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Industrial Action

We regret that UCU’s industrial action may cause further disruption to our students and, as always, we want to do all we can to protect the interests and experience of our students at Northumbria as well as the majority of our staff who will not be participating in the action.

The University will remain open during the period of industrial action and the University will do everything possible to cover any activities which may be impacted by the action.

The following FAQs are designed to help you understand how we will minimise the disruption and Northumbria’s position on what is a national dispute affecting many universities.

About the Industrial Action

Colleagues at Northumbria who are members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), the trade union which represents academic staff at Northumbria, may participate in the nationally organised industrial action.   



The industrial action relates to a national campaign over pay impacting 150 Higher Education Institutions. 

Northumbria, along with most universities, participates in the national collective pay bargaining process which determines on an annual basis how the national pay spine is increased. This process requires a collective outcome that each university can afford and that the trade unions, on behalf of staff, accept.   

Northumbria’s participation in the national collective process is a decision that both of our recognised trade unions, UCU and UNISON, support. Agreement has not been reached nationally, however, the final offer made by the employers’ representative UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association), was implemented at Northumbria, and other universities in the collective process, from 1 August 2022.  

The process has been especially challenging this year because of the significant rate of inflation and the wide range of financial circumstances universities find themselves in. Northumbria has put forward an offer to each of our recognised trade unions to introduce local arrangements which do not undermine national pay bargaining but address pay levels and mitigate, where possible, the impact of industrial action on student learning.  


At Northumbria we are sympathetic to very challenging cost of living pressures facing colleagues and we want to take action now to address pay levels in a way which does not undermine national pay bargaining. 

The University started discussions with UNISON in September 2022 about positive changes which address low pay and the compression of salary points at Grades 1-3, harmonise leave entitlements with academic staff and allow colleagues to ‘sell’ one week of leave each year, the value of which is 1.9% of an individual’s annual salary. 

UNISON is holding Branch meetings in w/c 21 November to decide as a Branch whether to accept the changes outlined.  

In addition, we have put forward to the Northumbria UCU Branch the offer of a further non-consolidated 3% monthly supplement on current salaries from 1 January 2023 until 31 July 2023, resulting in a 6% uplift on salaries from the position in 2021/22. If agreed the nationally agreed increase from 1 August 2023 will then take the place of the 3% supplement. If agreed, this supplement would apply to all staff groups and salary points up to and including Grade 9 except the points under discussion with UNISON which will have already been adjusted. 

UCU has advised that the industrial action will include:

1. a continuous period of Action Short of Strike (ASOS), starting on 23 November 2022 and ending on 20 April 2023, consisting of: 

  • Working to contract 
  • Not undertaking any voluntary activities 
  • Not covering for absent colleagues 
  • Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to lectures or classes that will be, or have been cancelled because of strike action 
  • Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action 

Please note that there is currently no marking and assessment boycott' as this has not been notified to the University as a form of ASOS. 

2. Strike action on 24, 25 and 30 November 2022. 

 

During strike action some colleagues (only those who are UCU members) may refuse to work and join picket lines to protest peacefully. Picketing is where colleagues taking part in industrial action gather in small groups outside their place of work to seek to persuade others not to work.  Picketing can only be carried out by colleagues who work for the University.  Students (who are not also University employees) and workers from other organisations are not able to join picket lines therefore must not be encouraged to do so.  

Colleagues on picket lines will not stop you from entering a building or prevent your access to any part of the campus. Picket lines must not be intimidating. 

If you feel intimidated in any way or witness any behaviour you find concerning, please contact the Security Team on 0191 227 3999. 

Learning and Teaching information for students

We respect the right of our staff to strike, but we will do everything we can to minimise the impact on your learning and teaching. Throughout the period of strike action, the continuation of your education will be our priority. We will make every effort to minimise the impact on your studies and have put in place plans to mitigate any potential disruption. 

