Queen's UCU

Industrial Action

USS Dispute - advice

Many members have already been in touch to ask practical questions about what they should and should not do during the boycott. A list of the questions and answers so far can be found here:


If you have questions that are not covered here please contact a Local UCU officer:


Advice on pay docking

You can find UCU advice on pay docking on the National UCU site at


If necessary further on advice on local legal issues regarding pay docking will be given.

Suggested wording for letter that members can send to University management re: docking of a full days pay for a two hour strike.

Dear xxxx,
I was on strike for 2 hours each day only on 23rd January 2104 , 28th January 2104 and 10th February 2014
However, such is my strength of feeling about the University's recent communication informing me that it will deduct a whole day's pay for any two hour stoppage of work, I feel compelled to put my position clearly to you.
I completely withdrew my labour during the two hour strikes called by the Union or requested that I be docked two hours pay, I performed my full range of duties on the days in question during all of the hours for which I was not called upon to be on strike. Further, the work that I did do during the hours I worked on the days in question was in full, and not partial performance of my duties.
My working in fulfillment of my duties on the strike days, as set out above, will clearly minimise disruption to the University. It stands in stark contrast to the University's policy which can only lead to increased disruption on the strike days called, which would be neither reasonable nor proportionate.
Finally, I am advised to tell you that should you, nonetheless, deduct a full days pay for any two hour strike that I have participated in, I will raise a grievance and my union will seek to recover this money legally.
I hope that on reflection, you will pass on my comments to senior management in the hope that they will reconsider the current policy which is unfair, confrontational and risks further damage to our students.


Fair Pay - your questions answered

UCU HQ has provided answers to questions relating to the Fair Pay campaign

2 hour strike on 22nd January 2014

Congratulations – We had the best picket ever!

 Between 100 - 150 members joined the action at the main gate yesterday and /or attended the meeting afterwards.

Staff were  angry about the management decision to dock a full day’s pay for our two hour strike when they know very well that the majority of staff are working overtime to get their marking done in a very tight schedule. Management have forgotten that a year and a half ago, academic staff kept this university going and maintained standards when we had a vacancy rate of 13.5%.   Who was responsible for the ‘very good’ performance of this  university for which the management have pocketed substantial bonuses?

QUB - SU and NUS/USI representatives attended the general meeting after the strike and offered their continuing support. They know that staff are working hard to complete their professional duty as examiners and were horrified that management were refusing to pay for time worked.

 The VC has received a strongly worded letter from UCU HQ that that threatens legal action if Queen's does not withdraw the pay deduction decision.

 Our local branch of UCU has already instigated action through the Labour Relations Agency in Belfast. In the lead up to yesterday, three attempts were made by us to get management to back off. They were each rejected.


A copy of our press release is available on our www site at:

 We attracted media attention from Downtown Radio, Cool FM and importantly  the Belfast Telegraph.

 Our officers have a meeting with the VC and other senior staff  on Monday afternoon and we will expect to see a better considered approach from them in the light of today.

 The next strike action for 2 hours is Tuesday of next week between 2 and 4pm.

It is important we keep up pressure at this point. We are expected to do more and achieve higher standards year on year and we have doing this. It is time we had some recognition.  More details of the precise form of the action will follow in due course.

 In the meantime we ask all of our members to send in the model letter suggested by Sally Hunt regarding the deduction of pay that is copied below

 UCU Officers.

 Suggested response to pay deduction

Dear x,

Thank you for your letter of x/x. As you will know, there is no legal requirement upon me to let you know whether I am a union member or whether I intend to participate in a strike. However, such is my strength of feeling about your recent letter of [date] informing me that you will deduct a whole day's pay for a two hour stoppage of work, I feel compelled to put my position clearly to you.

If I completely withdraw my labour during the two hour strike called for Thursday, 23rd January between 11am and 1pm and subsequent two hour strikes called by the union, I will be performing my full range of duties on the days in question during all of the hours for which I am not called upon to be on strike. Further, the work that I will do during the hours I work on the days will be in full, and not partial performance of my duties.

My attendance at work in fulfillment of my duties on the strike days, as set out above, will clearly minimise disruption to my students. It stands in stark contrast to your policy which can only lead to increased disruption on the strike days called, which would be neither reasonable nor proportionate.

Finally, I am advised to tell you that should you nonetheless deduct a full days pay for any two hour strike that I may participate in, my union will seek to recover this money legally as well as escalate the dispute in this institution.

I hope that on reflection, you will reconsider your current policy which is unfair, confrontational and risks further damage to our students.


