Strike FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions: Ongoing Strike action by academic staff members

Updated: 18/04/2018

Last week members of the UCU voted to accept new proposals on pensions. This means the additional 5 strike days planned at the University of Salford, week commencing Monday16 April have been called off.

Whilst the strike action has now been suspended, many students have been writing to us to highlight the impact the action has had on their learning over the past few weeks.

We encourage all students to continue to complain and demonstrate their individual circumstances to the University. 

We have updated our FAQ's to help answer some of the concerns that have been raised:

 

I'm worried about the impact the strike action will have on my assessment/ examinations?

If your performance is, or is likely to be affected by outside factors, you have the right to ask for those to be taken into account when your work is being assessed via the PMC procedure (Personal Mitigating Circumstances).

If you feel the industrial action is negatively affecting your ability to study, complete coursework or exam performance you may want to go down this route. We would strongly recommend any student wishing to take this course of action seek support to do so. You can contact the Advice Centre to obtain independent advice on how to complete your PMC.

 

How can I complain about the impact on my studies?

The first step is to use the University’s Student Complaints Procedure. Information about this process can be found here or by contacting our Advice Team (advicecentre–ussu@salford.ac.uk). Once you have followed this process, and are not satisfied with the University’s response, you can refer your complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), which may be able to carry out an independent review of your complaint. You can find out more about the OIA scheme at www.oiahe.org.uk.

 

How should I draft my complaint?

In light of guidance from the OIA and legal advice commissioned by the National Union of Students, we recommend that your complaint includes the following points:

  • Point out any promises and reasonable expectations you had from the information that the University gave you about your course
  • Establish where the course delivery has not matched these promises and reasonable expectations, with evidence as appropriate
  • Highlight, and where possible quantify, the impact this has had on you as a student. This could include any actual financial losses you can demonstrate as well as any distress and hardship caused
  • As the University’s Terms and Conditions include a force majeure clause, we recommend that complaints should also evidence where the University did not do all it could to mitigate the effects of the strike on students
  • Explain what you would like the University to do about it

You might find it useful to consult the University’s Student Charter and the Terms and Conditions to show what the University has promised.

We have provided a template complaints letter here that suggests some of the information you might like to include to show the ways in which the University may not have met its obligations.

 

Can I claim a tuition fee refund?

The OIA has the authority to recommend that the University offers compensation to a student who refers a complaint to its scheme. The OIA has announced that it will look at complaints arising from strike action on a case by case basis. They will look at whether the University has fair procedures, whether it has followed those procedures correctly, and whether the outcome for the student is reasonable. The OIA will look at the duties and responsibilities of the University under consumer protection law in order to determine whether the University acted fairly. This scheme is free to use.

You could also take legal action against the University for breach of contract. Your rights in this situation will depend on when you signed the contract with the University as consumer law changed on 1 October 2015. Your entitlement to compensation would depend on your individual circumstances, the nature of any loss suffered, and the terms of your contract, including (in the case of contracts after 1 October 2015) any pre-contract information given to you by the University. There are likely to be costs involved in making a court claim.

 

Updated: 20/03/18

Why are staff striking?

The University and College Union (UCU) are taking strike action in response to decisions to change the way their pension scheme, called the “Universities Superannuation Scheme” (USS), works.

For more information on the reasons for the strike please watch this video:  https://youtu.be/njFZCArmDLw

 

When is it happening?

The strike will take place over 14 days during February and March:  22-23 February, 26-28 February, 05-08 March, and 12-16 March. 

UCU are now preparing for a further 14 days of strike action

 

Why has the SU taken this stance? 

In line with Union Council Policy, the SU is mandated to support striking staff in whatever action they choose to take action against attacks on their jobs or working conditions. Find the policy here.

 

What has the University said? 

Find an updated message from the University of Salford here.

The university have committed both in public and to the sabbatical officers that adequate alternative arrangements will be made where students have missed out on teaching provision during the ongoing industrial action.

 

How does this affect me? 

Answers to the following questions can be found in the FAQs section on the University’s strike action page here:
-How students will be affected?
-Will my lectures and tutorials go ahead?
-I have assignment due later this semester, what should I do?
-Will my examinations go ahead?
-Will my work still be marked?
-Will I still be able to graduate or to progress to my next year/level of study?
-Will I get a refund on my tuition fee?
-What should I do if I feel my studies are affected?

 

What should I do if lectures and classes are cancelled? 