Not all members of our staff are members of UCU and not all UCU members will take part in the industrial action. University buildings and services will remain open on the strike days, and we expect the majority of classes across campus to proceed as normal. However, some Departments may be more affected than others, and this may lead to some classes being cancelled at short, or with very little, notice.

In the event of a scheduled on-campus or on-line class being cancelled, your department will advise you in advance wherever possible. We are not able to provide advance notice in all cases because staff undertaking strike action do not have to notify their employer in advance. However, some colleagues may choose to inform the University of their intention to strike, which will allow for alternative plans and/or notification of any class cancellations. 

You will still be able to use our facilities, such as the Library and Students’ Union, as well other learning spaces, to study on campus during strike days.

You will not be recorded as absent if a class is cancelled due to strike action. This means, if you’re an international student with a Tier 4 visa or Student visa, it will not be affected.

Will my class be cancelled on the planned strike days?

When the University understands which members of staff are taking strike action, we will endeavour to mitigate the effect of the action on students by e.g. arranging alternate members of staff to be available to take affected classes or reordering module content. This could be for scheduled on-campus or on-line classes. We may not know the full picture until the day of action, as staff taking industrial action are not obliged to provide advance notice of their intentions. We will make every effort to give you advance notice if your classes are likely to be cancelled.

Will my grades be affected if classes are cancelled? Will I be able to graduate as normal?

Your marks and academic performance will not be affected by the industrial action and finalists will be able to graduate on time, as planned.

We will closely monitor any impact of the strike action on modules and ensure that action is taken to ensure no students are disadvantaged. This will include looking at rearranging any missed teaching, protecting the learning outcomes of your modules and ensuring all assessments are fair and appropriate, based only on material taught prior to the assessment.

I missed some classes during the strike days, can I have a refund?

At the moment the full impact of the industrial action is not clear, and every effort is being made to ensure that classes go ahead or that there are suitable alternate arrangements e.g. equivalent on-line resources or rescheduled classes at a later date. We apologise if students experience any difficulties during this period.

The impact of the strike action is likely to vary significantly, with some Departments only affected to a very limited degree. While we are unable to predict the detailed effects of the strike action, we will closely monitor the situation during the action. Following the period of planned strikes, we will be able to assess how many students have been affected and how any missed teaching has been mitigated. At this point, we will advise any students who feel the teaching on their modules has been significantly affected by the industrial action on the most appropriate route to make a complaint, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

I want to make a complaint/ claim compensation due to the impact of the industrial action – what should I do? 

The impact of the strike action is likely to vary significantly, with some Departments only affected to a very limited degree. While we are unable to predict the detailed effects of the strike action, we will closely monitor the situation during the action. Following the period of planned strikes, we will be able to assess how many students have been affected and how any missed teaching has been mitigated. At this point, we will advise any students who feel the teaching on their modules has been significantly affected by the industrial action on the most appropriate route to make a complaint, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you wish to raise an issue with the University, please contact Ask4Help via the Industrial Action Help and Support article on the Student Portal.

We are working closely with Northumbria Students’ Union to make sure that students continue to be supported wherever possible.

The University will allocate a proportion of the withheld amounts to provide additional financial support to students, and will discuss with the Students’ Union the best way to achieve this.

If you are a student and you need further guidance, the Industrial Action Help and Support article on the Student Portal provides more information and a link to speak with someone via Ask4Help. 

 

My personal/guidance tutorial has been cancelled, and I really need some support – what do I do?

Another member of academic staff on your programme, or your Head of Department, should be able to provide advice and guidance. You can also contact Ask4Help at any Student Central location if you are experiencing difficulties finding the support you need, as one of our professional support teams may be able to help you.

Will I be able to contact my personal tutor during the strike? 

Yes, you will still be able to contact staff as you usually would. There may be a delay in receiving a response, so if your question requires urgent attention or in doubt, please contact your Head of Department or Ask4Help via the Student Portal. 

