Skip to Content

Information for Staff

Information for Staff in relation to Industrial Action

Queen’s is one of 58 universities whose UCU members will take part in industrial action in relation to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and in relation to pay and working conditions.

  • 1. When will industrial action take place?

    The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has announced their intention to engage in three days of strike action on:

    • Wednesday 1 December 2021
    • Thursday 2 December 2021
    • Friday 3 December 2021

    They have also advised that action short of strike will commence on Wednesday 1 December 2021.

  • 2. What is the strike about?

    UCU have voted to take industrial action in relation to changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a national pension scheme, and also in relation to pay and working conditions.

    Responsibility for resolving the pensions dispute lies with members of the Joint Negotiating Committee (UUK, who represent the sector employers, and the UCU who represent employees). The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are responsible for resolving the dispute relating to pay and conditions with UCU.

  • 3. Is this the same dispute that resulted in strike action in November-December 2019 and February-March 2020?

    Yes. The upcoming round of industrial action relates to the same dispute that resulted in strike action last year and in 2019.

  • 4. What is the University’s position on the issues that have led to this situation?

    As with the previous rounds of action, this is primarily a national dispute that the University cannot resolve unilaterally. However, we will continue to use our influence to shape and inform the national debate. In line with the Universities UK position, we, as employers, remain fully committed to continuing engagement to develop a joint approach to the future of the pension scheme.

    Recently, we have worked closely with our local UCU colleagues and made significant progress in areas such as the gender pay gap.

    We remain committed to working in partnership with all trade unions to deal with local issues.

  • 5. What is the University doing to address staff concerns about issues such as workload, casualisation and equality?

    The pensions and pay disputes remain national issues that the University cannot resolve at a local level. However, other matters such as casualisation, workload and equality are of equal importance to staff and have emerged as prominent topics in the debate at both a local and national level. These are issues that the University does have greater influence over and a range of interventions that have already been underway to improve working conditions for our staff, with more changes planned. These include:

    • 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 worked closely with local UCU representatives on a fundamental review of all atypical contracts and have launched the QWork operating model to engage casual workers. The Extended Workforce Project has initiated work to review the employment status of teaching assistants, and wider work on successive fixed-term research contracts is a component of the Strategy 2030 people plan.
    • A working group, led by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Stuart Elborn, established to review of our approach to workload allocation, has developed principles and operational guidance for workload allocation and a commitment has been made within the People Workstream of Strategy 2030 to consider a technical solution for workload allocation.
    • Queen’s has launched a single, holistic Mental Health Framework (“QUBeWell”), which will support the mental health and wellbeing of all students and staff, having invested £600k in this area.

    As a University, we have a very strong reputation, both locally and nationally, for our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and on campus generally. Both our People First Strategy and our institutional Equality Scheme Action Plan set out our commitment to engage with and listen to our staff on important issues such as these. We are recognised among the top UK universities for gender equality practices by the flagship accreditation scheme, Athena SWAN Charter and we are committed to progressing other work in respect of racial, LGBTQ+ and disability equality.

  • 6. How many staff will be going on strike?

    The nature of Industrial Action means that the University will not know in advance how many colleagues decide to participate. From past experience, it is reasonable to assume that some Schools/Directorates will be affected more than others.

    The Queen’s branch of UCU conducted a ballot of their members to establish a mandate for industrial action. The results of the ballots are as follows.

    USS:

    • 930 eligible to vote
    • 283 voted (30.43%)

    • 210 voted yes for strike action (74.5% of those who voted)
    • 72 voted no to strike action (25.5% of those who voted)

    • 233 voted yes for ASOS (82.3% of those who voted)
    • 50 voted no to ASOS (17.7% of those who voted)

    Pay:

    • 930 eligible to vote
    • 261 voted (28.06%)

    • 179 voted yes for strike action (68.85% of those who voted)
    • 81 voted no to strike action (31.15% of those who voted)

    • 206 voted yes for ASOS (78.9% of those who voted)
    • 55 voted no to ASOS (21.15% of those who voted)
  • 7. How will strike action affect me or my work?

    If you are not taking part in the action, you will only be affected by potentially being asked to help the University to mitigate the impact on students, for example by helping to rearrange assessments required for professional accreditation purposes or to record those classes that have been cancelled in order to understand the impact on students.

    Your line manager will advise of these details as necessary.

  • 8. What is the University doing to minimise disruption to our students?

    We are making every effort to ensure that students are not adversely affected more than is unavoidable and are closely monitoring the impact of the industrial action. We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. Many students will not be affected at all.

