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FE Pay Dispute September 2021 – Going on Strike FAQ

Strike FAQs and guidelines on picketing

If you have a question that is not answered here, please email your branch secretary or . We will do our best to reply to you and/or update this FAQ.

1. What am I expected to do during a strike?
2. Do I have to tell my employer that I am taking strike action?
3 . What about my students?
4. Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?
5. How much money will I lose?
6. What if I am part time?
7. How will it affect my pension?
8. What is the law on picketing?
9. I am not a UCU member. Can I take part in the strike?

1. What am I expected to do during a strike?

Your union will only take strike action once every other avenue of influence has been exhausted and when your branch officers think there is no other way to make members’ views clear. It is a very serious sanction and that’s why we ask that every member observes the strike. Every member who does not observe the strike is directly undermining the union’s bargaining power and making it harder for the union to protect all its members.

When we call a strike we ask that members do not come into work and do not reschedule their classes. The best possible thing you can do is contact your local rep and volunteer to help out on the picket lines. It isn’t illegal, it isn’t dangerous and it can be fun.

2. Do I have to tell my employer or my students that I am taking strike action?

In order to fulfil legal requirements, employers have been provided with statistical information about UCU members taking industrial action, but not individual names. You are under no obligation to inform management in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action.  If you do you are undermining the effect of your strike action. You are under no obligation, even, to say that you are a union member. You should not tell students in advance or set work in your absense for the same reason. However, if your manager asks you after the strike whether you took action, you should answer truthfully as pay will be deducted and trying to avoid this may constitute a disciplinary offense.

Have ready a form of words such as, “I undertand that the union has fulfilled its legal requerements in informing managent of everything they have to. I fully support the actions of any UCU member here taking action and if I answer I am undermining their efforts to get us all a pay rise.”

3 . What about my students?

We are a union of professionals and we know that our members don’t like taking any action that affects students. It is the same for many public services. However, when we take action, we are generally making a case for greater investment in or defence of the quality of the service we provide. In the case of job cuts, for example, we argue that our students will be hurt far more by management’s actions than by our own. Observing the strike is defending the interests of staff and students alike. Undermining the strike might feel like the right thing in the short term but will only serve to encourage management and we will all suffer more in the longer term.

Formally, it is management’s responsibility to explain to students if classes are to be cancelled on strike days. However, you may wish to talk to your students before the strikes explaining why the union is taking this action. We will have a leaflet available explaining to students why we feel it is necessary to take action. Ask your rep for copies. Do not tell students if you are taking strike action as doing so is effectively telling management.

4. Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?

All effective industrial action may be a breach of your contract of employment. But because UCU has carried out a statutory ballot and the action has been formally called, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.

5. How much money will I lose?

You should expect to have a day’s salary deducted for taking part in the strike. Some institutions state that 1/260th of your annual salary will be deducted for each day of action. Any loss greater than this can be challenged by the union.

6. What if I am part time?

UCU believe that any deduction must be pro-rata for part time staff. The deduction must only be for your contracted hours. Please contact UCU for support in challenging any greater loss.

7. How will it affect my pension?

In previous one-day strikes it has been the experience of UCU that most university employers do not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Also, institutions that do choose to withhold contributions often make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay. If you are concerned about any effect, contact Chris Mason at UCU (

8. What is the law on picketing?

Peaceful picketing is entirely legal. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them.

The legal categories of people permitted to picket are:

UCU members in dispute
UCU officials and NEC members supporting members in dispute, providing they are accompanying union members who work at the location.
Visitors to the picket are entirely lawful but should not form an official part of the pickets and should not, for example, be given armbands.
Further detailed advice on the picket lines should be issued separately.

9. I am not a UCU member. Can I take part in the strike?

We would like everyone to respect the picket lines and not go into work, but if you are not a UCU member we will not be able to support you if the college decides to take disciplinary action against you. However, it is your general support that counts—if you can get permission from your line manager to take annual leave or work from home, this would be support.


UCU South West online rally, 25 June – #RebuildFE









If you are a UCU member of one of the five colleges in the Extended South West Region: City College Plymouth, City of Bristol College, Swindon New College, Truro & Penwith College and Weymouth College you are invited to an online rally, 12.30pm – 1.30pm on Friday 25 June, in support of UCU’s #RebuildFE campaign to address pay and funding in further education.

Please join Sean Vernell, and Jackie Darcy, vice chairs of the UCU further education committee (FEC) and members of UCU’s South West regional committee.

