GSA FAQs Strike Action

THIS PAGE WILL BE REGULARLY UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE STRIKE

* If any of the content of this website is inaccurate or incorrect, please contact communications@yorkgsa.org so we can correct it!

Links to sections:

What exactly is happening with the strike?

What happens if I am an International Students?

What should I do if I support / not support the strike?

What should I do if I’m a GTA?

Advice and Support from the GSA

Vocabulary

What exactly is happening with the strike?

Why are UCU striking?

UCU members were balloted on two issues, both of which have gained a mandate for striking at the University of York.

The first issue is Pay and Working Conditions. UCU’s concerns around pay come from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association finding that ‘pay of staff has dropped by around 17% in real-terms since 2009’. More information regarding UCU’s perspective can be found on their website. Concerns around Working Conditions have three factors: casualisation, workload and pay inequality.

The second issue revolves around pensions. The dispute over the USS pension scheme arose in 2017 due to changes to the benefits the members receive and the contributions made by employers and employees. Staff are concerned over the increase in contributions from 8% to 8.8% in April and then to 9.6% in October. Universities are concerned over their increase in contributions from 16% to 21.1% of the employees’ salary. You can find out more information regarding UCUs perspective on their website.

What have UUK Said about the strikes?

In response to the announcement of the strike action a UUK spokesperson said “We are hopeful that the dispute can be resolved without industrial action; but plans are in place to ensure that any potential disruption to students and staff is minimised.”.

What happens now?

During the industrial action, classes, meetings, office hours, and events will be cancelled. Action short of a strike will be continuous from 5th December. This means UCU members will work to contract; will not reschedule any classes or lectures cancelled due to industrial action; will not cover for absent colleagues and will not undertake any voluntary activities. UCU members will be on the picket lines and maybe holding voluntary teach-ins/ free university events. 

Will my lecturer be striking?

If your lecturer is a member of UCU, it is likely they will be striking. However, your lecturers are not obliged to tell you whether or not they are striking before the strike occurs. This means that some teaching will be cancelled and more often than not you won’t be informed they are being cancelled until you turn up to the lecture. 

Why don’t we know who is striking?

UCU members are not obligated to tell the University or their students if they are striking. Members of staff may inform their students if they are going to be participating in strike action but there is no way to know the full scope of who will be striking until the strike starts.  You should expect regular communications from your department throughout the strike period informing you of actions that the department is taking to mitigate the impact of the strike.

How does industrial action affect me?

UCU members that are engaging in industrial action won’t be teaching, holding office hours, marking assessments or answering emails during the strike period. This means that you may miss any teaching that is scheduled during the strike. Any teaching that is missed during the strike period will not be rescheduled. The University will be working to reduce the impact of the strike on students. Your department will be in contact with you regarding any loss of teaching as soon as they are aware of who is striking.

 

The University services and building will be open throughout the strike period so you will be able to access them when on campus.

What is the University of York doing in response to the Industrial Action?

The Vice-Chancellor has been in regular contact with students via email with information about the strike. He also attend the student forum on Industrial Action that was run by YUSU and the GSA to answer student questions regarding the strike.

The University has published an FAQ for students. You can also contact the University with any queries industrial-action-enquiries@york.ac.uk.

What do I do if I miss out on contact hours due to the industrial action?

Your department should be in contact with you about any missed teaching. They will be able to advise you on whether you will be assessed on the missed teaching and if any actions will be taken to make up for the missed content.

If you are a PGR student that has TAP meetings, progression meetings or a VIVA scheduled during the strike period you should speak with your supervisor and email your departmental administrator to ask what mitigation will be put into place. If you do not receive a response from your department or if you are dissatisfied with this response, you are welcome to make an appointment to speak with a GSA Adviser.

What happens if I am an International Students?

I  am on a T4 Visa / International Student, how does this affect my attendance monitoring?

If you are concerned about your Tier 4 Visa status please contact the Immigration Advisors via immigration@york.ac.uk.

I am on a T4 visa, can I support the strike/picket lines?

If you are interested in supporting the picket line, please get in touch with your department’s UCU representative to clarify your rights in this regard.

What should I do if I support / not support the strike?

If I support the strike, what can I do?

The National Union of Students has published a statement supporting UCU members in the upcoming action, along with a number of recommendations for students. You can find the statement on the UCU website.

There are a number of things you can do to support the members of UCU in their industrial action:

If I don’t support the strike, what can I do?

There are also a couple of things you can do if you don’t support the strikes.

What has the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) said about the strikes? 

