Queen’s is one of 150 universities whose Universities and College Union (UCU, a trade union) members will take part in industrial action.
This page is intended to answer the most common student queries arising from the industrial action and will be updated regularly.
1. When will strike action take place?
The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and Unite the Union have notified us of their intention to engage in strike action on Wednesday 1 February 2023.
UCU has also announced that its members will engage in strike action on the following dates:
- Thursday 9 February and Friday 10 February
- Tuesday 14 February, Wednesday 15 February and Thursday 16 February
- Tuesday 21 February, Wednesday 22 February and Thursday 23 February
- Monday 27 February, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 March and Thursday 2 March
- Thursday 16 March and Friday 17 March
- Monday 20 March, Tuesday 21 March and Wednesday 22 March 2023
The UCU industrial action includes action short of a strike, intended to be continuous, from Friday 18 November 2022, and consisting of UCU members only working to contract; not undertaking any voluntary activities; not covering for absent colleagues; removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action; and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.
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. Unite the Union is also taking industrial action in relation to pay.
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.
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. 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 Interim Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Stuart Elborn, established to review of our approach to workload allocation, developed principles and operational guidance for workload allocation. Work underway in relation to academic workload, initiated following the 2019 Staff Survey, continues to progress. An academic work planning system, Simitive, has now been procured, and will deliver a platform that will enable work allocation in a transparent and fair way, providing schools and Faculties with information for future workforce planning.
- Queen’s has in place a single, holistic Mental Health Framework (“QUBeWell”), to support the mental health and wellbeing of all students and staff, having invested £600k in this area.
- A new Staff Health and Wellbeing team will be appointed in the new year, one of the team’s key priorities will be developing a new organisational Staff Health and Wellbeing Strategy for the University.
- 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.
- A new approach to agile working was implemented in November 2021, with a focus on experimenting with new ways of working, piloting different approaches to see what works best.
- All employees received a one-off exceptional payment of £1,000 in the July 2022 payroll in recognition for their dedication during the challenges of COVID-19 over the past two years. Our more regular casual workers also received a recognition payment of £150.
- In January 2023 University staff, excluding senior management, will receive cost of living payments of between £500 - £750 dependent on salary level. A new Financial Assistance Scheme for staff will allow interest-free borrowing of up to £2,400.
4. What is industrial action?
Industrial action is a general term for legal actions taken by members of a trade union in dispute with their employer. The most common form of action is strike action. During strike action, some staff refuse to work and may join picket lines – a form of protest where people gather at a location to draw public attention to their cause.
This can sometimes lead to some teaching activity being cancelled on days when University teaching staff are taking part in industrial action. Classes and lectures may in some instances be cancelled at the last moment or with very little or no notice. This is because, under UK law, anyone undertaking industrial action does not have to notify their employer in advance.
If your class is cancelled, you should still come to the University to study and use our range of facilities such as the library, One Elmwood - the Student Centre - and Students’ Union as normal.
Staff on picket lines – which, in this case, are likely to be located outside University buildings – should not prevent you from entering a building or accessing any part of the campus to attend class or take part in your other activities. No staff member wants to disrupt students’ education and all staff taking part in the strike action remain committed to supporting you as a student.
5. Will the University be closed on the days of the strike?
No. Throughout the period of industrial action, the University will remain open and we will endeavour to ensure that all of its services will remain available to you, other than those provided exclusively by staff taking part in the strike.
6. How will my studies be affected?
We expect the impact of the action to vary across the University and to be very limited in some areas. The majority of students will not be affected at all.
However, the nature of industrial action is to try and cause as much disruption as possible. Staff who intend to take part in the strike action are not obliged to inform the University in advance. It is therefore unlikely that we will be able to inform you in advance of those lectures, classes or meetings that will be affected, or replace the teaching that may be missed.
The University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of strike action and ensure that you are not disadvantaged.
7. What should I do if I arrive for a lecture/class and no member of staff turns up during the period of strike action?
Unless you have been informed otherwise, it is possible that the lecturer/member of staff is taking part in the strike action. You should wait for 15 minutes and if no member of staff arrives, you should inform your School Office by phone or email (see contact details below).
When contacting your School Office, please bear in mind that they are likely to be dealing with a high volume of student enquiries so may not be able to respond quickly. It would be appreciated if you could be succinct when informing the School about a class or lecture that has not gone ahead and use the subject line ‘Cancelled Class’ with the module code. If you wish to raise subsequent concerns about the impact of the industrial action, please do so with a separate communication to help the School manage the volume of enquiries efficiently.
Once you have informed the School Office, you are recommended to use the time for self-directed study.
You should not assume that any subsequent classes/lectures/tutorials etc. that day/week will also be cancelled. You should continue to attend as normal.