Is Ask4Help at Student Central still available?

Yes, Ask4Help support will be as normal. 

I’ve got an appointment with the mental health team/careers etc booked for that day – has it been cancelled?

No, professional support services are unaffected by this industrial action.

Who shall I contact for more information about my specific modules?

Please check information and advice on your student portal. If your query is not resolved please then please contact Ask4Hep.

I am a postgraduate research student – what will this mean for me? 

We anticipate all facilities, including laboratories, will remain open. However, if you are in any doubt, please talk to your supervisor or department. 

It may be the case that your supervisor takes action and therefore any scheduled supervision for a strike day may be cancelled and need to be rescheduled.  

Students at our London/ Amsterdam Campus

As professional support will be unaffected, our FAQs apply equally students in London and Amsterdam.


Will my grades be affected if classes are cancelled?

Your marks and academic performance will not be affected by the industrial action We will closely monitor any impact of the strike action on modules and ensure that action is taken to ensure no students are disadvantaged. This will include looking at rearranging any missed teaching, protecting the learning outcomes of your modules and ensuring all assessments are fair and appropriate, based only on material taught prior to the assessment.

Should I submit my assessed work as usual?

Yes you should, all assessed work will be marked. If an assignment has been set, please make sure that you submit by the published deadline otherwise you run the risk of the normal penalties for late/non submission. 

What do I do if my question isn’t answered above? 

If you are a student and you need further guidance, the Industrial Action Help and Support article on the Student Portal provides more information and a link to speak with someone via Ask4Help. 


Participating in Industrial Action

Contractual duties include those which are expressly contained in terms and conditions of employment and role descriptions (or can be implied in those documents) and those considered custom and practice. 

 

Contractual duties are also those assigned by line managers including reasonable instructions about the prioritisation of work and timescales for completing tasks to mitigate the impact of industrial action on our students.  Refusing to carry out reasonable management instructions is a breach of contract and partial performance of duties.  

The University has a duty to prioritise work in a way which ensures students’ education is not unduly disrupted.  Colleagues may be asked to put aside some activities, if necessary, to prioritise student learning.  For example, colleagues who engage in strike action, and where their planned sessions cannot be covered, may be asked to reschedule sessions. All online materials must also be made available for students as soon as possible following the strike action. These requirements will be supported by adjustments to workloads so that this can be achieved as soon as possible. 

Colleagues should adhere to the guidelines on the best use of e-mail when preparing their out of office.  The message should simply state that you are away from the office, indicate when you’ll return and explain who to contact in your absence. 

Only UCU members are allowed to participate in strike action.  Colleagues are required to notify the University of their participation by completing the online form.  We ask that colleagues complete this form as soon as they can after they have participated in the action but no later than Monday 5 December 2022.

If you do not advise the University that you have participated in strike action it will be assumed that you have worked normally.



Colleagues who are hourly paid, for example Associate Lecturers and Demonstrators who withdraw their labour in support of the industrial action will not be paid for any work not delivered on those days.

All Northumbria University employees (regardless of contract type) who participate in the industrial action should complete the online form and should not claim any hours that they had planned/been scheduled to work on those days.

The data included in your online form will be processed for the following purposes: 

  • Mitigation planning  
  • Making pay adjustments 

It will be accessed by the following for the purposes outlined above only: 

  • Your Head of Department (and their deputy) 
  • Colleagues involved in processing pay adjustments.    

Your data will be destroyed no later than 31 July 2023.  

Membership of a trade union is special category data.  The University has a lawful basis for processing this data on the grounds of Article 6.1.b contract performance and Article 9.2.b 'processing is necessary for the purposes of carrying out the obligations and exercising specific rights of the controller or of the data subject in the field of employment and social security and social protection law in so far as it is authorised by Union or Member State law or a collective agreement pursuant to Member State law providing for appropriate safeguards for the fundamental rights and the interests of the data subject;’ 

The University is legally entitled to, and has a legitimate reason to, share the names of colleagues who intend to and subsequently participate in industrial action with those who require it for the purpose of assessing the impact of the action and putting appropriate mitigation in place.   