Please look out for invitations and instructions on how to join the Zoom meeting in your email inbox. 

After consultation with branch members, letters have now gone to principals of five college in this region: City College Plymouth, City of Bristol College, Swindon New College, Truro and Penwith College and Weymouth College demanding a pay increase of greater than 5% and strikes at eleven colleges in England, including the five in the South West, are now on the cards.

Industrial action ballots opened on the 14 June for members of UCU. As a member of one of those five colleges, you will have had your ballot paper by now.

The dispute is over college bosses’ refusal to make a decent pay offer to staff. The pay gap between college and schoolteachers currently stands at £9,000 as staff working in further education have suffered real terms pay cuts of over 30% in the past decade.

After years of UCU’s joint campaigning with employers, further education (FE) won £400m of increased government funding, £224m of which arrived in August 2020 and could have been used for staff pay. However, employer body Association of Colleges (AoC) recommended a pay offer of just 1%.

Come to the meeting; stand with your colleagues, demand the pay increase you deserve after nearly fifteen months of worry and increased workloads; close the school-college pay gap at your college after more than a decade of below inflation FE pay increases.

Further information here

FE colleges ‘Missing Millions’: see how much your college received.

Best wishes

Nick Varney
UCU Regional Official

Further Education trade unions’ webinar on safe returns to onsite working

FAO: UCU FE England branch officers | cc: FEC, regions & staff

Dear colleague

UCU will be hosting an FE England joint trade unions open webinar, to which employer representatives will also be invited, titled ‘Working together to make any return to onsite working safe in FE, ACE and prisons.’

The webinar will be held at 5 pm on Monday 8 June 2020. Register here.

Unite and UCU health and safety lead officials will set out the joint trade unions’ expectations on the conduct of risk assessments and consultation around agreeing what a safe to any return to onsite working looks like.

We believe it is important for employers to hear clearly our expectations on what any safe return to work looks like before racing for a particular date.

Please find below further details. A live chat window will be open during the event however due to numbers please restrict your use to questions and be aware that employers will be in the same room.

Best regards

Andrew Harden

Head of further education

University and College Union


FE England joint trades unions open webinar: ‘Working together to make any return to onsite working safe in FE, ACE and prisons’

5 pm, Monday 8 June, 2020

Register here:

Unite and UCU health and safety lead officials will set out the joint trade unions’ expectations on the conduct of risk assessments and consultation around agreeing what a safe to any return to onsite working looks like.

  • Chair: Janet Farrar, UCU vice-president
  • Unite: Bud Hudspith, national H&S advisor
  • UCU: Alex Lancaster, bargaining and negations official (health and safety lead)

Due to high numbers of registrations to this webinar we will be asking for questions to be suggested in advance. We will try to keep an eye on the live chat box but this may be difficult answer live questions on the evening but we will do our best.

Registrations will close at 12 noon Monday 8 June.


This webinar is being hosted by UCU on behalf of the FE England joint trade unions and is open to trade union representatives from all of the FE trade unions together with college, adult and community education and prison education management representatives. Officials from the Association of Colleges, Holex, Department for Education and Ministry of Justice will also be invited.

As joint trade unions we recognise there are many challenges to any safe return to on site working, both on campus but also in the other learning environments that staff work in, including work based learning and prisons. We believe that only by working together can we address these adequately.

A key barrier to any return to onsite learning and working is the confidence of students and staff that it is safe to do so.

Some confidence issues will relate to matters outside of employers’ control and are covered by the first three of the joint trade unions five tests which can be found here. While largely outside of employers’ control, we regard these first three tests as valid for any return to occur.

The last two tests are solely within employers’ control. On these we believe student and staff confidence will only be achieved when managers and trade union representatives work together to agree what any safe return looks like. To assist those discussions at a local level the Joint Trade Unions have produced a guide for local discussion which has 5W’s and can be found here.

