Strike Action

General strikes information

1. What are the UCU strikes? 

The University College Union (UCU) members working in UK universities have backed strike action in relation to two issues, one regarding pensions, and the second regarding pay and working conditions. 
In total, 74 institutions are affected across the UK. The Cardiff UCU branch successfully met the 50% threshold to take part in this national strike action. 

2. Who are the people that are striking? 

Members of UCU are typically academics and postgraduate teaching students (not exclusively). 
Not all staff at Cardiff University and postgraduates are members of UCU and some UCU members may also decide they do not want to join the strike action.  
Those not taking part in strike action will carry out their work as normal.  

3. What does ‘taking strike action’ mean? 

Strike action means not completing any work in the days as specified as strike days. This includes all work such as teaching, researching, marking, administration, meetings etc. 
Any staff taking part in action will lose their pay as a result of participating in the strike.  
In addition to this, some staff may take part in Action Short Of a Strike (ASOS), which is an activity that impacts on general business and workplace functions (for example, not covering or supporting others). However, this will not include an Assessment & Feedback boycott so all assessments should still be marked if staff are taking Action Short Of a Strike (ASOS). 
Staff on strike will generally form ‘Picket Lines’ (boundaries outside buildings) and will encourage other staff and students to not cross these lines. Several rallies (gathering of staff on strike usually with placards and speakers) will take place throughout the strike period to gain and promote support for the strike. 

4. What are the issues they are disagreeing over? 

The first dispute is in relation to pensions received by University staff, here are some of the issues being discussed: 

  1. The overall USS pension fund has been valued with a significant deficit – meaning the projection of future money in the pot does not meet the money promised to future pensioners. The valuation methodology used has been highly contested by UCU. 
  2. Proposed pension changes to reduce this pension deficit gap propose both the employers (Universities) and members (University Staff) to contribute more money, with less money paid out to members in retirement than the current scheme offers. 
  3. Two years ago, a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) was formed to reassess the pension fund valuation made up of experts from Universities UK (UUK) and UCU. The second phase of the panel has two parts; the first is concerned with the valuation process and governance, the second with the long-term sustainability of the scheme. 
  4. The lack of agreement has led to further strike actions planned over the proposed changes. 

 The pay and working conditions ballot (otherwise known as the 4 fights) is fighting over: 

  1. The precarity of contracts: Universities rely on a significant number of staff on precarious or casual contracts which do not provide secure or sustainable working conditions. 
  2. Pay: UCU have calculated that the below-inflation pay rises since 2009 have meant university staff pay has received a 20% real-terms cut, and are asking for pay increases to keep up with the Retail Price Index (RPI) with an additional 3% or £3,349 (whichever is higher) increase this year to catch up. 
  3. Inequality: The gender pay gap is an issue across many universities. Cardiff University’s gender pay gap in 2018 was 21.6%, UCU are demanding concrete action to close gender and ethnicity pay gaps. 
  4. Workloads: University staff are routinely relied upon to work unpaid overtime – 52% of respondents to the Cardiff University’s annual Staff Survey said they could meet the requirements of their job without ‘regularly working unreasonable hours’.

 5. When exactly are the strikes taking place? 

Strikes are scheduled to take place over four weeks;  
Week 1: 20-21st February (2 days) 
Week 2: 24th, 25th, 26th February (3 days) 
Week 3: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th March (4 days) 
Week 4: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th  March (5 days) 
This is the second round of strike action this academic year, with 8 days of strikes already taken place in November 2019. 

6. Will I get advance notice of teaching that will be cancelled 

UCU members don’t have to participate in any or all of the strike days announced, meaning it’s difficult to know who will be taking part in the action. UCU members that choose to strike don’t need to give the University notice that they are on strike. 
Schools will endeavour to inform students of the disruption where they can and often school offices/hubs will be able to provide more up to date information. 

7. Will all schools and courses be affected the same? 

No. Some schools have higher numbers of UCU members than others, and individual members have the choice to personally strike on each of the days. This means that some schools may be more affected whereas others may not be at all. And as with the above, it is difficult to know the full extent of cancellations. With previous strikes, there were more severe impacts on some schools over others so it is important you look for information relevant to your course, as this may differ from your friends’ or housemates’. 

8. Will this be the last round of strikes? 

This is unknown at the moment. If no agreement is made on the above issues, further action could take place this year.  

9. Where do the savings made from not paying staff on strike go?  

The University will make a saving on staff wages during this strike action. The Students’ Union will be asking for transparency on where this saving will be spent and will lobby for money to go back into supporting strike complaints and student experience overall. 

The Students' Union and the strikes

10. Is the Students’ Union supporting the strike action? 

In short, Yes!  
In November 2019, students at the Annual General Meeting (attended by over 800 students) voted to support the UCU strike action.  
Many postgraduate students we represent are also members of UCU and are affected by precarious contracts. 
However, we recognise that for some students, there is a significant concern about the amount of teaching time that will be lost in this second round of action. We both support the action taking place and are also lobbying for the strike action to be over as quickly as possible to minimise negative impacts on students.  

11. What will the Students’ Union be doing to minimise disruption to students? 

The Union have been actively working with the University to mitigate the issues that students may face during strike action. This includes lobbying for a fair and transparent complaints system for students and ensuring that any missed content is made up appropriately if it can. In circumstances where missed content cannot be made up, we will encourage students to complain for compensation.  
We have also been working with other Unions across the UK to sign an open letter that will ask the relevant parties involved to reach a compromise that will end strike actions ASAP. 

