Coronavirus information and guidance

Strike action and action short of a strike information for staff

The following FAQs aim to deal with any queries you may have. On the day of the strike, your manager will need to check whether you are in work.

What is industrial action?

The University and College Union (UCU) has a mandate for two forms of industrial action: 

Action Short of a Strike (ASOS): continuous action in the form of working to contract. The mandate specifies working to contract; not covering for absent colleagues; not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action; and not undertaking voluntary activities. This action will take effect from 25 November 2019 and will terminate no later than 29 April 2020. 

Strike Action involving the withdrawal of labour, has been called 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

What happens if I am on leave?

Any leave taken must have been agreed in advance of the strike days. If you have previously agreed leave with your line manager on one of the ‘strike action’ days then this will be treated as a day's leave.

Can I work from home on the day of the strike?

You will not be permitted to work from home on the ‘strike action’ days unless this has been previously agreed with your line manager and you have confirmed with them that you are not on strike. It is important that employees are treated fairly and that employees taking industrial action are recorded accurately.

I work part-time: what if it is not my normal working day?

You will not be deemed to take part in any industrial action. Please ensure that your manager is aware which ‘strike days’ are not a normal working day for you.

What if I do not want to go on strike?

You are not compelled to take action even if you voted in favour. You cannot be ejected or disciplined by your union for declining to take part in the action.

Can I be asked to cover the work of someone who is participating in industrial action?

The University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) guidance is clear that you could be asked to cover other work that is within your competence and commensurate with the grade of your post.

How much pay will be deducted and when?

If you take industrial action by going on strike, for the day or part thereof, you will be deducted 1/365th of your normal pay for each day of action. This will be deducted over the course of the March, April and May payroll months.

Will the University deduct pay for Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)?

On Action Short of a Strike, the advice we have received from UCEA is that the following are likely to amount to a breach of contract and to partial performance: 

  • refusal to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • refusal to share materials relating to classes cancelled due to strike action
  • refusal to cover for absent colleagues.

The University is entitled to withhold pay for those elements of Action Short of a Strike which amount to partial performance.

In St Andrews, however, we have decided that we will not withhold pay for ASOS, although we reserve the right to change our position on this matter in future, should we believe it necessary to safeguard the interests of our students.

How will it affect my pension?

Pension contributions will be paid as normal.

I am supporting the action: what activities are viewed as a breach of contract?

Failing to undertake any duties normally associated with your role within the University will be a breach of contract. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Open Days
  • Marking
  • Setting Exams
  • Teaching
  • PhD Supervision
  • External Examinerships
  • Carrying out assessments

Due to Industrial Action, several of my classes were impacted. Do I need to reschedule?

You should make every effort to reschedule any classes or lectures if you are asked to do so. Staff will not be expected to work additional hours to reschedule classes – rather, Heads of School are being asked to take a pragmatic approach, considering which classes are essential in terms of rescheduling, and altering workloads to allow the class to be rescheduled during a normal working day.

Can I be on the picket line?

If you are a member of the trade union taking industrial action or a worker who is party to the dispute you may be involved in picketing.

How many people can be on a picket line?

The Code of Practice on Picketing suggests there should be no more than six people on a picket line at any one time.

Where can the picket line be located?

The picket line can be at or near the picket’s place of work but not on University premises.

Can I cross the picket line?

Yes. You have a right to cross a picket line and it is a criminal offence to stop you crossing one.

I’m not a member of UCU although eligible to join (academic, professional G6 and above). What happens if I don’t want to cross the picket line?

If you are not a member of UCU, a failure to turn up to work would be treated as an unauthorised absence and could be subject to disciplinary proceedings. 

I’m a member of another union. Can I join the strike action?

The strike mandate does not apply to members of unions other than UCU, so a failure to turn up to work could be treated as an unauthorised absence and would be subject to disciplinary proceedings. 

Should employees who are not members of UCU attend work on the day of the strike?

Yes. You may have to cross a picket line but we anticipate that this will be a peaceful picket. All employees have the right to cross a picket line, even if they are members of the union that has called the strike action.

How should I expect the picket line to behave?

The picket line can peacefully try to persuade you to support the industrial action and not to cross the picket line. In our experience, picket lines in St Andrews have been well-run and good-humoured.

They cannot:

  • use threatening or abusive words or behave in a threatening manner towards others passing close to the picket line
  • deliberately get in the way of other people or vehicles attempting to enter or leave premises being picketed
  • damage property, either deliberately or recklessly
  • cause or threaten to cause a breach of the peace
  • obstruct a public highway, such as a road adjacent to the premises being picketed
  • prevent, or attempt to prevent, a police officer from carrying out their duties.

What should I do if I experience unacceptable behaviour crossing the picket line?

It’s very unlikely that you will, but if you are concerned about such behaviour, please contact Human Resources.   

Can I ask my staff if they will be in work on the day of the strike, and when?

Yes. You may ask employees if they will be in work at any point prior to the day of action. However, employees are under no obligation to respond.

Can I stop assessment and exam setting?

No. This is not part of the industrial action mandate submitted by UCU. Failure to set or mark assessments and exams will be a breach of contract and pay will be deducted at 100%.

What if I am hourly paid and on strike?

Where classes have been cancelled and are reinstated, you will be paid in full both for the class and for associated preparation time at the time of delivery (if preparation time has not already been previously paid) in line with your normal contractual arrangements. 

Where classes are not being rescheduled, but you confirm that you have already carried out preparation time for the class on a non-strike day, the University will pay for that preparation time in line with your normal contractual arrangements, notwithstanding that the class was not ultimately delivered.  

Please note: the University will require evidence of what preparation was conducted to be able to process any payment due. This should include the details/hours of authorised preparation time carried out on non-strike days and the class/module that preparation time was in relation to. We may also need confirmation from the Head of School that the class is not to be rescheduled.   

All hours should be discussed and submitted via your Head of School (or appropriate nominated person within the School), in line with normal payment practice.

What should I do if a Student reports stress as a result of the ongoing industrial action?

You should offer them support and refer them to Student Services if necessary.

The University has published detailed Guidance and FAQs for students, accessible from the homepage of the University website. We are also setting up a Strike Helpdesk at the Advice and Support Centre on North Street, to which students can be referred for in-person advice and support.