to eliminate this gap entirely, and we will be addressing our ethnicity pay gap through UAL’s Race Equality Charter work. Finally, our Security of Employment agreement was agreed with UCU to address and create contractual arrangements with HPL staff.

UAL has always been open to maintaining dialogue with UCU and address their concerns. UAL is committed to a work environment where all staff feel valued and are treated fairly and with respect.

For these reasons we believe the call for industrial action is premature and the potential impact on the experience of our students cannot be underestimated. We encourage UCU to re-enter negotiations with UCEA to work on the areas of concern.

3.            How is UAL supporting students during the strike?

The University will do everything possible to mitigate the impact of any industrial action taken by staff on your course. Your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable as a result of strike action.

If you are dissatisfied with the arrangements that are put in place you can submit a formal complaint. Information about the complaints procedure is at:

https://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/academic-regulations/complaints-and-appeals/making-a-student-complaint

4.            Do I still come into university during the strike days?

You should come into College as usual and your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable or assessment arrangements.

5.            Will my lectures and other classes be rescheduled?

Your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable including rescheduling of classes if this is required.

6.            Can I claim compensation for changes to my timetable during the strikes?

Your course team will let you know about any changes to your timetable as a result of strike action. The University will do everything possible to mitigate the impact of any industrial action taken by staff on your course. If you are dissatisfied with the arrangements that are put in place you can submit a formal complaint. Information about the complaints procedure is at:

https://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/academic-regulations/complaints-and-appeals/making-a-student-complaint

7.            Can I cross a picket line to come into university?

You may find that some staff on strike protest outside the building, forming what is called a picket line. People on the picket line must not prevent students from entering the university buildings if they wish to do so.