We remain hopeful that Universities UK (who represent the employers on USS matters) and UCEA (who represent the employers on pay) will return to meaningful negotiations ahead of the planned industrial action. Equally, we are determined to secure the fair pay and pensions to which we are entitled.
Our advice between now and then is that you should write to the Warden, Frances Corner, firstname.lastname@example.org, asking her what steps she is taking to avoid the dispute and also to intervene with the employers’ bodies. Talk to your students and ask them to contact the Warden as well. Come along to one of our strike committees (details will be posted here) or get in touch with your Departmental rep.
We’ll be sending you a lot of emails over the coming weeks. Please read them, and talk to us if you need to – we are here to support you. We know this is tough and we’re committed to ensuring that all of our members are supported to undertake the action asked of them.
Here is the latest information for members. This is a long document, but it’s important – please read it all!
NOTE: UCU nationally will be issuing detailed advice to all members ahead of the 25th November. This will include tailored advice for members who are visa-holders, detailed information about action short of a strike, and updated fighting fund information. We will update the local guidance below when this advice has been published. Please keep checking back.
UCU members are asked to take strike action on the following dates:
|Week 1||Mon 25th||Tues 26th||Weds 27th||Thur 28th||Fri 29th|
|Week 2||Mon 2nd||Tues 3rd||Weds 4th|
When you are on strike, you do not work.
This includes time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, research, events, or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. Don’t do any work!
We believe that the University will be deducting pay on the basis of 1/365th of your annual salary per strike day as it did during the 2018 strikes.
We don’t yet know what arrangements will be in place to ensure continuity of service in USS. We’ll update you when we have that information.
If you are on a research-only contract and you are taking strike action, you should not work and should follow all other advice.
Research-only externally funded contracts:
If you are employed by the University on an externally-funded contract and you take strike action you should not work and should follow all other advice. However, if your employment contract is with an external funding body, or any other body or agency, you should not strike.
If you are employed on an hourly-paid contract and you take strike action, you should not work and should follow all other advice.
PLEASE NOTE: in order to be eligible to claim from the fighting fund, all Associate members must ensure that you have ‘standard free’ membership, not student membership. This is essential. You can update your membership via MyUCU (you will need your membership number, which you can find in the email welcoming to you to UCU).
If you are on research leave and you take strike action you should not work and should follow all other advice.
Annual leave/parental leave/sickness absence:
If you are not at work for these reasons during strike action, you cannot strike. This is the only ‘dispensation not to strike’ that our members have, and we encourage you to donate any earnings to the local hardship fund if you can.
Action Short of a Strike
Members will also be taking action short of a strike starting Monday 25th November and continuing until further notice. This might include:
- working to contract
- not covering for absent colleagues (unless your contract specifies that you do; for example, being asked to cover classes or teaching for a colleague who is unwell)
- not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action. This includes any scheduled teaching activity which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and applies to all UCU members, not just those directly responsible for the relevant lecture or class. You should refuse to reschedule this activity when asked, stating in response that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike. You should also not share materials that would have been covered in a lecture or class cancelled due to the strike.
- not undertaking any voluntary activities (that is, work you have a choice about. This will differ by contract but, for example, working on a Saturday is voluntary for many members)
Marking and assessment
We are not yet engaged on an assessment boycott, however if you have marking period which includes the strike days, you should not mark or assess during that time. This will mean the assignment grades etc, will be handed back later than the published dates.
If you are a professional services member of staff, you too are covered by ASOS and working to contract and there is specific guidance for PS staff from UCU nationally available here.
Working to contract means abiding strictly by the terms of your employment contract. If you’re in any doubt about what you are required to do, check your contractual documents – your offer letter, statement of main terms and conditions and/or any staff handbook. Contact us for further advice if you need it.
Taking action short of a strike does not mean that you can refuse a reasonable request from your manager to undertake something that isn’t covered by the examples above. How reasonable any request is will depend on the terms of your contract and custom and practice. If in doubt – or if your actions are challenged by someone senior to you – temporarily suspend your action and contact us for guidance.
Notifying the University
You are NOT required to formally notify anyone in advance of 25th November that you are intending to take action. If your manager asks you in advance, you can reply that your union has advised you that you shouldn’t answer this. If your manager asks you whether you are taking action short of a strike on or after 25th November, you should answer them truthfully. However, you should not answer any such query while you are undertaking strike action. If your manager asks you after strike action whether you took it, answer them truthfully.
We recommend that you complete a notification form for strike action after you have taken the strike action, but not one for action short of a strike.
If you experience problems or need guidance on notifications, get in touch and we’ll help.
Financial Support for Strike Action
UCU Fighting Fund
Members earning over £30,000 pa can claim strike pay after the third day of action for up to £50 per day. Members earning below £30,000 pa can claim £75 per day from the second day of action. Financial support will be prioritised to lower paid members and those on insecure contracts. Full information and details of how to apply will be circulated as soon as we have them.
We strongly encourage you to apply to the fighting fund if you need to. If you can manage without, or claim a lower amount, please do.
GUCU Hardship Fund
Your first port of call should be the central fighting fund – UCU nationally has vastly more resources than we do locally. We recognise, though, that national strike pay may still leave some members experiencing hardship; either because of the level of deductions or because of their personal situation.
