UCU Industrial action - information for students

Industrial action is planned, starting in November 2019. We've put together some questions you may have about how you might be affected.

Updated: 7 November 2019, 4.30pm

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced industrial action at 60 universities over pay and pensions. The following applies at Leeds:

1) There will be strike action on 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 November and 2, 3, 4 December 2019.

2) Action short of a strike will take place from 25 November 2019 continuously until no later than 29 April 2020. This will mean that staff who are taking part in industrial action will be:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as result of strike action
  • not undertaking voluntary activities

Our priority throughout this time is to minimise any disruption to students. We will do all that we can to recover missed learning opportunities.

What is happening?

When will the strike take place?

The strikes are taking place for eight consecutive working days over a two-week period. The dates for the strike are:

  • Week one – Monday 25 November to Friday 29 November (five days)
  • Week two – Monday 2 December to Wednesday 4 December (three days)

Who is on strike?

The UCU represents academic and professional and managerial staff. Some postgraduates are also members of the UCU. We don’t know who is on strike, but we do know that only a minority of the academic, professional and managerial staff are members of the UCU.  We do not expect all members of the UCU to take strike action for all eight days.

What happens on the day of a strike?

You should turn up for each of your scheduled activities unless you know for sure that it has been cancelled. The fact that a lecturer has told you they are on strike does not mean that their lecture or class will necessarily be cancelled. It is possible that it might be delivered by someone else. In cases of doubt, or if you receive conflicting messages, check the position with your School – and look on Minerva.

Some University staff will not come to work on strike days, but we might not know this until the actual strike day itself. Your lecturer might tell you they are striking, but they are entitled in law not to tell the University until after the event. This means that your School is often unable to provide specific information in advance about changes to teaching arrangements. It is possible therefore that you might turn up for a lecture or class only to find out that it has been cancelled.

What is a picket line?

A picket line is a peaceful event where workers and union reps (‘pickets’) stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking – this helps draw attention to the issue and can be used to encourage others to join the strike. It is likely that there will be picket lines at the major entrances to the University on strike days. This will mean there will be a group of staff with banners and placards who will speak to people about the dispute and hand out information about the strike. They may want to discuss the issues with you but they are not allowed to stop you from entering the University. 

How will it affect me?

How will the strike affect me? Will all my teaching activities be cancelled on these days?

It is difficult to say exactly how the strike will affect you. Only a minority of our staff are members of the UCU. Some of them might decide not to strike at all, while others might decide that they do not want to strike on all eight days. At the moment, we expect some activities may be cancelled, but by no means all. While your lecturer might tell you they intend to strike, they do not always tell the University. We might therefore be unable to confirm in advance whether specific events will or will not take place.

You should turn up for each of your scheduled activities unless you know for sure that it has been cancelled. The fact that a lecturer has told you they will be on strike does not mean that their lecture or class will necessarily be cancelled. It is possible that it might be delivered by someone else. In cases of doubt, or if you receive conflicting messages, check the position with your school – and look on Minerva.

We are, of course, doing all we can to minimise any disruption. Your school will be the best source of information and will do what it can to keep you updated during the strike period. We encourage you to speak to the school’s student support /taught student office if you have any questions.

I’m a postgraduate researcher. How will the strikes affect me? Where do I look for information?

In the first instance, you should talk to your supervisor, who should be able to advise you what impact, if any, the strike will have on your work.  Otherwise, you can approach your graduate school or the Doctoral College.  You may also approach the Advice Centre in Leeds University Union

I’m due to be going on a field trip during the strike. Will it be going ahead?

Your school will be able to advise you on this.

Can I carry out laboratory work during the strike?

You should not under any circumstances continue (or start) research projects (particularly laboratory and fieldwork) during the strike period unless your supervisor or head of school has confirmed that adequate arrangements are in place to ensure the protection of your health and safety. If in doubt, consult your supervisor or the student support office in your school.

When will I be told that my teaching activity has been cancelled due to the strike? What happens if I haven’t been told that it’s been cancelled before it is due to occur?

