Strikes and industrial action
Industrial action is ongoing from the University and College Union (UCU), one of the trade unions representing university employees. Industrial action may consist of action short of strike (ASOS) including a marking and assessment boycott (MAB), and strikes. ASOS is ongoing during the current mandate (ending 30 September 2023) and strike action has been called for Monday 25 to Friday 29 September 2023. More strike days or other industrial action may be announced in future.
This is a national dispute, over which the University of Salford has no direct control. The action is being taken at 150 universities as part of a UK-wide dispute over pay and working conditions. Efforts are being made to resolve the dispute by national representatives of higher education employees and employers.
This page was last updated on Wednesday 13 September 2023.
1. When is strike action taking place?
Strike action has been called for Monday 25 to Friday 29 September 2023.
Currently, there are no additional strike days confirmed beyond 25-29 September 2023 as the mandate for action runs until Saturday 30 September 2023. See more in Question 4. This means that UCU members will need to vote to agree to take industrial action again before more strike dates could take place. Strike ballots will be open at 143 universities across the UK from Tuesday 19 September until Friday 3 November 2023. A result in favour of more industrial action will renew the Union's existing strike mandate and allow staff at every university being balloted to take industrial action into 2024. Further updates will be provided as soon as more information is available.
2. What does ‘action short of strike’ (ASOS) mean?
ASOS is where employees do not work beyond their contracted hours or duties. The intention of ASOS is to slow down productivity and cause disruption by withdrawing the additional hours of activity that take place through goodwill, outside of contracted requirements.
Staff began action short of strike from Wednesday 23 November 2022 and this is ongoing until 30 September 2023. The mandate for action runs until Saturday 30 September 2023. This means that UCU members will need to vote to agree to take industrial action again before more industrial action can take place. Strike ballots will open at 143 universities across the UK from Tuesday 19 September until Friday 3 November 2023. A result in favour of more industrial action will renew the Union's existing strike mandate and allow staff at every university being balloted to take industrial action into 2024. Further updates will be provided as soon as more information is available.
3. What is a marking and assessment boycott (MAB)?
A marking and assessment boycott commenced on Thursday 20 April and was withdrawn on Wednesday 6 September 2023. UCU define a marking and assessment boycott as the ceasing of “all marking and assessment processes that contribute to summative assessment decisions for students/learners, whether final (i.e. graduation/completion) or interim (i.e. progression decisions).” We provided a full update on the Student Hub about what this meant on 20 April 2023.
4. Are there more strike days planned?
Currently, there are no additional strike days confirmed beyond 25-29 September 2023 Currently, there are no additional strike days confirmed beyond 25-29 September 2023 as the mandate for action runs until Saturday 30 September 2023. This means that UCU members will need to vote to agree to take industrial action again before more strike dates could take place. Strike ballots will be open at 143 universities across the UK from Tuesday 19 September until Friday 3 November 2023. A result in favour of more industrial action will renew the Union's existing strike mandate and allow staff at every university being balloted to take industrial action into 2024. Further updates will be provided as soon as more information is available. We provided a full update on the Student Hub about what this means on 5 April.
5. What might happen on campus during strike days?
Picket lines may form outside the University consisting of University employees. Pickets are limited to just six people and must not prevent people from entering buildings or doing their usual work if they wish to do so. There are clear legal guidelines around picketing and a Code of Practice can be found on the gov.uk website.
Some academic sessions may not go ahead. However, not all University employees will be striking so please go to class as normal unless you are otherwise notified. See the teaching section of our FAQs for more information.
6. Do striking employees still get paid? What will salary deductions be spent on?
Striking employees are not paid for the days that they are on strike.
We have made a commitment that the money saved through staff salary deductions from those who do decide to take strike action will be used to enhance the student experience. We will work with your Students’ Union to identify the most effective use of any funds.
7. I'm concerned about this. Who can I speak to?
We are confident that you do not need to be concerned, but we understand you may still wish to speak to someone.
9. What areas of my course will be affected?
The consequence of a small number of staff members taking strike action, or action short of strike, is that some classes might be cancelled and/or other aspects of your teaching and learning might be affected e.g., invigilation, marking. However, you should:
- Treat each day as usual
- Attend all lectures and other teaching sessions as normal
- Submit assignments by the specified deadlines
- Attend all scheduled examinations and assessments
We are confident most academics will continue to work as normal. The University in turn will make every effort to ensure as many lectures and teaching sessions as possible continue uninterrupted, and examinations continue as normal.
10. Will my lectures and tutorials go ahead?
We are working hard to ensure as much teaching, exams and other related activity as possible progresses as normal. Where we are informed that a lecturer will not make themselves available during the strike action, we will make every effort to contact you if we are unable to mitigate the action. However, this might not be possible in every case as staff do not have to inform the University in advance that they intend to take industrial action. Do not assume that members of staff who strike on one day will strike on other days.
11. If my lectures are cancelled, can I request compensation or a refund of fees?
Our priority is to ensure that the industrial action does not adversely affect you and, given the actions we are taking to minimise disruption, we hope that circumstances giving rise to financial compensation are unlikely.
If you feel that the steps that we have taken to mitigate the impact of the strike on you have not been sufficient, you can submit a complaint through our strike-related student complaints process, and you can also contact the Students’ Union Advice Centre for more support.
12. Will my attendance be recorded and monitored during the strike?
We will continue to monitor your attendance and academic engagement during the strike period through checking in. We do this so we can support you in your studies and make sure you're getting the help you need. We will take into consideration the impact of any strike action on your attendance and engagement with any actions we take.
If you are studying on a Student visa, we are still required to record your attendance during the strike to remain compliant with our sponsor duties.
Please be reassured that if your classes are cancelled during the strike action, this will not affect your attendance record. This isn’t classed as an unauthorised absence. If you have any concerns, please contact your school office who will advise.