Strike 31st Oct 2013 and Response to management claims

Printable version (.pdf) / Printable version (word)

The response from UCU and UNITE to the recent communication from the Director of Human Resources is set out below. Please feel free to copy this and circulate amongst colleagues. A version is at our WWW site at : http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/ucu/IndustrialAction/

We welcome you all to assist and join in the action on the day and send a clear message to our employers. This is a real chance to bring the employers back to the negotiations and stem the serious erosion of our pay in recent years.

We need as many volunteers as possible to assist us at the main entrances to the University on the day:  Main site, MBC, Ashby, DKB. We will start at 8am and maintain a presence till late morning. To volunteer, please send an email to ucu@qub.ac.uk  indicating which location you can attend and a mobile contact number. This will remain confidential and will only be used for contacts on the day.

If colleagues that are not UCU members speak with you, please politely ask them to join UCU. Only UCU or UNITE members can legitimately join the strike. If anyone indicates that they feel a strike might not achieve much, then you should remind them that similar action in 2006 brought us a substantial and agreed 3 year pay deal.  This benefitted all staff.

Key advice and model letters for circulating to students is now on our Local UCU www site at: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/ucu/IndustrialAction/

 Professor Mike Larkin, Queen's UCU President

Trade Union Response to Management Claims

In a recent email to staff, QUB management made controversial claims. The responses by UCU and UNITE appear in italics and colour below.

  • The HE sector continues to face considerable uncertainty and financial insecurity; sustainability remains pivotal as HEIs make on-going adjustments to working within the new funding regimes. In the most recent published accounts (2011/2) QUB showed a surplus of £14.174M (5.0% of income) but expenditure on staff dropped by £6.2M.  QUB management prefers to spend money on buildings rather than staff.  In 2010/11 Queen’s spent on capital and maintenance double the minimum level recommended by the HEFCE and much higher than similar institutions.

  • The negotiations have taken place against a backdrop of economic stagnation and expectations of restraint, given a public sector pay policy that limits pay increases to one per cent.  The outlook for public funding for HE remains uncertain due to predicted cuts to government expenditure. Universities boast about how much of their money is not from the public purse. Management want universities to be public sector for pay restraint on the ordinary staff, but private sector when it comes to pay and bonuses for V-Cs and senior managers. In universities the bottom pay point is £13,486 p.a. In Queen’s the number of managers paid £100K or more has grown from 59 in 2008/09 to 73 in 2011/12. Our last V-C was paid £220K in 2011/12 plus the use of a mansion and car and the staff to go with them. But he also collected £55K from Rolls-Royce. The pay package of the new V-C has not been disclosed.

  • This pay offer is alongside the offer of a number of joint working proposals on other important elements of the unions’ claim, including the further work relating to the gender pay gap and on hourly paid and casual work. The employers have refused year after year to negotiate nationally on these issues. All that they are offering is talks about talks. Construction is the only industry with a higher proportion of casual workers.

  • The vast majority of staff understand the reality of the current environment and would not want to take action that could harm their institution and their students. All staff understand the reality of a 13% cut in real pay and the difficulty in paying basic bills.  They understand that a demoralised workforce will harm their institution and the delivery of a world class education to their students.

  • The one per cent offer is just one part of the overall staff benefit package that includes excellent conditions of service, defined benefit pensions and provision for incremental as well as contribution-related pay increases.   All staff have felt their conditions of service deteriorate greatly in recent years.  For most staff contribution pay is rare and awarded by management patronage.

  •  With the current economic difficulties inflation issues have impacted on all, but HE pay and benefits packages continue to compare favourably with those outside HE.  Staff feel the impact of inflation every day. As for comparability, why does Queen’s pay recruitment incentives and market supplements in so many areas?

  • Specifically within Queen’s we have increased the number of colleagues employed over the last two years by approximately 240, reducing our vacancy level from 9.9 per cent to five per cent. A 5% vacancy level is still bad understaffing. Staff numbers are published annually in the audited accounts. In 2008/9 QUB had 3,683 full-time equivalent staff, but by 2011/2 (the latest available figures) this had fallen by 341 to 3,342. At the same time student numbers have grown, so staff workload has increased.

  • We have also, over the last five years, continued to provide opportunities for academic staff to obtain promotion each year at a time when other universities withdrew such arrangements. Yes, QUB has abided by negotiated grading structures, but in practice promotion and passing probation have become much harder as management has set the bar higher.