Your school will do its best to keep you informed during the strike. If you have arrived for an activity and find it has been cancelled without prior notice, please tell staff in the school student support/ taught student office.

Some University staff will not come to work on strike days, but we might not know this until the actual strike day itself. Your lecturer might tell you they are striking, but they are entitled in law not to tell the University until after the event. This means that your School is often unable to provide specific information in advance about changes to teaching arrangements. It is possible therefore that you might turn up for a lecture or class only to find out that it has been cancelled.

Nevertheless, you should turn up for each of your scheduled activities unless you know for sure that it has been cancelled. The fact that a lecturer has told you they are on strike does not mean that their lecture or class will necessarily be cancelled. It is possible that it might be delivered by someone else. In cases of doubt, or if you receive conflicting messages, check the position with your School – and look on Minerva.

What if my coursework deadline is during the strike?

You should submit your work in the usual way on the date specified, unless you are notified otherwise. If you have any concerns about this please contact your school.

What if I can’t complete my assignment because my teaching is incomplete as a result of the strike?

Inform your school if this is the case. They will advise you what to do in these circumstances.

What do I do if my learning is affected by the strike, for example, if I think my result would have been better if my lecturer hadn’t gone on strike?

The University is committed to ensuring you are not disadvantaged academically as a result of the strike. We will do all that we can to recover missed learning opportunities (the consequences of disruption can be explicitly taken into account in marking and final classifications).

Will my exams be affected?

The current period of strike action is due to end on 4 December, well before the exam period.

Will my attendance record be affected as a result of cancelled teaching activities?

Your attendance record will not be affected as you are not held responsible for cancelled activities. You are expected to attend as normal unless you have been told in advance of any cancelled activities. You should also attend any rescheduled activities and continue to do your coursework/reading etc. throughout the strike period. These activities are likely to run into the last week of term (ending 13 December).

Will I get a refund for any cancelled teaching activities?

We can’t answer questions about fee reimbursement at this stage. We do not believe you will be academically disadvantaged by the industrial action.

What if I support the UCU and don’t come to University on these days?

If you decide to support the strike and choose not to cross picket lines or to attend the University on strike days you are, of course, free to do so. If you miss classes which do take place as scheduled on those days, this will count as an unauthorised absence. In this case, it is your responsibility to make sure that you make up for any lost time or missed classes.

Note that only members of UCU may join picket lines.

Where can I go for support? Are services running as normal?

Are the libraries and other services still open on strike days?

Libraries, computer clusters and other services are still available on strike days. For opening times, please check individual websites (libraries, careers service, LUU, support and wellbeing, The Edge).

Are Disability Services open during the strike days?

Yes, although some 1-1 support sessions and appointments may be affected. If you have questions about 1-1 support from Disability Services or experience any unexpected changes or difficulties regarding your support during this period, please contact the Support Worker Team by emailing supportworkerteam@adm.leeds.ac.uk  or calling +44 (0)113 343 3927.

For any other questions, students are advised to e-mail disability@leeds.ac.uk, call+44 (0)113 343 3927, or drop in to Disability Services.

Are Student Counselling and Wellbeing appointments still taking place?

Yes, student counselling and wellbeing appointments are taking place as normal.

Where do I go if I need support?

You may speak to your personal tutor (if available), the student support team in your school or the Advice Team in the Leeds University Union. The student counselling service will be operating normally.

What happens next and when will I know that the industrial action has ended?  Will it happen again?

The current strike action is due to continue until Wednesday 4 December and we have not been notified of any plans for further strike days beyond this date.

We know that action short of a strike will take place from 25 November 2019 continuously until no later than 29 April 2020. This will mean that staff who are taking part in industrial action will be:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as result of strike action
  • not undertaking voluntary activities

What is the university doing about it?

Our priority throughout this time is to minimise any disruption to students and to ensure we continue to communicate with colleagues about the issues at the heart of this action. You can read information on our For Staff website about:

We will keep this page up to date with the latest information we have. When there is significant news to update you on, we’ll include this in our fortnightly Life at Leeds newsletter. For information about the impact on your individual timetable, you should contact your school, who will do their best to advise you.