If you come to campus and find out your lecture or class is cancelled, you can use that time by studying in the library; or utilising other space across campus for any group work etc. The University has said that they will “make every effort to ensure your studies are not unduly disrupted”. 

 

What about rescheduled sessions?

The University have committed to rescheduling teaching where possible.

As a student on the programme you are uniquely placed to determine if the proposals made are adequate and to hold the university accountable for the commitments they have made.

If the alternative arrangements made are inadequate, or where no alternative arrangements are made you should contact your student rep. We are encouraging student representatives to work closely with programme leaders to ensure that alternative arrangements are appropriate.

 

Will the strike impact on my learning and achievement?

The length of the strike action could have an impact on the amount of hours you are taught, and this may result in you being worried about the grade you achieve.

We are lobbying the University to ensure that no student is academically disadvantaged by the strikes. We will be lobbying for the following

  • That no student will be assessed on topics that have not been delivered.
  • For the University to demonstrate what their plans are at exam board stage to take the strike action into account
  • Clear guidance on the status of students with visas and any impact the strikes have had on the number of contact hours they are required to have
  • Clarity on when emergency degree regulations will be used, and what format these will take.

We are working with the University to ensure maximum mitigation is in place and ensure students can access learning materials.

 

Can I have a refund?

The University have stated that no refunds on tuition fees will be given, however the sabbatical officers are actively exploring what rights students have under consumer law to complain and seek redress. We have also written to the Vice-Chancellor seeking clarification on this, and assurances for students on their teaching provision.

It is worth bearing in mind that should any refund be given it is likely that for home students this money would go back to the Student Loans Company, so you would not necessarily see it.

The University has legal duties to provide your programme and the services around it that are contractual.

The terms and conditions you agreed to when you became a Salford student contain a disclaimer which protects the University from liability when courses change unexpectedly and the circumstances are outside of their control

“Occasionally programmes may need to be materially changed or withdrawn after offers have been accepted. If this happens we will give you notice as soon as reasonably practicable and will do what we can to mitigate adverse effects. This is unusual but can happen where:…. the facilities we need to deliver your programme are affected by an exceptional event (e.g. natural disaster, adverse weather or industrial action) which is outside our control;”

To use this clause the University need to demonstrate that

  1. It has taken all reasonable steps to avoid the strike action so that it is outside of their control; and that
  2. It has taken all reasonable steps to mitigate any adverse effects on students

The Union wrote to the Vice-Chancellor on this issue and you can see her response here

The Union is currently exploring if the arrangements the university has with national bodies to negotiate disputes are sufficient for them to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps.

If after the conclusion of the strike you believe that a lack of mitigation has disproportionately affected you, you may be able to use the universities complaints process to seek redress.

 

Can I complain?

You can use the university’s complaints procedure to complain about “the University’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the University”

If you believe the strike action has affected your ability to reach the academic outcome you expected you may need to wait until the end of the year to quantify that this has occurred.

It is unlikely that the University will consider a complaint about the strike having an impact on a future assessment as it is unable to quantify the impact that the strike has had on you until after the assessment has passed.

However you may be able to complain about a lack of mitigation which has been put in place and resulted in a service not being provided to you.

You should not wait until the end of the year to raise the concern that this may be the case.

Our advice centre will be available to provide support with complaints. We are looking into how we can offer more sessions to students on this.

If you still have any questions please contact us at students-union@salford.ac.uk

 

What happens to the money that the University has saved from not paying staff when they are striking? 

The university have stated that all of these funds have been ring-fenced and will be put back into the student experience. 

The University should not profit from strike action and we are asking that all unpaid staff wages are used to directly benefit students who have been disadvantaged by having to travel in only to find taught sessions have been cancelled.

 

If I support the strike what should I do? 

There are a number of things you can do to support the members of UCU in their industrial action:
-Tell your lecturers you support their fight.
-Complain to the University about the changes to pensions and how the strike has impacted you by writing to the Vice-Chancellor here.
-Do not cross the Picket Line.

 

What is a Picket Line? 

Some staff members will create a “Picket Line” – a symbolic boundary set by strikers in areas including the entrance of a building. You may go past a picket line.

 

Who is UCU? 

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

 

Who is UUK?

Universities UK (UUK) is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. It has formed its pensions benefit proposal following consultation with employers, drawing together the views of employers responsible for 92% of USS active scheme members. 

 

What is USS? 

Universities Superannuation Scheme is one of the largest private pension schemes in the UK and is the principal scheme for academic and comparable staff in UK universities and other higher education and research institutions with over 350 employers participating in it.