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Message from Vice-Chancellor: Industrial Action

All-Staff email in relation to Industrial Action

Dear Colleague

I am writing to inform you that the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have recently announced a further round of industrial action in the form of a strike and the local branch of UCU has confirmed their intention to take part.

The dates of the planned action are as follows:

  • Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March

The University appreciates the issues that are so concerning to staff, and fully respects the right of our staff to take part in industrial action. However, the central issues in dispute remain primarily national so there is nothing that the University can do unilaterally to resolve them other than continue to encourage negotiations to achieve an agreed position. Positive discussions have been underway at a national level since the beginning of January, with progress being made by the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), which was set up to examine the valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). The JEP is tasked with agreeing key principles to underpin the future approach of the UCU and Universities UK (UUK) to the USS valuation.

In line with the recent statement from Universities UK (UUK), we believe that the best way forward is to work collectively to find a resolution to the dispute via the on-going tripartite talks.

As a University, it is important to us that all of our people feel valued and are treated fairly and with respect at work. We have been working constructively with local UCU representatives on those elements of the dispute that we, as a University, can control. Significant progress has been made in relation to important employment issues such as the gender pay gap, casual contracts, workload and mental health. For example:

  • Since 2017, we have narrowed the professorial gender pay gap from over 14% to 6% and, recognising that there is more to be done, are committed to building on this.
  • We have been working closely with local UCU representatives on a fundamental review of all atypical contracts and are nearing the completion of a University-wide audit of all staff on this type of contract and are in the progress of planning a phased migration of relevant staff to more suitable contractual arrangements.
  • A working group, led by Pro Vice-Chancellor Stuart Elborn, is currently conducting a review of our approach to workload allocation.
  • Queen's is currently developing a single, holistic Mental Health Framework, which will seek to support the mental health and wellbeing of all students and staff, investing £600k in this area.

We will continue to work in partnership to address the issues raised in this dispute and use our influence to shape and inform the national debate.

We appreciate that the decision to engage in industrial action is not taken lightly and no members of staff wish to disrupt the education of our students. We also recognise that not everyone will be taking part in the proposed industrial action and would like to thank colleagues in advance for their flexibility and support in minimising the impact on our students, which is the University's priority. We will make every effort to mitigate the impact on our students' studies and the University will remain open throughout the period of strike action.

We have published FAQs pages for staff and students to answer your queries as they arise and will continue to keep you updated as the situation develops.

Best Wishes

Ian

Professor Ian Greer
President and Vice-Chancellor