Industrial action information for students
The University of Leeds is currently in a period of industrial action. We've pulled together some questions and answers to help you understand what this means for you.
What is industrial action?
Industrial action is a way for staff to seek to resolve a dispute with their employer. It can be in the form of a strike (where staff members don’t work at all) or action short of a strike (ASOS) (where staff members may work to contract or may not undertake voluntary activities). Industrial action is organised by trade unions, who hold ballots (or votes) of their members to decide what action to take, and is a democratic right under UK law. You may see demonstrations, or picket lines, on campus on strike days - these are peaceful demonstrations and a key part of most strike action.
You can learn more about industrial action and strikes on the government website.
When is it happening?
Eighteeen days of strike action have been announced by the University and College Union across February and March 2023 covering:
- Wednesday 1 February
- Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
- Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February
- Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February [PAUSED]
- Monday 27, Tuesday 28 February, Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 March [PAUSED]
- Thursday 16 and Friday 17 March
- Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 March
Eight days of strike action have been announced by UNISON on:
- Wednesday 8, Thursday 9, Friday 10, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 February
- Wednesday 22, Thursday 23 and Friday 24 February [PAUSED]
Unite have announced five days of strike action on:
- Wednesday 8, Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February
- Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 February [PAUSED]
Why is it happening?
The current UCU disputes relate to changes to the USS pension scheme, and their campaigns focused on casualisation, gender, ethnicity and disability pay inequality, workload and the 2022/23 pay award. The UNISON and Unite disputes relates to pay.
What is the University doing to resolve it?
Industrial action is always challenging for our community and is even more so in the middle of an unprecedented cost of living crisis. We do understand that these are difficult times for many of our staff and students, as they are for wider society. We are taking steps to help those that need it most, in line with our values of collaboration, compassion, inclusion and integrity.
While the core issues at the heart of these disputes – nationally agreed pay rates and pensions – cannot be fixed by the University alone, we have been working constructively with our three trades unions to implement a series of commitments on related areas that we can address. These include issues around workload, employment terms, supporting our lowest paid staff, and fixed term contracts.
This support for staff aligns with our three Fairer future for all pledges:
- Reduce short-term contracts and boost job security
- Support a healthy and fulfilled staff community
- Create opportunity and celebrate achievements.
Are all staff taking part?
No, just some members of staff who are members of UCU, UNISON and Unite. Staff don’t have to tell us if they’re a union member and whether they are intending to take action, so we cannot always provide full details in advance about what impact there will be.
However, we know that only a minority of staff actually took part in industrial action held in 2021 and 2022. Unions must tell us when they plan to take any strike action, so we will keep you informed of any further developments.
How will this affect me?
Our priority is to minimise any disruption to your education and learning experience. As you may know or have seen for yourself, we’ve kept the University open throughout previous strikes, in December 2021 and February, March, June, September and November 2022.
Your first port of call for general help and information should always be the Student Information Service, which is open for questions in person, on the phone or by email from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
You can find out how to contact them here, or find your closest Student Information Point to speak to someone face to face on campus.
LUU also offers help and support services, in person, on email or over the phone, during the week and on weekends. You can find out more or the LUU help and support website.
What happens if I miss out on teaching because of strikes?
The University’s leadership team have been working with your Schools to set expectations around what has to happen if your education is affected by industrial action. That means that:
staff taking part in strike action should prioritise the delivery of required educational activities as soon as possible on their return to work. That means timetabled teaching activity like lectures, seminars and lab classes, personal tutoring support and examinations or other formal assessments associated with progression and award
where timetabled teaching activity is impacted by strike action, rescheduling this activity must take priority. Colleagues taking part in action short of strike (ASOS) are also required to prioritise educational activities, and deprioritise or stop all other work
rescheduled educational activity should, in principle, be delivered ‘like for like’ (e.g. face to face teaching should continue to be delivered face to face). Where it is not possible to reschedule on a ‘like for like’ basis owing to timetabling/space constraints, colleagues should deliver a high quality, interactive alternative (e.g. a live online lecture to cover a cancelled in person session or small group tutorial sessions to cover missed materials)
Because staff don’t have to tell us if they plan to go on strike, your School won’t know what replacement teaching is required just yet, but will let you know their plans as soon as they can.
I’m a postgraduate researcher. How will the industrial action affect me?
Firstly, you should talk to your supervisor, who should be able to advise you what impact, if any, the industrial action will have on your work. If your viva falls on a strike day, your examiner should be in touch to rearrange if the session won’t be possible. Otherwise, you can approach your graduate school or the Doctoral College. You can also speak to the Help and Support Team in Leeds University Union.
Can I carry out laboratory work during the industrial action?
You should only carry out lab or fieldwork if your supervisor or head of school has confirmed that adequate arrangements are in place to protect your health and safety. If in doubt, speak to your supervisor or the student support office in your school.
What do I do if I want to make a complaint?
We’re doing everything we can to ensure that you won’t be disadvantaged by the industrial action, and that plans are made to deliver any missed learning opportunities. Your School should be able to resolve any concerns, please contact them in the first instance. However, if you aren’t happy with this resolution, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then provide further information about how to make a complaint.
The Office for Students provides further guidance for students affected by industrial action.