The FE joint trade unions welcome and invite representatives from all of the trade unions and employers to join this important webinar.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Harden
Leigh Powell

UCU head of further education
National official Unison



SWIRE Online – Thursday April 23 – Edition 03


South West Industrial Relations Exchange Online – 23rd April 2020  – Edition 03

NB – You can share this information in social media using the short URL

National Advice and Guidance

All COVID 19 related issues can be found in one place at  ​

Regional Virtual Drop-in Meetings for Officers

Officers have said how much they get from discussing and listening to other experiences. Whilst physical meet ups are impossible, we can still use the technology for this. Look out in your INBOXES for regular invitations to online SWIRE meetings.  Your regional team is going to try and hold these on a regular basis, probably only for an hour a time and at different times in the week. The first one will be held on Tuesday 28th April at 4 PM and will last for a maximum of one hour. It will be sent to officers as invitation to a SKYPE meeting. If you can accept or decline the invitation when you receive it that would help us know how many participants to expect. ​

Furloughing (laying off staff)

Please note the recently published specific advice for our sectors.   ​See attachments

Officials have now been successful in ensuring that our positioning on this as set out below has been achieved in the vast majority of workplaces within our region

​a. should facilitate working at home wherever possible.

b. should agree to pay 100% of wages throughout the furlough period ​

c. should agree to pay all employer contributions to all occupational pension schemes (individuals will remain liable for their employee contribution – through PAYE) ​

d. should confirm in writing that individuals will suffer no detriment by agreeing to be furloughed including: ​continuity of employment, sick pay, maternity leave and pay, and redundancy rights, continued accrual of annual leave during furlough, access to progression, promotion, and training & development opportunities  ​

e. that employment is guaranteed following furlough ​

f. if on a variable hours or FTC contract, that wages during furlough will be calculated in a fair and transparent manner, taking into account any previous assurances of hours ​

We still await a couple of workplaces confirmation of 100 percent pay. For example, City of Bristol College initially proposed only committing to 100% pay for a period of one month, after which that would be reviewed. UCU made clear that this would be unacceptable, and the College has now revised their position and will be paying the full 100%. ​

Case Work ​

Morin is planning to present a brief online training session for new case workers at the Exeter University branch on handling case work. This might be a good opportunity for other branches to try and recruit new caseworkers as support required for individual case work is likely to increase in the coming weeks. If other branches are interested in Morin conducting an online session with them, then please do get in touch with her at

Please note – this is not intended to replace the usual Introduction to Casework course scheduled to take place in December at our office.  ​

Working From Home

Although we all hope that we will return to our normal workplaces ASAP as we move into the second month of lockdown we are hearing about members who are really feeling stressed and isolated. Please remind yourself of the UCU working from home  policy and our guidance on self care.  See attachments  ​

Anti-casualisation Work

UCU is seeking to ensure that this work still moves at a pace, albeit through online and virtual negotiations. In HE we are hearing some worrying whispers re employers looking to kick out casually employed staff first should a storm of cuts be proposed following this lockdown, and it is vital that all branches do all they can to make as many members as possible as secure as possible as soon as possible! ​

Extension of the Academic Year

​A number of universities have reported that due to the lockdown, extensions have been given to students to complete coursework and assessments.  Some institutions have a large number of clinical NHS degrees and additional training. Releases to NHS front-line roles and extensions to deadlines will also extend the academic year. This means that members will have to complete marking later and be available for (or arrange cover) for teaching and tutorials. This is on top of the work members have been doing at home to ensure students are taught and supported on line, teaching is converted to on line methods of delivery and preparations for next term and the next academic year are completed.

Members are rightly concerned that they will not be able to take their annual leave because management have agreed to extensions or increased deadlines, without consulting and negotiating on the effects they will have. We would like to establish what the position is in the South West and also across sectors, as we are sure there will be issues in FE and Adult Education as well. Please could branches report any concerns and information to ​

Annual Leave ​

We have seen a number of institutions attempt to change annual leave policies, without negotiation. This has ranged from not allowing any leave to be carried over, to not being able to take 3 weeks consecutive leave in July and August. ​UCU have always been clear that annual leave should be taken in year and management should not make it impossible for the full complement of annual leave to be taken. However, there will be circumstances where it is not possible to take leave and policies have been negotiated to reflect that.

If your management are trying to impose changes to policies or to custom and practice please tell us  ​

Organising Support

Please remember that during this difficult time it is important to let your members know what the latest developments in your branch are. It is also a good idea to ask members for their feedback and impressions. To this end I am always available to help with newsletters and communications. Officers are reminded that branches have access to their membership lists via a simple browser-based system called eServices. If you need this setting up, or training in it, please contact me.

​Keep safe everyone  ​

Best wishes

 Nick, Catriona, Philippa, Dave, Morin and Rebecca


Bath Spa Teach Outs

For more information go to

Strike Up! Conversations 2020 schedule v5 Full PDF (print version)


UKs biggest ever university strikes

UK’s biggest ever university strikes as staff begin 14 days of walkouts on Thursday

UCU members at 74 universities will begin 14 days of strikes on Thursday (20 February) in the largest wave of strikes ever seen on UK campuses.

