Coronavirus information and guidance

Industrial action at St Andrews

The University and College Union (UCU) has decided to take strike action and action short of a strike in pursuit of its national claims on pay, pensions and working arrangements.

This action will affect more than 70 universities in the United Kingdom, including the University of St Andrews where 265 of 559 members of the local branch of UCU voted in favour of taking industrial action.

UCU has asked its members in St Andrews to take the following action.

To strike on:

  • Thursday 20 & Friday 21 February
  • Monday 24, Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 February
  • Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 March
  • Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

To take action short of a strike:

  • continuously from 25 November 2019 and concluding no later than 29 April 2020.

UCU says action short of a strike will consist of its members: 

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

Those taking action will include some professors, lecturers, academic and senior administrative staff.

What is St Andrews’ position on this dispute?

This is primarily a national dispute which can only be resolved by negotiation at a national level.

The University cannot resolve this dispute locally, and we are concerned about the impact of a strike on our students, all of our staff, and this community.

We understand the frustration of colleagues who have suffered a real-terms decline in the value of their nationally determined remuneration over several years, and who are also concerned about changes to the national Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

We share their concerns about the governance of USS and we have repeatedly called for reform of the scheme.

We are committed to ensuring fair working conditions for all.

We respect the right of UCU members to express their concerns about national pay, pensions and working arrangements, but have appealed, and will continue to appeal, to UCU and its members to make every effort to avoid, or at the very least minimise, any disruption to St Andrews students.

We will continue to call for differences to be resolved by meaningful national negotiation, and to reach a settlement that is fair to staff and sustainable for their institutions.

In line with the stated policy of the trades unions and the employers’ organisations, St Andrews is bound by the terms of any national agreement or settlement on pensions and pay.

We stand ready and are committed to implement any nationally agreed settlement.

What is St Andrews doing to address staff concerns on pay?

  • Our long-held position with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) is that staff should, where possible, receive pay increases which at the very least reflect the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Within the strictures of the rules on national pay bargaining and awards, we are paying our staff additional local supplements in line with our belief that they should receive pay increases at least in line with the CPI.
  • We have recently implemented the UCEA final offer of 1.8% rising to 3.65% for lowest points on the scale in the September 2019 pay run, backdated to 1 August 2019.
  • We are continuing to pay the Living Wage Supplement and update this each autumn as soon as new Living Wage levels are announced.
  • We are ensuring that a pay differential exists between staff receiving the Living Wage Supplement and those in supervisory positions.
  • We are holding regular open fora for our staff and students on University finances to ensure these are transparent to all who work and study here.

What is St Andrews doing to address staff concerns on the use of flexible contracts, casualisation and so-called zero-hours contracts?

  • We have set up a working group with trade union colleagues from UCU, Unison and Unite to review the use of flexible contracts.
  • We have clarified the appropriate use of bank and casual contracts, to avoid zero-hours contracts, by requiring an Assignment Letter for each employment assignment that specifies the minimum hours being offered.
  • We have revised our bank contracts, in agreement with trades unions, as ‘Flexible Worker Agreements’ to provide entitlement to statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay.
  • We are talking with our individual Schools to understand their requirements for the use of flexible contracts and ensure they are being used appropriately and fairly.
  • We have given a clear message via our Heads of School and Directors of Teaching that flexible contracts (whether bank or casual) are not a substitute for creating permanent fractional or full-time posts, and that they should not be used where a fixed-term or a permanent contract would be more appropriate.
  • We revised our arrangements for hourly paid teaching staff (including postgraduate research tutors) in 2018 to recognise that different types of coursework require different amounts of preparation time.
  • We have made it clear to our Schools that tutors should always be paid in accordance with the band appropriate for the type of work they are asked to do and that resourcing constraints must not be used to justify paying fewer preparation or marking hours than the type of work merits.

What is St Andrews doing to act on staff concerns about changes to the national pensions scheme (USS)?

  • We are taking an open and collaborative approach to developing the University’s position on USS and our input to the work of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), through consulting members and discussion at the Pension Communications Group, whose members comprise a broad cross-section of our staff, including trades union members.
  • We are producing regular, balanced communications to scheme members, developed via the Pension Communications Group.
  • We are maintaining regular communication with scheme members via email and online, to ensure people are fully briefed and informed.  
  • We have openly called for the full implementation of the JEP 1 report and expressed our disappointment that the USS Trustee did not take on board all the JEP’s recommendations.
  • We have stated explicitly that the finalisation of the 2018 valuation (total contribution rate 30.7%; split 65:35, with universities paying in 21.1% of salary, employees 9.6%) could only be accepted as a short-term solution, to avoid the larger increases that would otherwise have come into effect; and to allow time for the second JEP report to develop recommendations for the conduct of future valuations and the long-term sustainability of the scheme.
  • We are continuing to stress that the approach to the 2020 valuation must be guided by the recommendations of the JEP 2 report.
  • We are participating in the USS-UUK working group on the technical details of the 2018 valuation (including debt monitoring arrangements and the treatment of USS as a priority creditor in new secured loans) – the only Scottish HEI to do so.

Further information

Useful contacts for further information: