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Last updated: 18 Sep 2020 9:27am

February 2020 industrial action

City will be affected by fourteen strike days from Thursday 20 February to Friday 13 March, as well as action short of strike.

The University and College Union (UCU) has requested that its members participate in 14 days of industrial action spread over four weeks as follows:

  • Week 1: Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February
  • Week 2: Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th February
  • Week 3: Monday 2nd, Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th March
  • Week 4: Monday 9th, Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th, Thursday 12th and Friday 13th March

Around one in ten of our staff have indicated previously that they intend to take action.

In addition, there will be ‘action short of a strike’. This will consist of some of our UCU colleagues working to contract; not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures (or other educational activity) cancelled due to strike action; and not undertaking any voluntary activities. This may continue until the end of April 2020.

You can find more information about this industrial action in the FAQs below. We will be updating this page throughout, so please check this page regularly for any updates.

Background

Why is there industrial action taking place?

Some staff will be taking part in industrial action in relation to both the 2019 sector-wide pay settlement and proposed changes to City’s main pension scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which requires members’ pension contributions to increase.

The USS, which is one of the largest pension schemes in the country, is not governed by City or any other university, but by a separate, independent body.

The forthcoming industrial action is expected to involve 74 universities across the country.

What type of industrial action will there be?

UCU has requested its members go on strike for fourteen days in February and March as above.

UCU has also asked its members to engage in ‘action short of a strike’, which will consist of working to contract; not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures (or other scheduled educational activity) cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Industrial action took place in November, why is it happening again?

The University and College Union (UCU) remain in dispute over the same issues that led to the industrial action in November 2019: the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members; and contractual arrangements, workload & mental health, the gender pay gap & ethnicity pay.

Unfortunately, despite negotiations and proposals from the HE employers’ organisation (UCEA), no resolution to the dispute has been reached.

Teaching

Will the University be open as normal on strike days in February and March?

Yes, all spaces and facilities, including the Library, are expected to be open.

Should I still attend lectures and other educational activity?

Yes, we expect that most educational activity will go ahead and you should attend all your scheduled teaching and any assessments as normal. We anticipate that the impact of strike action will vary across programmes, with some more affected than others. If we know in advance that an activity or assessment will not go ahead then your Course Office will let you know with as much notice as we can.

Why can’t the University tell me which lectures or other educational activity will be disrupted?

It is difficult at this stage to predict how many staff will participate in the strike action until it has begun. Staff are not required to tell the university or their students that they are taking action in advance.

City is taking steps to establish with its staff the likely impact on the timetable and will try to notify affected students as soon as practicable if lectures or other educational activity are likely to be cancelled or rescheduled.

What are picket lines and will they take place during the strikes?

A picket line is where a group of union members on strike gather outside their place of work. During the strikes at City, a group of members of UCU may congregate outside a university entrance to explain their cause to colleagues or students. A member of staff on the picket line may provide you with a leaflet which gives more information about their cause. They may hold banners or signs.

Pickets do not prevent students or staff from entering the building.

During strike action, you are expected to attend teaching as usual. The university will not repeat teaching, tutorials or related activity that goes ahead normally during the strike action.

You are also expected to submit any assessments, including coming into City to provide a hard copy, if this is a specific requirement, or to complete in-person assessments such as tests or presentations. If you choose not to participate in an assessment, this may be taken as a non-submission and you should contact your Course Office.

I am a Tier 4 student - how do I ensure my attendance is logged?

You should continue to attend all monitoring points wherever possible. Your visa status will be unaffected by the industrial action. Classes cancelled due to industrial action will not:

  • be treated as unauthorised absences, or
  • count towards the 10 missed expected contact points that would otherwise prompt an institution report to the Home Office.

Can I still contact my Module or Personal Tutor or Programme Director?

Yes. There may be a delay in receiving a response, so if your question requires urgent attention, please contact your Course Office.

How will the university reschedule lectures or other educational activity if they are cancelled?

At this stage it is too early to assess the impact of the strike action. Some programmes will be more affected than others. Not all staff members are members of University and College Union (UCU) or will choose to take action.

We will be seeking to ensure no student is disadvantaged because of the action. We will be trying to reschedule activity, where it is cancelled and where rescheduling is possible, to limit the impact on your study. We will also be making the best use we can of alternative methods of providing content and supporting students.

The assessment of teaching that may be missed is addressed in FAQs below.

Will I be able to make a financial claim where teaching is cancelled?

We monitored carefully the impact of strike action on the teaching of modules, programmes and individual students. Our primary focus throughout the action was to mitigate against the impact of any missed teaching and in ensuring overall learning outcomes for modules are met. This may have included alternative methods of providing content and supporting students. City remains committed to delivering an educational programme for each student during any period of industrial action and it will seek to ensure that students remain able to complete their programmes of study and graduate as anticipated.

The University Executive Committee (ExCo) established a Quality and Standards Working Group that has been overseeing the implementation of actions to manage the impact of industrial action on the quality and standards of programmes. This group is chaired by the Deputy President and managed by Student & Academic Services. The President of the Students’ Union is a member.

In the event of significant impact on some programmes for students, Stage 2 complaint cases for financial compensation will be carefully considered by the Group. The deadline for submitting complaints relating to industrial action is Monday 28th September 2020 (there will be exceptions made for those students whose assessment boards for 19/20 have not yet met on or before this date).

Assessment, Feedback and Graduation

I have an assessment deadline, should I submit my work?

Yes. Where you have been set coursework, you should work towards submitting this on time, as usual, and work on the assumption that normal penalties will continue to apply to late or non-submission of coursework. This includes deadlines falling on planned strike days.

In some circumstances, assessment deadlines may be extended. However, you will be advised directly by Programme Teams if this is the case.

How will my course be assessed if I have not received the teaching?

Where scheduled teaching time is cancelled, no student will be academically disadvantaged. If for any reason it is not possible for missed teaching to be covered, changes may be made to the assessment content in liaison with External Examiners.  We recognise that some courses have particular accreditation requirements: specific issues will be worked through and your Course Office will advise you. Assessment Boards which make decisions regarding your performance will also be aware of any impact the industrial action has had.

Will coursework be marked and feedback provided on time?

Where staff have taken industrial action there may be cases where feedback is returned later than you expect. However, wherever possible, the university will continue to meet deadlines for the return of feedback and minimise delays. You will be kept informed by your Course Office.

What do I do if I've asked for an extension, but haven't had a response?

If your Module Tutor has not responded to your request for a coursework extension, you should contact your Course Office in writing, including the original request you made to the Module Tutor. You should submit your work as soon as you are able to do so.

Can I make an application to submit extenuating circumstances for the impact the strike action has had on me?

Where a cancellation of teaching, or delays in returning marks and providing feedback affect your ability to prepare for your next coursework assignment, examination or another form of assessment, the Assessment Board will have the relevant information to enable it to take account of the disruption when determining course results.

There is no need for you to report the disruption through completion of an Extenuating Circumstances form for this specific purpose.

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Will the strikes affect my examinations in May/June 2020?

We will ensure that students are not academically disadvantaged by the strike action.

Examination papers for modules that are impacted by industrial action will be considered carefully, both before and after examinations, to ensure they cover topics which you have been taught. Assessment Boards will be responsible for ensuring that no student has been disadvantaged by any topics that may have been missed.

Can I make a complaint about a mark or marks which I believe were affected by industrial action?

Assessment Boards which make decisions regarding your marks and overall performance will be aware of any impact the industrial action has had. Assessment Boards will take this into account when finalising results. If you still believe that your mark or marks have been impacted, the usual appeals procedure will apply.

Further information on the academic appeals process is available here.

If you have any queries, you may wish to email: industrialaction-students@city.ac.uk

I am a final year student.  How will strike action affect my degree classification and will Graduation go ahead in the summer 2020?

We anticipate making no changes at this stage to how we make degree classifications. All graduation ceremonies between 13th and 15th July 2020 are expected to go ahead as planned.

I am concerned that my dissertation / project will be affected. What should I do?

Timescales and supervision arrangements will vary across Schools and programmes. It is likely some students will be more affected than others. We appreciate that having reduced access to your supervisor may have an impact on your work. If industrial action has meant you have missed contact with your supervisor and you have concerns, please ensure you contact your Course Officer providing dates and times missed. Your School can then consider the impact of missed supervision and consider what mitigation can be put in place; this may include an extension to your submission deadline.

Support and Complaints

Who do I address questions about my course in relation to the strike to?

Please contact your Course Office for any course-related queries about the industrial action.

Who can I speak to if I'm particularly worried about the strike and its impact on me?

Please contact the University's Student Centre or the Students' Union's advice service, who can both give you advice

I want to make a complaint due to strike action.  What should I do?

Please follow the University’s Complaints procedure.

Each complaint will be assessed on an individual basis. The assessment will focus on the impact there has been on a student, taking into account any mitigating action that has been possible and put in place by the university; and the actions taken by the student to engage in this.

If you wish to make a complaint, you should do so as soon as possible. You should make your complaint within 28 days of the event which has given rise to the complaint. If a series of events has given rise to your complaint, you should make your complaint within 28 days of the final event in the series.

Although we will do our best to process any complaint within the stated time frame in the Complaints Procedure, please note that during the strike action this may not be possible as it may take us longer than usual to process a case. In such an instance, we will let you know if we require additional time to process your complaint.

The university is registered with the Office for Students which is the body that regulates Higher Education. More information on its guidance for students affected by industrial action can be found on the Office for Students website.

For advice on this, you can contact the Students' Union's advice service.

What is the University’s response to the SU referendum result and their support of the UCU strike and action short of a strike?

The University recognises the outcome of the SU referendum. We will be continuing to make all efforts for lectures or other educational activity to run as usual, or where there is a cancellation for alternative actions to be put in place.

Can I join staff on the picket line outside buildings?

Students are within their rights to support staff members on strike where they choose to do so. However, it is important to be clear that supporters are distinct from picketing staff. The expectation is that staff (who are not UCU members) or students who wish to show their support should do so by standing some distance apart from the pickets. Picket lines must legally abide by health & safety rules and a picket which is larger than 20 persons would be defined as a mass picket and could be asked (or required) to disperse.

Staff and students who are attending the University for work or study must be free to do so and allowed to pass unchallenged.

Can I submit extenuating circumstances if I miss teaching or an assessment because I want to support the industrial action?

No. Students who decide to support staff members on strike by not attending lectures that run or engage where appropriate arrangements for the delivery of the programme are in place will not be able to demonstrate that they meet the definition of extenuating circumstances. For more information about what constitutes an extenuating circumstance, the extenuating circumstances page here.