All University facilities will remain open and available during the period of strike action.
8. What is the University doing to minimise disruption to 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.
9. Will industrial action affect my assessment?
The industrial action does not currently include a boycott of marking or assessment. In addition, the University has contingency regulations and procedures which can be applied in the event of industrial action affecting assessment.
As far as possible, material that has not been delivered as a result of industrial action will not be assessed. There may be some exceptions to this; for example, if assessment is required for professional accreditation purposes. In these circumstances alternative arrangements will be made and you will be contacted by your School.
Unless informed otherwise, you should prepare for any form of assessment, including submissions deadlines, scheduled during strike action as normal. If it is not possible for scheduled assessments to go ahead, your School will inform you of any alternative arrangements.
The University will monitor the impact of the strikes and will provide further updates on assessment implications on this webpage.
10. My viva exam is scheduled for the period of strike action. What should I do?
You should continue to prepare for your viva exam as normal unless informed otherwise by your School. In the event that the viva is unable to go ahead, your School will contact you to make alternative arrangements.
11. Will I be entitled to a refund of fees if lectures or classes are cancelled?
The University will make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact of strike action, ensuring that students are not disadvantaged and that the wide range of excellent facilities that the University provides will remain open and available to you. Therefore, no form of reduction in fees or compensation is currently being considered. This includes University accommodation fees as all student accommodation and associated services will remain open and available throughout the period.
12. Will students be entitled to an extension if deadlines fall within the period of industrial action?
Unless informed about a specific change of date by your School, students will not be automatically entitled to an extension if their submission or dissertation deadline falls within the strike period. You should plan on the basis that deadlines set will apply as normal.
13. I am an international student. Will this strike action affect my Visa Status?
Student Route visa conditions are not affected by the strike action. The strike action may result in the cancellation of some of the expected contact points we use to check your attendance. If expected contacts, including lectures, do not happen due to participation of teaching staff in the strike action, then this is through no fault of your own. We will log this so it does not have any detrimental impact.
If you have any questions about missed contact points during the strike, please contact email@example.com.
14. What should I do if I feel the strike action has had a serious detrimental impact on my studies or my assessments?
The University is making every effort to minimise the impact on students of the planned industrial action. Schools will endeavour to deal with the individual concerns of students who may be affected by strike action. However, if you remain dissatisfied with the steps that have been taken by your School to mitigate any impact, you may address these concerns through the Student Complaints Procedure or the Academic Appeals process, as appropriate.
Full details are available at: http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/AcademicStudentAffairs/AcademicAffairs/AppealsComplaintsandMisconduct/
15. Can I join the strike as a student or choose to not cross picket lines?
If you decide to support the strike and choose not to cross picket lines or attend the University on strike days, that is your own choice. However, if you miss classes which do take place as scheduled on those days, this will count as unauthorised absence and it will be your personal responsibility to catch up on missed material.
16. 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.
17. Who should I contact if I have queries or concerns about the industrial action?
If you have any queries which are not covered on this webpage relating specifically to your course, assessment, cancelled classes etc., please direct them to your School Office (details below).
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
School of Arts, English and Languages firstname.lastname@example.org (0)28 9097 3238 School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics email@example.com (0)28 9097 5028 School of Law firstname.lastname@example.org (0)28 9097 5122 Queen's University Management School email@example.com (0)28 9097 4200 School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work firstname.lastname@example.org (0)28 9097 5941/5117
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering email@example.com (0)28 9097 5418 School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences firstname.lastname@example.org (0)28 9097 4639 School of Mathematics and Physics email@example.com (0)28 9097 5293 School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering firstname.lastname@example.org (0)28 9097 4147 School of Natural and Built Environment Archaeology, Geography and Palaeoecology
PGR students: email@example.com
Archaeology, Palaeoecology and Geography (UG and PGT): firstname.lastname@example.org
(0)28 9097 3350 Architecture, Civil & Structural Engineering and Planning
PGR students: email@example.com
Civil Engineering (UG and PGT): firstname.lastname@example.org
Architecture and Planning (UG and PGT): email@example.com
(0)28 9097 4006 School of Psychology firstname.lastname@example.org
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
School of Biological Sciences UG students: email@example.com
PGT students: firstname.lastname@example.org
PGR students: email@example.com
(0)28 9097 5787 School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences School Office
(0)28 9097 2215 Biomedical Sciences
(0)28 9097 2677 Medicine
(0)28 9097 2450 Dentistry
(0)28 9097 6268 Postgraduate
(0)28 9097 2619 School of Pharmacy firstname.lastname@example.org School of Nursing & Midwifery email@example.com (0)28 9097 2233