Members who are sole-income households, or are on precarious or part-time or temporary contracts, may be particularly affected. We will circulate information about how to apply to the local hardship fund as soon as we can.
GUCU have asked the SMT at Goldsmiths to agree to the spread of any deductions over a seven month period. Last time around SMT agreed to deductions over a four month period, so hopefully they will at least agree to this as a minimum. GUCU have also asked that those members on fractional contracts working less than 0.5 FTE are not subject to deductions. This has yet to be confirmed.
Information for migrant members
Members who are on Tier 2 migrant visas can take part in the action. Since the UCU industrial action in early 2018, there have been changes to the immigration rules that make explicit that unpaid leave for the purposes of industrial action is exempt from the reporting duties for sponsors of Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas. The change was announced in July 2018 by Sajid Javid (see full statement here):“It is not the Government’s policy to prevent migrant workers from engaging in legal strike action; and, to date, I am not aware of any case where a migrant worker has had their leave curtailed, or been removed, as a result of having engaged in legal industrial action. However, to put the matter beyond doubt, I will be making changes to the guidance and Immigration Rules for migrant workers (under the Tier 2 and 5 immigration routes) and their sponsors.” Strike action has been added to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay.
Student Support for Strike Action
UCU and the NUS are sister unions, and we have support for this action from them both nationally and locally. Goldsmiths Students’ Union issued a statement on 25 October supporting our action and NUS nationally released a joint statement with UCU in early September.
We continue to working closely with Goldsmiths SU on this action and we are incredibly grateful for their support and solidarity which we do not take for granted.
Pickets and Teach Out Programme
Please join one of our picket lines. If you were a member in 2018 you will remember that our pickets were scenes of fun, creativity, performance, solidari-tea, music and fancy dress. We will be picketing across the campus from 8am and will soon be issuing a Doodle poll which you can sign up to. Please do make the case for our action to everyone you talk but please do allow students access to the Liibrary, practise rooms and student services where they require it. Please note we are in the process of organising more detailed guidance on regard this last point of student access to practice rooms and student services in the coming days.
We are currently putting together a programme of alternative events for strike days. Members, students and guests will be delivering talks in the Students’ Union and some other local venues on all strike days on a whole host of topics that showcase some of the fascinating work we do here. As soon as the programme is fully finalised, we’ll share it with you. In the meantime, if you’d like to volunteer to deliver a talk, please contact email@example.com.
Making picketing more accessible:
We appreciate that being outside for extended periods of time, often standing up, and holding placards can be challenging. Here’s some advice on how to make that process easier:
- Organise picketing shifts within your department so that not everyone needs to be there for the whole picketing period (your departmental rep/contact should be able to help with this)
- Feel free to bring along a small camping chair or similar if you need one, but do take care not to block the pavement or prevent anyone else’s access to the building
- If you have a medical condition that might require immediate access to a toilet, feel free to use the one closest to you regardless of whether or not it is behind a picket
- Remember that the Students’ Union and Library are all ‘neutral spaces’ that you are free to use throughout strike days.
- Feel free to take a break from the picket if you need one.
- Please read and familiarise yourself with UCU’s guidance on picketing. If in doubt, please call the picket supervisors (names to be announced soon).
Further Information and Resources
We’ll email you about these and publicise them on Twitter – please do come along. If you’re having a departmental UCU meeting and you’d like a branch officer to come along too, get in touch.
Background to the dispute
There is an enormous amount of information now in the public domain about our ongoing disputes over both the USS scheme and pay and equalities. There’s lots of information at the UCU website on pensions here and on pay here. There are also valuable resources (including draft out of office messages –see below) at Branch Solidarity Network’s site.
We recommend that you set these up starting from the 25th November and leave one or both on (depending on the date) until the dispute is over.
Please note that my availability is likely to be severely affected from 25 November to 4 December when UCU members at Goldsmiths, along with dozens of other universities, will be taking strike action in response to rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions. If you would like more information about the dispute, please go to https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-explained and https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10335/Pay-and-equalities-not-enough-already. If you are a student, please do contact Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what steps Goldsmiths is taking to avoid a dispute.
Out of office (Strike Days)
I am not able to check email today as members of Goldsmiths UC are taking industrial action, along with members at dozens of other universities, in response to rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions. Members of Goldsmiths UCU will be on strike from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December. Please do not email on these days as I will not be able to respond to emails sent to me on strike days on my return. If you would like more information about the dispute please go to https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-explained and https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10335/Pay-and-equalities-not-enough-already, and do contact Frances Corner, the Warden of Goldsmiths on email@example.com to find out what steps Goldsmiths is taking to avoid a dispute.
An Appeal from your Branch Officers
We need your help. This is voluntary work on our part – the paid time we get to undertake UCU business, which is called facility time, doesn’t remotely match the work on our own time we do on behalf of all our members. We support individual members through casework, negotiate policy, contracts and terms and conditions, campaign on important issues facing the sector and much besides.
If you’d like to get involved with any aspect of the current dispute, or are interested in otherwise becoming more active in GUCU, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.