    Unless advised otherwise, students should attend lectures and tutorials as normal.

    If activities are, or have been, cancelled, the University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact. While it is unlikely that it will be possible to ‘replace’ the teaching that has been missed, our priority for all students will be the delivery of required learning outcomes of the programme.

    Schools will be in direct contact with affected students when the full impact of the industrial action is known.

    Further details are available in the FAQs for students.

  • 9. What information have students been provided with in relation to the industrial action?

    Students will receive email updates to their University email account and are being signposted to a student-facing webpage with FAQs.

    Schools will be providing students with as much information as possible at a local level about the impact of strike action and any steps being taken to mitigate this impact.

  • 10. If students ask me questions about the impact of the strike action, what should I do?

    Students will receive email updates to their University email account and are being signposted to a student-facing webpage with FAQs.

    For questions relating specifically to their course, assessment, cancelled classes etc., students are being directed to contact their School Office.

  • 11. Will pay be deducted if staff take strike action?

    Staff in Grade 6 and above

    For those staff in Grade 6 and above who do take strike action, one day’s pay will be withheld, for each day of strike action, on the basis of 1/365th of an employee’s salary. This will be calculated on a pro-rata basis for part-time staff.

    Grades 6 above: working the hours required to do the job. In light of the Supreme Court ruling in Hartley versus King Edward VI College in 2017, pay for staff with this type of contract has to be apportioned over the entire year, i.e. 365 days.

     

    Staff in Grades 1-5

    For staff in Grades 1-5 who participate in strike action, pay will be withheld on the basis of 1/261st of your salary. This will be calculated on a pro-rata basis for part-time staff.

    These rates are based on:

    Grades 1-5: working a five-day week, i.e. 261 days and their pay being apportioned over those 261 days

     

    The University is not currently intending to deduct any pay from staff for action short of strike (ASOS). However, we reserve the right to review and alter this position in future.

  • 12. Will participating in industrial action affect my pension contributions?

    Whilst the University is not obliged to maintain contributions to USS during strike action, it is proposed, as in previous strikes, that these will continue to be maintained as though you were in receipt of your full normal pay. This means that employee contributions of 9.8%, plus any additional voluntary contributions you have in place, will continue to be deducted based on your full normal pay. The University will also pay the employer contribution of 21.4% based on your full normal pay.

    If you do not wish to maintain your normal USS contributions on days that you are taking strike action, you will still be covered for death in service and incapacity retirement, but you will not accrue any pension benefits on those days.

    The University will plan on the basis that you wish to maintain full contributions during any period that you are taking strike action. In the event that you do not wish to maintain contributions, please email Ciara Smyth, c.smyth@qub.ac.uk, before 30 November 2021.

  • 13. When will pay be deducted?

    The University will withhold pay from staff taking part in strike action during the next pay cycle. It is anticipated that deductions relating to strike action taking place in December will be taken from the January payroll.

  • 14. What is the University doing with the money it saves by withholding pay from staff members who choose to go on strike?

    Staff members who go on strike will have their pay withheld for the number of days in which they take part in the action. This money will be used to fund initiatives to support students.

  • 15. How will the University know if staff have taken part in strike action?

    The University recognises and appreciates that many staff will not take strike action; however, all staff are required to confirm whether they did, or did not, participate in the strike action by completing an online form.

    All staff will be required to respond, not just UCU members, because the University does not know who is in a trade union and it is also possible for a member of staff who is not in a union to participate in the strike action.

    When staff are required to complete this form, an email will be issued to all staff, asking them to do so.

  • 16. What should I do if am on leave/off sick/on sabbatical etc. during the period of industrial action?

    If you are not working for any reason other than being on strike during the period of industrial action, you should ensure that your line manager is aware and has approved this absence.

    Once all staff have been asked to declare if they took part in strike action, the results will be cross-checked with Schools and Directorates to ensure that no member of staff’s pay is withheld incorrectly.

  • 17. How will the strike affect staff on Tier 2 visas?

    Strike action is treated as unauthorised and unpaid leave; however, recent policy changes mean that unpaid absence due to industrial action does not count towards the unpaid leave limit of 4 weeks in any calendar year.

    The exemption also covers reduction in salary so there will be no impact on the visa status of staff on strike.

    If you have any queries in relation to this, please contact Ray McEvoy, International Staff Support Manager.


Further Information

If you have any other queries in relation to industrial action, please contact the HR Hub: hrhub@qub.ac.uk; extension 3000.