 

In line with Northumbria’s Employee and Applicant privacy notice colleagues may make a request to the Data Protection Officer to see the data held on themselves and ask for it to be removed.   

 

All Microsoft cloud storage holds ISO27001 Cyber Security Accreditation which ensures the security of your data. Microsoft form and Microsoft e-mail are both stored in the Microsoft Cloud.

f you tell your students that you intend to take part in the industrial action you must make it clear that the University is doing all it can to cover sessions therefore they should not assume that they are cancelled.  You must not cancel any planned sessions.  Faculties will communicate with students about any changes to scheduled sessions. 

Colleagues must not engage with students about the dispute during teaching sessions. 

 

To assist with planning we invite academic colleagues to let us know in advance if they intend to take part in industrial action or not, by completing this optional online notification.

Completing this helps the University to take steps to mitigate the impact of the action on students, for example, by arranging for sessions to be covered or confirming that sessions will proceed as planned. 

 


Colleagues who are scheduled to deliver in person teaching or perform other campus-based activities must attend work as normal on the days of industrial action.  The University will work hard to preserve student learning and support throughout periods of industrial action therefore colleagues who had not planned to be on campus on those dates may be asked to attend so that they are available to assist with mitigating the impact of the action. 

University facilities and systems such as e-mail, online teaching applications (for example, blackboard), the University’s social media platforms and University printers must not be used for trade union activities or promotion of the action.  You should consult your trade union representative for guidance on how this can be done. 

Yes, you may be asked to provide cover in the same way that colleagues are asked to cover for other short term absences. 

 

Pay will be withheld on the basis of 1/365th of your normal annual salary for each day or part day of participation in strike action.  For colleagues on a fractional contract, the amount withheld will be based on the proportion of their contractual working week that they participated in strike action. 

The amount of pay withheld depends on the form of ASOS and whether it constitutes a breach of contract or partial performance of duties.  

 

UCU is calling on its members to take five forms of ASOS: 

Working to contract 

Not undertaking any voluntary activities 

Not covering for absent colleagues 

Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action 

Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled because of strike action. 

The first two do not constitute partial performance of duties and will not result in a loss of pay. 

 

The final three have a significant impact on student learning and failure to carry them out will amount to partial performance which the University does not accept.  The University has made it clear that it will not accept partial performance and is entitled to withhold 100% of pay for each day when any or all of these three forms of ASOS is taken. 

 

The University is entitled to continue to withhold pay until all aspects of the role are resumed or the union calls off the action. Any work undertaken during this period will be voluntary without the right to be paid.  

 

This approach is consistent with the position adopted by other universities facing industrial action.  

 

Any pay withheld for strike action will not be paid at a later date. 

The University reserves the right to make an ex-gratia payment in relation to ASOS (and after withholding 100% pay) following an assessment of the impact of the action.  

Pay will be withheld from the next available pay date following the action, depending on payroll deadlines. Strike deductions for 24, 25 and 30 November 2022 will be made in December 2022. 


The University will use withheld pay, after meeting the costs to cover teaching etc, to provide additional support to students and their learning. 

Both employer and employee pension contributions will be affected if your pay is withheld for participating in industrial action. There will be a reduction in contributions proportionate to amount of pay withheld. 

Absence from work due to industrial action is considered as excluded service. 

Under the Teachers Pensions Scheme (TPS) there is no option to make up the missing contributions.    

 

Within the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) members may make up the missed employer and employee pension contributions. The cost will depend on how many days you participated in the action.  If you wish to explore this please send a request via the HR Helpdesk prior to the first date of strike action, or as soon as possible thereafter.  


Pension scheme members remain covered for death in service purposes while participating in industrial action. 

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