1. Why are we having to strike again for pensions?

Last year we agreed to call off strike action, after much sacrifice and in good faith to allow the Joint Expert Panel to be set up. The Joint Expert Panel found in our favour, and recommended changing the valuation. Yet the employers and the trustees have ignored them and want to reduce our pension benefits by an average of £240,000.

It is vital that we now find a solution that will stop us having to go on strike every three years, whenever a new pension valuation takes place. This is why we are taking strike action now.

Find out more about strike for USS here.

  1. What are the ‘four fights’ for pay and equality, and what are our demands?

We are on strike to demand concrete action on pay and equality. Pay in higher education has fallen by more than 20% against inflation since 2009 and has hit the most casualised and most vulnerable members of staff the hardest.

Our demands are:

  • A pay increase of RPI plus 3% or a minimum increase of £3,349
  • £10 an hour minimum for directly employed staff and living wage to be paid to contractors
  • A 35 hour week for all staff working in universities
  • Meaningful action to close the pay gap
  • An agreed framework to eliminate precarious employment practices by universities
  • Action on excessive workloads.

Fill information on this claim is here.

  1. What does taking strike action mean?

Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified by the union. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing the University of Liverpool.

  1. Should I reschedule lectures or classes that are cancelled due to the strikes?

No. This is part of the action short of a strike that members voted to undertake. Rescheduling classes will dilute the impact of the original strike action.

  1. Do I have to tell my employer I am going on strike or intend to take action short of a strike before the action begins?

No. You do not have to tell your employer whether you plan to take industrial action in advance of the date when action begins. Doing so will enable them to minimise any disruption the action is aimed to cause and therefore undermine the dispute. UCU has already provided your employer with all the information about the action required by law including those categories of members who we are calling on to take action.

Once the industrial action has begun and you are back to work following the eight days of strike action you should respond truthfully to any query from your employer as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike.

We will let you know the date you have to record your industrial absences in COREHR when it has been confirmed.

  1. Will the union be paying strike pay?

If you are earn £30,000, you will be able to claim up to £50 from the third day onwards

if you earn below £30,000, you be able to claim up to £75 per day from the second day onwards.

The maximum currently claimable by any one member is £500. Priority will be given to those on insecure contracts, low earnings or with special circumstances. For more details on the strike fund check here.

You can only claim strike pay if you are a member of the UCU.

It is important your membership details are correct and up-to-date to claim strike pay. Log in to your My UCU and ensure you are in the right salary band.

  1. I am an hourly paid lecturer/GTA – can I go on strike?

GTAs are covered by employment legislation and employment protections that guarantee your right to strike just like all other member of staff.

GTAs were balloted in both of the recent ballots and therefore we would expect them to take part in all of our strike days and action short of a strike. There will be a number of GTAs on the picket line and we hope to see you there too.

Obviously we recognise that because of the precarious nature of your employment you may be placed under more pressure than members who are on permanent contracts. If you or your colleagues feel any pressure at all in this regard then do please let us know immediately and we will respond on your behalf.

  1. I am an hourly paid lecturer/GTA who is paid for their teaching, preparation and marking in one payment – how will the strike fund help me?

If you are a GTA who is paid to teach you need to ensure you are on the Standard Free membership as opposed to student membership to claim for strike pay.

The UCU will pay appropriate strike pay for each strike day upon which you would have worked based on your normal working patterns.

  1. I am an hourly paid lecturer/GTA, what will the University deduct from my pay?

The University have informed us that If you have a full employment contract with the University, you will be treated as an employee and so will have pay deducted at the rate of 1/365 of salary.

If you are undertaking teaching or demonstrating duties as part of your studentship you are not an employee and are therefore not entitled to strike. However, the University recognises that you may not wish to cross a picket line in your role as GTA. As you are not an employee of the University, no action will be taken against you.

  1. I am working on a visa – does this affect my right to strike?

Last year UCU won important protection for staff on visas so that they could take lawful strike action without affecting their visa status. Under immigration rules, if you are on a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa your decision to take strike action should not affect your rights or your ability to apply for indefinite leave to remain. If you are a student on a Tier 4 visa, your lecturer is on strike then this will not count as one of the 10 reportable absences. However, if your lecturer is not on strike and you feel to attend a lecture then this will count as one of the 10 reportable absences. UCU has produced a detailed briefing which explains your legal rights if you are a staff member or student on a visa.

  1. I have external commitments at another institution not affected by the dispute on a strike day – should I fulfil them?

If the external commitments arise from your employment at the University of Liverpool, then you should not fulfil them. For example, if you were due to attend a conference in your capacity as a lecturer at a strike bound university you should not go.

  1. I am not a member of UCU, if I join can I then take part in the action?

Yes, you can join UCU at any point in the strike and you will be able to participate in the action with the protection of the union as soon as you are signed up. While non-UCU members have the legal right to participate in strike action at their workplace our strong recommendation is that you join UCU so you have the protection of a trade union before you join the action.

To join visit ucu.org.uk/join

  1. Can my employer deduct my pay when I take part in industrial action?

Yes, the University is entitled to deduct your pay if you participate in industrial action. For strike action, the union contends that any deduction should be at 1/365th of any annual salary or equivalent. For part-time staff or those employed on a session by session basis, deductions should only reflect the pay normally due for the work not undertaken and no more.

We are currently seeking assurances that this is the position at the University of Liverpool.

  1. I am not a UCU member. Can I refuse to cross the picket line?

We would like everyone to respect the picket lines, but if you are a member of another trade union you should seek their guidance before refusing to cross a picket line. If you are eligible to join UCU we recommend that you join the union, on the picket line if necessary, and do not cross the picket line.

  1. I am a research fellow fully funded by external bodies but I don’t want to cross the picket line. What do I do?

It depends upon who your contract is with. If it is with your home institution and that university is on strike you should join the action. If your contract is with a body who is not part of the dispute you should not take action. If you need further advice contact Matt Waddup.

  1. Will participating in strike action affect my entitlement to statutory maternity pay (SMP)?

You are entitled to SMP (subject to fulfilling the other statutory requirements) if you have been continuously employed for 26 weeks ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the expected week of confinement (EWC). The calculation of continuous employment does not, however, include any week during which you participate in strike action. So, if you take strike action and have worked for your employer for less than 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before your EWC you will lose your right to SMP. If you are in this situation, please let us know immediately.

  1. I will be working outside the UK during the strike – what should I do?

While the legal position varies, UCU’s advice is that if you are working outside the UK on a strike day you should work normally and donate to the strike fund. If you are due to travel as part of your work on a strike day you should not do so.

  1. I am on study or research leave during the strikes – what should I do?

If your leave is unpaid, then you have no labour to withdraw and cannot join the strikes. If your leave is paid you should join the strikes.

  1. I am booked to be on annual leave during the strikes – what should I do?

If your annual leave is essential you should take it as planned and donate to the strike fund. If your leave is not essential you may wish to move it so that you can participate in the action alongside colleagues.