The full strike dates are:

Week one – Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
Week two – Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
Week three – Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
Week four – Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

The disputes centre on the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and rising costs for members, and on universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

see more here:

UCU members will strike at the following locations in the South West

Bath Spa

Picket locations/times, teach outs/rallies

Newton Park, Newton St Loe, Bath, BA2 9BD, 8am to 12pm on every strike day

Locksbrook Campus, Locksbrook Road, Bath, BA1 3EL, 8am to 12pm on every strike day

Corsham Court, Corsham Court, Church St, Wiltshire, Corsham SN13 0BZ, 8am to 12pm on every strike day

1st teach-out at The Globe on the first strike day, Thursday 20th, at 1-3pm.
Pennyquick, Newton St Loe, Bath BA2 9BB

Subsequent teach outs still being arranged.


Picket locations/times, teach outs/rallies

Virgil Building Manvers Street 8-11 am
5 Manvers St, Bath BA1 1JQ

Main Entrance 7:30-9:30 am
Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY

North Road 7:30-9:30 am

South Building 7:30-11:30 am


Picket locations/times, teach outs/rallies

Streatham Drive / Stocker Road Junction Entrance (EX4 4PX), 8-10am.
Prince of Wales Rd Entrance (EX4 4SB), 8-10am.
Thornlea Entrance, New North Rd (Exeter EX4 4LA), 8-10am.
St Luke’s Entrance, Magdelene Rd (Exeter EX1 2LU), 8-10am.
Penryn Site, Main gate (Penryn TR10 9FE).


Picket locations/times, teach outs/rallies

Main entrance on Woodland Road, 8:30am
Main Entrance on Priory Road, 8:30 am

At 10.30am on Thursday, 20 February 2020 UCU members will gather outside the Victoria Rooms for a rally before marching to College Green.

Call for Solidarity – Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Bath Spa begin 14 days of strike action from Thursday 20th (2020)


In our region Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Bath Spa begin 14 days of strike action from next Thursday 20th.  Please send messages of support/attend local picket lines and donate to fighting fund (see details below).

Donate to the fighting fund.  Please support your colleagues.

UCU uses its fighting fund to support members involved in disputes, including the provision of strike pay where appropriate.  At the 2011 Congress, delegates recognised the current economic situation and the likelihood that this would mean more disputes to save jobs and services and protect conditions and recommended that members who could afford to do so, should make an annual donation to the fighting fund to support others.

 Need to claim or donate?  Please go to:

Congress suggested that an appropriate donation would be £25, depending upon members’ circumstances but any donation to support colleagues in struggle is greatly appreciated and will be used directly to help members on strike.

How to donate:

Go to:

Securely online by credit card via the PayPal website:

Make a direct bank transfer, or set up a regular standing order, to:

Account name: UCU Fighting Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account no: 20179432
Reference: ‘Fighting Fund Voluntary Levy’

or send a cheque (payable to ‘University and College Union’) to:

Fighting Fund donation
Finance Dept
University and College Union
Carlow Street

Please also send message of support.  These are always welcome and can be more widely disseminated.

Exeter –  Sharon Strawbridge (
Bath – David Moon (
Bath Spa – Beth Wright
Bristol  – James Thompson – Bristol Uni (

Please, show your support.

Thank you
Regional Official

HE Universities USS Strike November 2019




Call to All branches in the UCU SW region

You will know that Bristol, Exeter and Bath University members have smashed though the anti union ballot legislation and that members have voted overwhelmingly to take 8 continuous days of strike action from Monday November 25th right through to Wednesday 4th December.  They are leading the fight against worsening of pensions, year on year pay cuts, increased casualisation, unequal pay and excessive workloads.

These are issues in every part of HE, FE  Prison Education and AE.  Their action is part of the battle we are all fighting.  DO ALL YOU CAN TO SUPPORT.  Turn up on picket lines, send messages of support and contribute to the fighting fund.

Bristol University – (Bristol, BS8 1TH)

There will be pickets from 7.30 am to 10.00 am on Monday 25, Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 November.

On Monday 25 there was a rally outside the Victoria Rooms At 10:00 am (UCU head of higher education, Paul Bridge spoke) followed by a march to College Green (Bristol, BS1 5TJ)

Updated: Thanks once more for all your support. On Wednesday Nov 27, we will be picketing from 7.30 am to 10.00 am. We will have a rally at 10.00 am outside the Victoria Rooms, ( 88 Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1SA ) and then march down to College Green.

