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Industrial action February – April 2018 – FAQs

A small proportion of our staff took part in the industrial action, which started on 22 February and has since been suspended. This is a national dispute affecting 61 universities, called by the University and College Union (UCU) due to proposed changes to future pension arrangements.

On Friday 13 April, the University and College Union (UCU) announced that all current and planned industrial action at Southampton and other universities is suspended.

This gives students important reassurance that they won't be affected by further disruption during their summer study and exam period, and that all seminars, lectures and modules should take place as normal from the start of the new semester.

This follows a ballot of UCU members nationally which voted in favour of an Acas facilitated proposal to establish an independent Joint Expert Panel to review the valuation of the USS pension scheme. Full details are available on the Universities UK website.

We know that the industrial action has caused some uncertainty, and our priority has been to minimise disruption and to support our students in continuing to learn and make progress throughout this period.

Below, you can find some frequently asked questions which we will continue to revise and expand in response to new questions. We encourage students and staff to check this page regularly.

The University’s leadership team will continue to update our community as negotiations continue to take place between UUK and USS. Read the latest update to students from Vice-President (Education), Professor Alex Neill and all other industrial action SUSSED posts here.

Key terms:

UCU     University and College Union

SUSU   University of Southampton Students’ Union

USS     Universities Superannuation Scheme

UUK     Universities UK

Background and dates of action

Why are we in a period of industrial action?

On Friday 13 April, the University and College Union (UCU) announced that the industrial action planned at Southampton and other universities is now suspended.

Southampton is among 61 universities where members of the UCU voted in support of strike action and action short of a strike, over the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a national pension scheme.

The University fully respects the right of colleagues to participate in industrial action, and appreciates that planning for financial security in retirement is an issue of understandable concern to all members of staff. That said, it was disappointing that some UCU members planned action that inevitably impacted adversely on some of our students’ education and experience at Southampton.

What are the dates of industrial action?

As Industrial action is now suspended, no further dates of industrial action have been notified to the University at this time.

The industrial action notified to the University by UCU due to take place on 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 April has been called off now that the action has been suspended.

Previous industrial action took place on 22, 23, 26, 27, 28 February and 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 March.

Now that industrial action has been suspended, when will the dispute end?

UCU has stated that they will keep their legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.

Alongside UCU, UUK will seek support for the Joint Expert Panel process from USS and the Pensions Regulator, fully recognising their statutory responsibilities and accountabilities

What does 'action short of a strike' mean?

The suspension of industrial action also includes a suspension of Action Short of a Strike.

Action short of a strike consists of participating members working to contract, which means not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, not covering some specialist services and not undertaking any voluntary activities.

What can the University of Southampton do to resolve the industrial action? and what happens next?

Individual universities, Vice-Chancellors and local UCU representatives are not directly involved in the negotiations as the decision ultimately rests with USS Trustees and the Pensions Regulator.

The Vice-Chancellor has made clear his support for further meaningful negotiations at national level and that our concern has been to ensure the best possible affordable pension scheme for our staff.

The University welcomes the decision to suspend further strike action with immediate effect. Delivering a high quality education and experience to our students remains our priority, and we deeply regret the impact the industrial action has had on some students at a challenging time of the academic year. We will continue work to ensure that studies resume as normal, with mitigation in place to account for any disruption experienced to date.

Who are the people that have been striking?

Some members of UCU were taking part in industrial action, before the action was suspended. They account for slightly less than 25% of our staff and are typically academics, postgraduates that teach and some professional service colleagues. Some UCU members decided that they did not want to join the strike. 

 

 

 

How we are minimizing the impact on students’ education and experience

Will this impact my studies and will my modules and assessments be affected?

It is extremely important that we maintain academic standards in order that your degree represents a valid measure of your achievement on your programme. At the same time we are also prioritising and maintaining, as far as possible, your high quality experience and taking into consideration your wellbeing.

We are determined that assessment of your work will be fair, and will fully take into account any disruption to your learning as a result of industrial action. Accordingly, we are now reviewing the impact of the industrial action on modules across the University. We will be writing to you via your University email address by the end of the first week of next term (by Friday 20 April) if any of your modules have been affected if any of your modules have been affected.

In these messages, we will explain how we are responding to the impact of industrial action on individual modules. For example, for some modules we may adjust exam rubrics, changing the number of questions you are asked to complete; and where coursework has already been submitted, we may adjust the marking criteria to ensure fair assessment of your work.

Please rest assured that everything we are doing is based on a firm commitment by the University, to delivering assessment that is fair and takes into account the full impact industrial action may have had on the modules that you are taking.

Read the latest update to students from Professor Alex Neill, Vice-President (Education) to find out more information.

My lecturers have been striking, what do I do?

Our primary concern is to limit the impact on our students so they can continue to enjoy a world-class education and experience here.

We have been continuing to work closely with representatives from the Students’ Union (SUSU) and other colleagues to put in place effective contingency plans.

If your lecturer was taking part in industrial action and you are concerned about how this may have affected your teaching, please contact your Student Office in the first instance.

Students should continue with their studies and preparations for assessments as normal.

 

 

 

Assessments, assignments and attendance

Should I still attend my lectures?