Pay Campaign - Day of Action 3rd December 2013

Model Letter to inform students why UCU is taking industrial action

If you wish to inform students of your plans in relation to the UCU industrial action we have provided  two model letters which you can choose from and amend as required.

Model letter 1

Model letter 2

Model reponse to any management request for your intentions prior to industrial action

If you have been asked to declare if you are going to participate in industrial action prior to it taking place you can use the following letter  to respond.
Dear xxxxxx
I have been advised that I am under no obligation to provide management with information about my intentions with regard to industrial action. You should not draw any conclusions from the fact that I have not responded.
Yours sincerely

Important notice about striking and Statutory Maternity Pay

If you take strike action and have worked for your employer for less than 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before your expected week of confinment you will lose your right to SMP. In this case we advise you not to strike. more...

UCU Guidelines on picketing (print version available)

  • The point of the picket is to peacefully persuade members not to cross our picket lines ie to not go into work.
  • Picketing is a legal activity and pickets should wear an armband indicating they are on duty.
  • Leaflets: We are seeking advice on whether or not we can distribute leaflets under the new Belfast City Council Bye Law.
  • Placards and posters should be displayed stating ‘OFFICIAL PICKET’.
  • National  Strike FAQs

Approaching people

All UCU members should be on strike with the exception of members with clinical commitment. You should talk to anyone, a UCU member, work colleague, or member of the public who approaches the picket line. Give them a leaflet and explain the reason for the strike and ask them to support the campaign. Anyone who decides to cross a picket line must be allowed to do so. But always take the opportunity to talk to them and explain the reasons for the industrial action. Those workers who wish to cross the picket line should be asked not to undertake any duties or responsibilities other than their own ie not to cover for us.

Speaking to non-UCU members

If a member of another union, or someone who’s not a member of any union, wants to support us by staying away from work, you need to make it clear that if their employers decided to discipline them UCU wouldn’t be able to support them. The individual must then make up their own mind. If they are eligible for UCU membership, their best course of action is to join there and then: they will then have the full protection afforded to any UCU member. Keep membership forms with you for this purpose. If they do decide they have to go in to work, but would like to support us, then encourage them to come to the rally in the Students Union

Speaking to students

Students are not vulnerable to disciplinary action like staff, so any student who wishes to support us and not cross the picket line should be made welcome. Likewise, any student who wishes to stand near the picket lines should be made welcome, although they would not be legally recognised official pickets (so shouldn’t, for example, be allowed to wear an armband).

Speaking to people who are not university staff or students

You can seek to persuade other workers, not employed at the university or college, not to deliver goods or to enter the work premises, eg post, milk, stationary supplies etc (this is the only form of permitted 'secondary' action). Mobile numbers of the picket organisers should be available on the day.

UCU HQ have produced Strike FAQs

You can download the following posters and leaflets

 (.pdf) file type icon United for Education: Fair Pay Now - leaflet (.pdf) [66kb]

 (.pdf) file type icon United for Education: Fair Pay Now - placard/poster (.pdf) [57kb]

 (.pdf) file type icon 31 October strike for fair pay - poster (.pdf) [81kb]

 (.pdf) file type icon 31 October strike for fair pay - leaflet (.pdf) [178kb]

 (.pdf) file type icon 31 October strike for fair pay - leaflet (.pdf) [77kb]

USS Campaign

USS Dispute - Demonstration

Demosntration at senate meeting in October 2011

UCU members held a demonstartion at the International and Postgraduate Centre on Friday 28/10/2011 to ensure that all members of Senate are aware of the membership anger at the imposition of the unecessary changes to YOUR pension. The QUB Senate was holding an emergency meeting there. Members of UNITE were also there to demonstrate on the issue of Pay.

USS Dispute - Defend YOUR pension

The UCU general secretary emailed members on 29 September to alert the to the preparations now well under way for the next phase of the USS dispute. From 10 October, the union is asking every member to support action short of a strike in the form of 'working to contract'. As a UCU member, this means that from 10 October you should:

  • work no more than your contracted hours where those hours are expressly stated, and in any event not to exceed the maximum  number of hours per week stipulated in the Working Time Regulations
  • perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required)
  • undertake no duties in breach of health and safety policies or other significant employer's policies
  • set and mark no work beyond that work which you are contractually obliged to set and/or mark
    attend no meetings where such attendance is voluntary.

You can find detailed guidance and answers to frequently asked questions about this action on our new campaign site: defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk


More detailed information on what action may be feasible  is available.

Queens UCU's response to the USS  consultation. (ms-word)