Picket locations for Wednesday are here:

Teach Outs:

Local picket leaders at each location will be clad in yellow tabards.

The main picket will be at the Victoria Rooms, and anyone is welcome to join that picket.

On Friday the 29th we will meet our students at 10.30am at Senate House (Bristol BS8 1TH) to walk down to join the Climate Strike march.

Please send messages of support to President, James Thompson care of

University of Bath (Bath, BA2 7AY)

Striking staff will be on picket lines at the main University entrance, the North Entrance, at the North Road entrance, and in front of the Virgil Building on Manvers Street

Pickets are starting at 7am.

The University of Bath have organised “Strike On: Teach Out” events.  All are welcome.  See what a real university can be.

More details here:

Bath Teach Out Locations

Monday: 2pm-7pm (The Bell Inn, Bath 103 Walcot St, Bath BA1 5BW)
Tuesday: 2pm-7pm (The Bell Inn, Bath 103 Walcot St, Bath BA1 5BW)
Wednesday: 2pm-7pm (Widcombe Social Club, Bath Widcombe Hill, Bath BA2 6AA)
Thursday: 2pm-7pm (The Bell Inn, Bath 103 Walcot St, Bath BA1 5BW) the Students’ Union will be joining us at 11am at the South (pedestrian) entrance and encouraging students to come along.

Friday: 10am-12:00 Climate 2pm-7pm (The Bell, Bath 103 Walcot St, Bath BA1 5BW)
On Friday, finish at 10:30am in order to head down to the climate strike in the city centre.

Please send messages of support to President, Fran Amery:

University of Exeter (Exeter, EX4 4PY)

There will be pickets from 7.30 am from Monday 25 – Wednesday 4 December

Exeter Picket locations

Streatham Drive / Stocker Road Junction Entrance
Prince of Wales Rd Entrance
Thornlea Entrance, New North Rd (Exeter EX4 4LA)
St Luke’s Entrance, Magdelene Rd (Exeter EX1 2LU)
Penryn Site, Main gate (Penryn TR10 9FE)

Teach-Out, St David’s Church, Queen’s Terrace, Exeter EX4 4HR, Friday 29, 12-4pm.  Line-up TBA.

Rally on the final day – Wednesday 4 December details TBC

Please send messages of support to President, Sharon Strawbridge

Donations to fighting fund can be made by:

Making a direct bank transfer, or set up a regular standing order, to:

Account name: UCU Fighting Fund
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account no: 20179432
Reference: ‘Fighting Fund Voluntary Levy’

or send a cheque (payable to ‘University and College Union’) to:

Fighting Fund donation
Finance Dept
University and College Union
Carlow Street

Please follow @ucu and

for latest details

Tiny URL to this page

Nick Varney



Regional Official


TELEPHONE 01392 412525


FE Strike Ballot Opens

FE Strike Ballot 2015 Opens

The last FE News announced that colleges in England had been written to and asked to confirm that they would meet our 2015-16 claim of an increase in pay of £1 per working hour for staff at all points. Colleges were given until noon 11 September to confirm that they would meet our claim. Colleges that did not agree to meet our pay claim have now received notice that UCU will be balloting its members on taking strike action over a failure to agree a pay increase for 2015/16. The ballot opened Monday 28 September and will close 12 noon on Thursday 15 October.

(read more in FE News)

(Industrial Action Frequently Asked Questions)

In the light of current legislation is more important than ever to ensure that we DO have the correct details recorded for you. You can check and amend your union record now online at:

If you don’t vote others will make a decision for you!

Ballot papers will be delivered to your home address. If you haven’t received your ballot paper by Friday 2 October please notify us that you need a duplicate by filling in the online form at

NB – Notifications regarding subscriptions have recently gone out. If you did not received yours please check your record as we may not have your correct postal address and you will not receive a ballot paper.

South West Region Caption Competition

We had a bumper crop of suggestions for our caption competition and the ones which fit for publication can be seen on our regional blog. The six winners who all win a UCU mug and a UCU badge are: Nicholas Thom, Exeter College, Julian Lewis, University of Bath, Brian Griffin, Bath College, Matthew Bridge, City of Bristol College, Richard Hobson, Cornwall College and Jonathan Ellis, Plymouth University.

The short link to this article is