Yes. Industrial action has now been suspended which means that all seminars, lectures and modules will take place as normal from the start of the new semester. Unless you hear otherwise, you should attend lectures as usual. Students should focus on their studies, attend timetabled sessions as usual and submit all assignments by their due dates.

I have assessments over the next few months. If industrial action continues and I don’t want to cross the picket* lines, will I be penalised for this?

As the majority of staff were working as normal during the industrial action, we informed our students to submit assignments and complete assessments as planned (in line with published deadlines), unless they were informed otherwise.

The University policy for late submission will be applied for any piece of assessed work worth 10% or more of the final module mark which is not submitted by the due date, unless a deadline extension has been granted, e.g. for medical reasons. 

*A picket consists of a small group of people who stand outside a workplace as part of a peaceful protest. They are not allowed to stop you from entering a building if you wish to do so. Staff and students can see our guidance for picket lines here. The safety of staff, striking or not, and students is paramount at all times. Any concerns about conduct at picket lines should be reported to Employee Relations.

You can contact them at: AskHR@southampton.ac.uk.

Can I make a special considerations submission if the industrial action has had an impact on my studies and/or assessments?

We would like to reassure you, there is no need to do this.

The Faculty is undertaking a review of all modules affected by industrial action and will consider making group special considerations submissions, where appropriate. We will be reviewing carefully the impact of the industrial action on the modules you are taking and on dissertation/project work, making recommendations to the Boards of Examiners that will ensure that the impact of industrial action is fully taken into account. So there is no need for you to make a special considerations submission based on the impact of the industrial action.

You should continue to submit applications for special considerations based on illness or other reasons for your absence from the University. These will be considered as usual following the University’s Special Consideration Policy.

We are now reviewing the impact of the industrial action on modules across the University. We will be writing to you via your University email address by the end of the first week of next term (by Friday 20 April) if any of your modules have been.

affected. In these messages, we will explain how we are responding to the impact of industrial action on individual modules. For example, for some modules, we may adjust exam rubrics, changing the number of questions you are asked to complete; and where coursework has already been submitted, we may adjust the marking criteria to ensure fair assessment of your work.

If industrial action continues and students who have their attendance recorded/marked (including those who do so for visa reasons) choose not to cross the picket lines will they be penalised for this?

Industrial action has now been suspended so staff are working as normal and teaching and learning activity will continue as normal.

It is possible the industrial action may have resulted in the cancellation of some of the expected contact points we use to check student attendance. If contacts such as lectures have not happened due to strike action, this is obviously not the fault of the student. In this situation, we will have recorded the strike action and attendance so it does not count against the students concerned.

If your learning activity was not cancelled or postponed, you were expected to attend as normal, as described in the University policy for attendance.

 

 

 

International students

I’m an international student, will the industrial action have impacted my visa status?

The strike action should not have negatively impacted your visa status. 

It may have resulted in the cancellation of some of the expected contact points we use to check your attendance. If contacts such as lectures have not happened due to strike action, this is obviously not the fault of the student. In this situation, we will have recorded the strike action and attendance so it does not count against the students concerned.

 

 

 

Support

Where do I go to for support?

The University and the Students’ Union are always on hand to support all students. Please find two links below to various support services available to you:

My dissertation tutor, project or PhD Supervisor has taken part in industrial action, what support will I receive?

A minority of students may have found that that their dissertation, project or PhD supervisor participating in industrial action had an impact on their contact time. If this was the case, your faculty will have been closely monitoring and assessing any impact on your learning and plans will be agreed with you, if required, to recover any disrupted learning activities and ensure assessment deadlines remain appropriate.

If at any time you feel concerned about the progress you are able to make with reduced contact time, please speak to your Student Office.

The University and the Students’ Union are always on hand to support all students. Please find two links below to various support services available to you:

 

 

 

Compensation and pay withheld from staff

Will I get compensation if my studies are disrupted?

At the moment, we don’t know the full extent of the impact of the action on specific modules. This information is currently being gathered. Our approach has been to ensure that we take steps to mitigate any impact on students.

Some interruption of classes happens even in normal circumstances, for example due to illness, so a refund of fees is unlikely. We will keep this under review as the detailed information becomes clear. 

I’ve heard the University will withhold pay from staff who are striking. Where will that money go?

Any pay withheld from strikers will be re-allocated to student bursaries.

 

 

 

Graduation

I’m eligible to graduate this summer. Should I book tickets to graduation?

Yes – all students who are eligible to graduate this summer should proceed with booking tickets to graduation. Eligible students were emailed on Monday 12 March 2018 with instructions on how to apply, and reminders have already been, and will continue to be, posted on SUSSED News. If you believe you’re eligible and didn’t receive an email, please contact: graduation@soton.ac.uk

with your name, student ID number and programme of study. For further information about graduation, please view our dedicated website.

When will I know more?

We are moving rapidly to respond to the situation on a daily basis, as it develops. If and when necessary, your faculty will contact you with more specific information.

 

 

 

Staff

I’m a member of staff and I am still on probation. Would taking part in the strike action have affected the outcome of my probation?

The University respects the right of all members of our staff community to participate in peaceful industrial action.

There are a range of factors that are considered as part of the probation review and the University will make every effort to ensure that decisions on probation are not influenced by staff participation in industrial action.

Helpful links:

Student Communications channels:

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