12. Do the strikes affect Students’ Union staff and activity? 

Students’ Union staff are generally not affected by the strikes. 
The Students’ Union spaces will remain open as usual including 24/7 in Cathays, you can find contact information here. If you arrive on campus to find your lecture cancelled, our spaces are open for you to study. 
Key events and activity will continue as normal, including our club night activity (Yolo and Juice), please see here for the full events listings. Our Love Cardiff retail store and other ground-floor shops and services will be open as usual. 
The Students’ Union building does not cross the picket line, we would encourage students to use the spaces on offer in the building throughout the strike period when needed. 

Students and the strikes

13. How can I support strikes? 

There are a number of ways you can support staff who are on strike:

  • Speak to staff who are on strike, listen and understand their reasons for striking  
  • Join staff on picket lines – each morning there will be a gathering at a number of sites, join if you can to show your support 
  • Attend teach-outs – many staff will hold lectures in public spaces 

14. What can I do if the strikes affect my learning?

The University will be working to minimise the disruption to your learning and have committed to ensuring that all are able to achieve the relevant learning outcomes. 

Heads of School will contact students to provide details of what is being done to minimise the impact of the industrial action.

If you are dissatisfied with the measures being put in place by Heads of School, or feel that you have suffered or are at a disadvantage as a result of the disruption caused by industrial action, you should submit a complaint. 

15. How do I make a complaint about the strike action? 

The University has introduced a specific complaints procedure for complaints relating to industrial action. The procedure is intended to be used if you feel you have suffered a detriment, dissatisfaction, or disadvantage as a result of the disruption caused by industrial action. 
You should submit a complaint within 28 days of receiving information from your school about the disruption. The deadline for submitting a complaint in relation to the industrial action of term one, will be 10 March 2020. The deadline for submitting a complaint in relation to the industrial action of term two, will be 10 July 2020. 

The Students’ Union Advice team provide independent advice and guidance and can support you through this process.

Find out more.

16. Do I get compensation or my fees back for missed lecturers?  

You may be able to claim compensation as a result of the industrial action. Some students will want to instruct a solicitor in order to make a claim against the University, but you can also pursue a claim yourself, by making a complaint. You can do this with support of Student Advice in the Students' Union. 

Find out more

17. I want to support my lecturers, but I’m annoyed I’m missing out on teaching? 

These thoughts can exist in the same space and it is understandable – you can support lectures whilst following all complaints procedures available to you from the University. 

18. How do I find out about cancellations? 

It is not guaranteed you will get advance warning of cancellations. However, we recommend you take the following steps to ensure you can be as informed as possible: 

  • Make sure your phone number is up to date on the system (you can change it through SIMS) 
  • Regularly check emails 
  • Also, be in regular contact with your schools  

19. What can I do if I don’t want to cross the picket lines?

If you do not want to cross the picket lines, the Students’ Union is open for you to meet and study throughout this time.  

Keep up to date

1. I’ve still got questions, what do I do? 

If you have other questions not covered by the above FAQ’s please let us know. Email or come to Student Advice on the 3rd floor of the Students’ Union where we can advise you in more detail on individual cases. 

2. Where can I get further updates about the strike? 

  • From UCU – you can find out further information from their website, locally and nationally.
  • From the University – they will be providing regular information via email and the intranet.
  • From the Students’ Union – we will be keeping this page updated and will be providing more regular information via social media from Jackie Yip (Students’ Union President) or the main Students’ Union channels Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • For specific Student Advice information, please see here for contact information. 

Events and activities

1. Questions with the Vice-Chancellor - Student Industrial Action Town Hall Meeting 

The Students’ Union will be hosting a Student Town Hall in the Great Hall on the first floor of the Students’ Union Building, on Wednesday 19th?February 2020 from 12:00-13:00. 
Find out more information about the strikes and potential impacts it will have on you. Please register your attendance and submit questions in advance.


2. Strike Information Stalls 

Visit one of the Strike information stalls in the Students’ Union on the below dates if you have any further questions: 
Dates for stalls: 

Week 1

20th Feb: Welcome Centre, 2nd floor 
21st Feb: Welcome Centre, 2nd floor
Week 2

24th February: Food Court, 2nd floor
25th February: Ground Floor Box Office 
26th February: Food Court, 2nd floor
Week 3

2nd March: Food Court, 2nd floor
3rd March: Food Court,2nd floor 
4th March: Food Court, 2nd floor 
5th March: Food Court,2nd floor 
Week 4

9th – 13th March: Welcome Centre, 2nd floor

3. Other events on campus

Monday 2nd - Wednesday 4th March (daily)

  • 08:00-11:00 Pickets outside key Cardiff University Buildings
  • 11:00 Group picket, Main Building, Park Place

Thursday 5th March

  • 08:00-11:00 Pickets outside key Cardiff University Buildings
  • 11:00 Mass march through Cardiff City Centre and a rally on 'Discrimination and inequality in academia'. Assemble outside the Main Building, Park Place

Monday 9th - Wednesday 11th March

  • 08:00-11:00 Pickets outside key Cardiff University Buildings
  • 11:00 Group picket, Main Building, Park Place

Thursday 12th March

  • 08:00-11:00 Pickets outside key Cardiff University Buildings
  • 11:00 Mass rally, "Universities Past, Present and Future". Assemble outside the Main Building, Park Place

Friday 13th March

  • 08:00-11:00 Pickets outside key Cardiff University Buildings
  • 11:00 Group picket, Main Building, Park Place
  • 12:00 (midday) Solidarity protest with global youth climate strike