Why are staff at the University taking industrial action?

Members of staff at the University are taking action over five separate issues. Two are national disputes and three are local.

The national issues:

  • The first is related to the USS pension scheme, which is a national pension scheme with around 300,000 members across 350 organisations. We offer USS pensions to our staff on Grades 6-10, many of whom are academics
  • The second is a dispute around pay and conditions related to the national pay negotiations

The local issues:

  • The first issue is around gender pay gap and the university's commitment to close the gap
  • The second issue relates to fair employment practices for all staff
  • The third issue is regarding staff workloads and mental health

USS pension scheme

At its valuation in 2014 USS reported a deficit of £5.3 billion, which increased to £6.1 billion at the 2017 valuation. These issues are not unusual – most pension schemes of this type are facing pressures due to people living for longer and interest and gilt rates remaining low. If the scheme remained as it is, the University would need to pay an extra £10 million per year or staff would see a significant cut in their take-home pay, or a combination of the two. Both are unaffordable.

While the University of Leicester is affected by what happens, the discussions are at a national level, and handled by Universities UK (UUK). Equally staff representation at a national level comes from UCU and local branches follow the national organisation's policy and position. Any changes to the scheme must be agreed by the USS independent Board of Trustees and the National Pensions Regulator, who oversee all pension schemes in the UK.

UUK and UCU have been negotiating to try and come to a solution for the 350 employers participating in the scheme. There is a long established process for deciding on changes to the USS scheme through the Joint Negotiating Committee, the JNC. Following a breakdown in negotiation, a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was set up comprising University and UCU representation which was aimed at finding a solution to the issues faced by the scheme. The JEP made seven recommendations for changes, all of which are supported by UCU and the University of Leicester. Five of these have been accepted by the USS Trustees.

More information is available at the following links

Pay and conditions

UCU members have voted in favour of strike action over the level of pay increase through national negotiations for the 2019/20 pay award. The pay negotiations are conducted on an annual basis between the Higher Education representatives UCEA and the main staff Unions UCU, Unison and Unite.

In the 2018/19 pay award, which we implemented in September, the new scales included a 1.8% pay uplift for most staff, with additional increases to spine points 4–16 worth up to 3.56% (points 1–3 are no longer in use by the University of Leicester).

We have also continued our positive work alongside the Unions on issues including the gender pay gap, workload allocation and the use of temporary contracts.

UCU information on the pay and conditions dispute is available here

If I want to raise a complaint about the industrial action what should I do?

We are committed to ensuring that you receive the highest quality education. We are working hard to avoid disruption to your studies and will provide you with as much support as possible during the strike period to mitigate any negative effects. Please remember that most staff will be working and therefore many lectures and classes will take place as normal.

Once strike action has ended, if you believe it has impacted negatively on your studies, you may submit an industrial action complaint. This round of strike action will take place from 20 February to 13 March – complaints should be submitted no later than 31 March.

Complaints relating to the industrial action which finished on 4 December 2019 that have already been submitted are under review and outcomes will be issued soon. If your studies have been affected by both periods of industrial action, please wait until the strikes finish on 13 March to submit your complaint.

If you have already submitted a complaint following strike action last year, and have been negatively impacted again, you may submit a new complaint.

The form and further details about the complaints procedure can be found on the student feedback and complaints procedure page. The Advice Service in the Students’ Union can offer support with regard to complaints.

If you have any queries about the process, please contact the Quality Office at qualoffice@le.ac.uk.


What have you been doing to resolve the dispute? (updated February 2020)

Staff workload

We are working closely with union colleagues through a range of working groups to ensure that we understand health and well-being of our staff and support them in the right way. A priority for this year will be a review of the Work Allocation Model. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor will chair a task and finish group to lead the review and how this will work across the University, union colleagues will be key to this group. The University also offers a wide range of support and training opportunity for all staff.

Fair employment practices

We are committed to engaging all members of our workforce on the most appropriate contract and to doing this in a fair and transparent way. In order to do this, we are working with union representatives to review temporary workers arrangements to ensure contracts are being used appropriately, consistently and fairly. As part of this review 150 workers have been moved to employment contracts together with a review of appropriate pay.

Gender pay gap

The University is taking proactive action to close the gender pay gap. A working group led by the Vice-Chancellor will draw on local, sector and national data and best practice around closing the gender pay gap, focusing specifically on the intersection of gender and equality.

Pay and pensions are determined through national negotiation, however, so we will keep working with the national agencies to help to find a resolution.

Timetabled sessions

Will the University Campus be open on strike days?

The campus will be open as normal on strike days and you will be able to go into all buildings.

When arriving on campus on strike days it is possible that you may need to pass staff taking part in the industrial action at the entrances to the University. Trade Unions have briefed their members that all pickets are intended to be peaceful in nature. Access to campus entrances will not be blocked and you should feel able to pass freely and easily.

Will lectures, seminars and other teaching events be cancelled?

Impact is likely to vary depending on your School. Some events will run but others will be cancelled as staff taking part in the strike will not be working and it is not usually possible to arrange for other staff to cover teaching events at such short notice.

How will I know if my teaching events will be cancelled?

If possible, we will let you know in advance if an event is going to be cancelled. However, this may not be possible as staff taking part in the industrial action are not required to tell the University in advance so you may not find out until the day an event is due to take place.

Some staff will choose to tell you informally that they are striking in advance of the missed session. You should feel comfortable emailing a staff member in advance to ask whether or not they will be participating in industrial action, but they are not obliged to let you know.

What happens if my lecture or seminar is cancelled?