13. I have assignments due on a strike day. What should I do?
You should complete and submit your assignments by the agreed deadline as normal. Most of your tutors will not be taking part in the strike action and will be invigilating at exams, marking work and providing feedback as usual. Even if you have been told by one of your tutors they will be taking part in the strike, you should still submit your work by the stated deadline.
On strike days our campus will remain open and our libraries, computer rooms, student support, school offices, food outlets, and other learning environments and services will be available as normal throughout the period to enable you to continue your studies and independent learning.
If you feel that the strike action has impacted on your ability to submit an assessment, please contact your school so they can advise on the most appropriate course of action to support your circumstances.
14. I have an exam scheduled on a strike day. What should I do?
Please attend your exam as normal. The University has mitigation in place to ensure your examination will go ahead.
15. I am expecting feedback on my work during the strike action. How might this be impacted?
Your feedback may be slightly delayed if the member of staff due to deliver this has decided to take strike action. Any strike action taken would not be counted as contributing to the 15 working days turnaround for feedback. If you have any concerns, please contact your School Office.
16. What are my rights during the strike?
- The Office for Students has produced an online resource which details your rights during strike action
- The University of Salford Students’ Union also operates an independent advice centre for all students who are affected.
- The University has put a number of steps in place to support students during the current period of strike action. If you have any concerns or questions, you should raise these in the first instance with your programme leader or School Office. If the response you receive does not resolve the issues you have raised, the next step to follow is to raise your concerns through the University’s Student Strike Complaints Procedure
- The National Union of Students provides information for students regarding the strikes
- The Office of the Independent Adjudicator has released FAQs for students
17. What is the background of the dispute?
Universities across the UK are the subject of industrial action by staff after members of the University and College Union (UCU) backed strike action and action short of a strike in two separate ballots that took place between 6 September and 21 October 2022 on national issues; one on pay and working conditions, the other on pensions. The pensions issue reached a resolution earlier this year. You can see more information on the UCU website.
Pay and working conditions: In the pay and conditions ballot, the Union’s demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Staff were given a 3% rise in 2022 whilst a third of academic staff in the sector are on some form of temporary contract.
In 2023 higher education institutions were advised by the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) to consider the implementation of an interim pay uplift from Wednesday 1 February 2023 of £1000 (or 2%, whichever is greater) for pay points up to and including spine point 51. This was implemented at that time by the University of Salford. Staff members then received the remainder of the uplift in August, as follows:
- For those receiving the £1000 uplift to their annual salary in the March payroll (spine points 3-41), they then received the remainder of their 5-8% uplift (percentage varies, depending on spine point) from 1 August 2023
- For those receiving 2% in March (spine points 42-51), this meant a further 3% uplift in August
- A pay increase to the Hourly Paid Pay Scale was also applied, with an uplift of 2% in March and the remaining 3% uplift implemented in August 2023
Pensions: UCU demanded that employers revoke the changes to benefits and contribution rates they made earlier this year to the future guaranteed retirement income of the average member. This issue reached a resolution earlier in 2023.
18. What were the results of UCU's ballots?
UCU have conducted two ballots - in September 2022 and March 2023.
The results of the first University and College Union (UCU) national ballot for industrial action in relation to USS pensions across 67 institutions:
- 47,567 individuals were entitled to vote in the USS ballot
- 28,649 votes were cast, representing a 60.23% turnout
- 24,239 (84.88%) individuals voted to say they were prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action, and 25,753 (90.14%) said they were prepared to take industrial action short of a strike.
- 4,319 (15.12%) individuals voted to say “no” to strike action, and 2,817 (9.86%) said “no” to action short of a strike.
The results of the second UCU national ballot:
- Pay and working conditions: There was a 56.4% turnout for voting with 85.6% of individuals voting to say they were prepared to take strike action over this issue
- Pensions: There was a 58.4% turnout for voting with 89% of individuals voting to say they were prepared to take strike action over this issue
- In both disputes, the 'yes' vote has increased from the previous ballot
- Members also voted 'yes' to continue action short of strike (ASOS), meaning staff work to their contracted duties and not beyond
19. What were the results of the UCU consultation?
Following a two-week consultation in which UCU members voted on a number of proposals agreed with employers via ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), the results announced on Monday 17 April 2023 were as follows:
- In the pay and conditions dispute, UCU members voted by 56% to reject proposals agreed with employers via ACAS
- In the pensions dispute, members voted by 85% to note the pension proposals agreed with employers via ACAS
In light of these results, UCU announced an extension of their ASOS to include a marking and assessment boycott commencing 20 April 2023. This was withdrawn on 6 September 2023. This action was only in relation to the ongoing national disputes about pay and working conditions.
20. What is happening with other strike action taking place across the UK?
Across the UK there are several unions in dispute with their employers including our own union, UCU.
Train strikes may continue. Check all industrial action updates on the National Rail website. Students who commute to campus using public transport are advised to regularly check your train or bus operating company's website for updates about any disruption to local services.
Teachers' strikes may be confirmed for the future. If they do, please note that we have a Limitations on Bringing Children onto University Premises Policy as many of our risk assessments do not include children. This means that it's generally not appropriate to bring your child to campus for any scheduled learning activity that you have (e.g. classes). If you experience circumstances beyond your control and your attendance at scheduled activity will be impacted, we encourage you to reach out to your module or programme leader in the first instance.
21. I am unable to attend lectures because of strike action by other Unions (e.g. rail, teachers). What do I do?
If you are unable to attend lectures because of the rail strikes or due to challenges with childcare because of the teachers’ strikes and school closures, please contact your Programme Leader or contact your School Office using the contact details below and they will advise on the best way for you to catch-up on any missed learning.