UCU Strike: Frequently Asked Questions Answered

Background to the Strike

What is a strike?

It’s when workers protest by not working in order to put pressure on their employer. Academic staff won’t work on strike days, meaning they won’t teach, plan lessons or mark assessments.

 

When is it taking place?

The strike is due to take place over 14 days during February and March: 22-23rd February, 26th-28th February, 5th-8th March, and 12th-16th March. There is a chance that all or some of the strike days won’t go ahead if the negotiators reach an agreement on pensions with UCU.

From 22nd February, UCU have also announced that its members will do something called ‘working to rule’. Many academic staff take part in activity that is over and above their normal hours of work and therefore they aren’t paid for; working to rule means they will no longer do this, and instead will work only their contracted hours.

 

Why is it taking place?

The dispute is over the future of the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme), the universities pension scheme that many academic members of staff are part of. Proposed changes to the pension scheme mean that someone starting work today could lose £9,600 a year from their pension. Some staff will lose as much as £200,000 over their retirement.

There have been months of unsuccessful negotiation to try to reach an agreement on pension changes, and this strike action is the final resort. At Goldsmiths, 95% of UCU members who got involved voted in favour of strike action.

 

Does the SU support the strike?

The Full Time Officer Team are in full support of the strike. They all ran on manifestos that signalled their support for academic staff members and against the marketisation of education. You can read their full statement on the UCU strike here.

 

Impact on Teaching, Assessments and Campus Spaces

Will my lectures, tutorials and supervision be cancelled?

Any lecturer taking part in the strike will not be working on strike days - meaning teaching and supervision will not take place. This means that many lectures, seminars and tutorials will be cancelled.

Striking staff legally do not have to alert the College in advance that they are striking, so you may not find out until the day of your class that it is not taking place. However, some staff will choose to informally tell you that they are striking in advance.

 

Will campus be open? Can I come onto campus on strike days?

There will be a picket line in front of academic buildings on strike days. A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance to their place of work, to draw attention to their cause and to encourage others to not cross the picket line and enter the workspace.

We ask you to support your lecturers and tutors and not cross the picket line.

However there will not be a picket line in front of the SU Building, the Library or self-led studio spaces, so both will be open as normal. As always the Students’ Union Building will be open for you to study, socialise, and meet friends.

 

I’m worried that the strike will have an impact on my learning and achievement. What can I do?

We understand that the length of the strike could have a big impact on your teaching hours and you might be worried about assessments and achieving a good grade this semester.

We will ensure that no student is academically disadvantaged by the strikes, and will provide more information following our discussions on any changes to assessments or extenuating circumstances on offer to affected students. As always, our Advice Team will be here to support you through the process.

The Full Time Officers have also requested that the College put more mental health provision into place during the time of the strike. We will update when we have more information on this.

 

Staff don’t get paid for the days they’re on strike - so what’s happening to the money I’ve paid?

It was agreed between UCU and the College that any money not paid to staff on these days will go into the Student Hardship Fund. However, EU and international students are not automatically eligible for the fund, so you’ll need to get in touch with the Student Centre to check. We've raised this issue with College SMT, which you can read more about here.

 

Can I get some of my fees back?

The College has confirmed to us that it will consider students request for reimbursement of fees under the complaints procedure, but on an individual by individual basis, rather than an organised collective basis. If you are affected by the strike, find information on the complaints procedure here.

 

I’m a postgraduate research student who teaches. How does this affect me and can I get involved?

If you're a postgraduate student who teaches, we published some information about your eligibility to join UCU for free, and encourage you to do so.

Supervisions are likely to be affected in the same way that lectures and seminars will be, so your sessions may not take place.

 

I’m an international student - will my visa status be affected?

We’re currently in contact with the University’s Immigration Team and will release information as soon as possible. We don’t anticipate that any international students will be impacted in this way.

 

Taking Action

How can I support the strike?

  • Direct your anger to senior management, the people who can have an impact on the pension negotiations. We’ve created an email template to send to Pat Loughrey, College Warden, demanding he intervene. Click here to get a copy, and send it to warden@gold.ac.uk. College senior management have the power to influence the process, and the more pressure we put on them the more likely they are to act.
  • Send a message of solidarity to your tutors and lecturers who might be taking part.
  • Talk to fellow students about the strike and encourage them to support staff.
  • Don’t cross the picket line on strike days: the bigger the disruption, the more effective the action will be and therefore the more likely the strike is to end at an earlier date, with a resolution on pension changes.
  • Get involved in Strike Art Days and other free classes in the Students' Union Building - we'll release more information soon.

 

If you have any further questions that haven't been answered by this FAQs, please get in touch by emailing hello@goldsmithssu.org and we'll make sure we update this article.