In cases where the University was not told in advance, we will know this after the event and this will be recorded, so that the impact of the cancellation can be considered as necessary.

You may wish to keep your own record of events which have been cancelled from your timetable, for future reference.

Will lecture capture still be available?

Lecture capture will carry on as normal for those teaching events which are taking place or are being re-scheduled.

Should I still swipe into my lectures?

If we know in advance that the event is cancelled, then the event will be removed from your personalised timetable, in which case you should not attend the event. However, staff are not required to tell the University in advance if they will not be at work, so if you have not been told an event will be cancelled you should assume that it will take place, attend and swipe in as normal. If a member of staff does not arrive within the first ten minutes of the scheduled start time you may leave.

Will students be penalised for missing classes that have not been cancelled but fall within the strike? (Updated 19 February)

Students are expected to attend all timetabled teaching events associated with their programme of study in order to achieve the maximum benefit from the learning opportunities offered to them. You should therefore aim to attend all teaching events that take place. However, you will not be penalised if you do not attend such events. We will not issue any reminders about attendance during the strike period.

Will cancelled teaching events be rescheduled?

The University will make every effort to support your learning experience. It may not be possible to reschedule all cancelled events, but the University will reschedule as many cancelled events as possible in order to limit, as far as practical, the impact on your studies.

Will my attendance record be affected if an event is cancelled?

Your attendance record will not be affected if an event does not take place, whether you were told in advance or not. The University will have a record of all events which did not take place so no student’s attendance record will be affected in a negative way.

I am a research student, how will my studies be affected?

If your first supervisor is taking industrial action you can consult another member of your supervisory team if they are available. If you had a supervisory meeting scheduled and this is cancelled you should rearrange a new meeting with your supervisor as soon as possible after the strike days.

If you have a viva scheduled for a strike day you should consult your supervisor if possible, or the professional services team in your school to see if it will go ahead. Staff will be encouraged to notify students if they will not be attending a viva but they are not required to tell the University if they are taking industrial action. If your viva does not take place, it will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.

If you need any advice about other issues, please consult professional services staff in your School or the Doctoral College Office where staff will be able to help.

I am an international student on a Tier 4 visa. What does this mean for my attendance record?

If you are studying on a Tier 4 visa, you should aim to attend teaching events that take place. Rest assured, your attendance record will not be negatively affected by the strike action including in relation to Home Office requirements. If your School has specific requirements around attendance, you will be notified of these and should aim to attend as advised.

What other resources am I able to access throughout the strike period?

You are encouraged to engage in independent study utilising resources available for your modules on blackboard and module reading lists. A variety of learning resources can be accessed throughout the period of strike action.

Schools will be arranging drop-in sessions to answer questions and offer support throughout the industrial action to those affected by cancelled teaching events.



Should I submit my assessments if they are due to be submitted on a strike day?

You should submit all work by the published deadlines. If there is any delay in marking work, you will be advised by your School.

Will I be assessed on topics which should have been covered in teaching events which were cancelled?

You will not be assessed on material which has not been taught. If necessary, adjustments will be made to Semester Two examination papers.

Will this affect my outcome at the end of the academic year?

At this stage of the academic year, please don’t worry about this. The University is keeping the situation under close review and we will update you as the year progresses if necessary.

Should I submit mitigating circumstances if I am affected by the industrial action?

It will not be necessary to submit mitigating circumstances as the University will be aware of the issues and will take these into account as appropriate during examination and assessment. If you are unable to attend, complete, or submit an assessment for another reason during the strike period, for example due to illness, then you should submit a request which will be considered in line with the usual criteria and process.

If you have a specific learning difficulty or disability and feel that the industrial action has impacted on your condition and consequently your ability to submit an assessment in accordance with the deadline you should submit a mitigating circumstances claim and this will be considered in line with the mitigating circumstances policy. If you have not done so already, you may also want to seek advice from the Student Support Service.


Further information

Where can I get more support and information?

We know that the prospect of industrial action will cause some students concern. The University is taking all reasonable steps to ensure that staff, students (and others) are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

If you are concerned about the impact on your studies or welfare, you can contact your school/department or the Advice Service in the Students’ Union who offer free and confidential support in person or via email. For welfare concerns, you can also contact the Student Services Centre in the Charles Wilson Building.

If you have any questions outside of this then please email industrialaction@le.ac.uk and we'll get back to you.


Contacting staff

What will the University do to mitigate the lack of pastoral support students will receive if their personal tutors/key staff members are on strike?

Support will continue to be available through Student Support Services. In many cases academic support will continue to be available in Schools where colleagues are not participating in the industrial action. If students urgently require contact with a member of academic staff they should ask for advice from professional services staff in their School or College who should be able to advise who is available.

What should I do if I can't contact a particular staff member?

The University cannot guarantee that any staff member taking industrial action will respond to any communications received during the strike period. Please inform your School  if you are unable to contact any member of staff or seek support via industrialaction@le.ac.uk.

How will distance learning students be affected by the industrial action?

As distance-learning provision is different from campus-based learning with materials typically made available to students for self-study, we anticipate that the impact on our distance-learning students will be limited. You may experience some delay in receiving responses from staff who are participating in the industrial action. There may also be some delays to feedback on assessed work. We are monitoring the situation closely to understand what impact there may be on particular programmes and students and will take appropriate mitigating action as required.

If I have further questions what can I do?

You can speak to your School and check BlackBoard. We will continue to update this webpage and these FAQs but if you have a particular question which is not answered here please email it to industrialaction@le.ac.uk and we will aim to respond within 5 working days.

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