The OIA has previously published guidance to students on complaints arising from industrial action and information on themes that emerged from the strikes last time.  

What should I do if I’m a GTA?

I am a GTA, am I allowed to strike?

If you are a member of UCU you are allowed to join the strike. As a GTA you are eligible to be a member of UCU and should follow their guidance on the strike. If you are not a member of UCU and wish to support the strike you can read UCU’s guidance. The GSA is unable to provide guidance on employment matters and you should speak to your departmental representative about these questions.

Advice and Support from the GSA

Should I still go to my teaching?

It’s possible that you will arrive at your teaching room and the teaching won’t be going ahead due to the industrial action. However, it’s also possible that your teaching will go ahead. This is because your lecturer does not have to tell you if they’re going to be participating in industrial action before your the strike starts. Unless you’ve been informed that your teaching won’t be taking place due to the strike action, it’s really important that you still attend. This is because if you do miss teaching which was scheduled, you’ll be missing out on course content which could later feed into assessments or teaching.

If you arrive at teaching and find that it isn’t going ahead due to the industrial action, you should make your department aware of this in order that they are able to make reasonable adjustments.  If you have made your department aware of missed course content and they have not made reasonable adjustments, or if you are dissatisfied with their response, you are encouraged to make an appointment to speak to a GSA Adviser about this.

You are encouraged to keep a log of all of your teaching which hasn’t gone ahead - it’s also a good idea to include in your log the teaching which was due to be delivered in that session. You should also keep a log of when and how you contacted your department about any missed teaching, and the response you receive from your department. This will be really useful if you find that you would like to submit a complaint, appeal or exceptional circumstances claim about the impact of the industrial action on your studies and/or assessment.

I have a specific personal circumstance, health condition or disability which means that the changes my department have made to my teaching or assessment due to the industrial action will affect me. What should I do?

If your teaching or assessment has been changed as a result of the industrial action, and you have a disability or health condition or personal circumstance (such as caring responsibilities) which will affect your ability to engage with teaching or assessment as a result of this, you are strongly encouraged to access the GSA Advice Service for support.

I am feeling really worried and upset as a result of the industrial action and the impact this is having on me. What should I do?

There are lots of different services at the University and in the local area who can provide support for you if you are feeling upset, worried or anxious. We have provided a list of some of these services below.

However, whilst these services may be able to provide support for your difficult feelings, they will not be able to offer any advice or guidance in regards to how the industrial action will affect you, or steps you should take as a result of the industrial action. Please refer to the rest of this document to see if your questions have been answered here. If you have any further questions, please feel free to make an appointment to speak with a GSA Adviser.

Open Door are a team of professionals providing support to registered students experiencing psychological or mental health difficulties. They will be able to speak with you about your feelings and provide support to you. If you'd like to self-refer to the Open Door service, you can do so using their online self-referral form, available on the University website here: https://www.york.ac.uk/students/health/help. A member of the Open Door team would then get in touch with you within two working days of your completing the online referral form.

Your college welfare team will be able to have a chat with you about how you are feeling. Details about how to get in touch with your College can be found on their website, and a list of all the College websites is available here: https://www.york.ac.uk/colleges/.


York Nightline will be able to speak with you during University term-time between the hours of 8pm and 8am. This is a confidential listening service run by students and for students. You can contact Nightline in-person, over the phone, over email or by instant message. You can find more details about how to get in touch on their website here: https://www.yorknightline.org.uk/

I’m a GTA and I have questions about how engaging in the industrial action will affect my employment.

The Advice Service is unable to provide advice, guidance and support to Graduate Teaching Assistants on employment matters. If you have questions relating to your employment, you should speak to your union representative.

Vocabulary

What is a Trade Union?

An organisation that employees of a certain profession can join for representation and political bargaining (this is different to a Student Union. SUs are Charities, not Trade Unions).

What is a Strike?

A strike is a period of time where employees decide not to come into work in protest about a particular aspect about their employment. They do not get paid whilst on strike. Strikes are often referred to as ‘industrial action’.

What is a picket line?

A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike often at the entrance to their workplace. UCU have committed to peaceful picketing and will not be attempting to stop those who wish to cross a picket line.

What is the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU)?

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and GTAs in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

What is Universities UK (UUK)?

Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. It is the collective voice for Universities affected by this strike action.

What is Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)?

The USS is the principal pension scheme for academics and academic-related staff at UK Universities and higher education and research institutions. The scheme currently has over 350 employers participating.

What is the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)?

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) is a national independent body that reviews student complaints.