Why are staff at the university taking industrial action?
This is a national dispute between the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), who negotiate on behalf of universities, and the University and College trade union (UCU). De Montfort University is part of that national bargaining framework.
While we of course recognise the legal right of employees to take industrial action, we will do everything we can to ensure that our students experience minimal disruption to their study as a consequence.
The number of days being observed during the industrial action does mean there will be some lectures and other teaching events affected. We are making every effort to ensure that any students who might be affected are informed wherever possible and are putting in place a number of mitigating measures throughout the period.
What is DMU’s response to the industrial action?
The dispute centres on four main issues: pay, equality, casualisation, and workloads and there is a separate dispute (where strike action is not being taken at DMU) around the sustainability of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).
In terms of pay, this is very much a national issue as DMU is part of the universities employers’ body, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), which negotiates with UCU over pay and conditions for academic and research staff. The two sides are a long way apart here. All staff covered by these pay negotiating arrangements have already received increases ranging from 3.65% for the lower grades to 1.8% whereas UCU are asking for Retail Price Index (RPI – a government measure of inflation) plus 3% or £3,349 (whichever is the greatest). While it is frustrating that DMU is not able to resolve this locally, we firmly believe that it is in the best interests of both the university and union that we remain part of national pay bargaining and hopefully UCEA can increase their offer (which our Interim Vice-Chancellor has fed-back directly to them).
In terms of the other issues (equality, casualisation, and workloads), these are more related to local arrangements and we are very happy to engage pro-actively with UCU and other staff groups to resolve these issues in a timely manner. One of the most pressing of these is workload which is a top priority to address but, unfortunately, this is not something that can be resolved immediately as a significant amount of ongoing funding is required for new posts. We have already released circa £3m and reinvested this in academic posts and the student experience and we will be looking in further depth at other areas where we can release additional funding to reduce our staff student ratio (SSR).
There is more the university can do in the other areas (equality and casualisation) but, for example, we don’t use zero-hours contracts and we’re already paying the ‘real’ living wage. In terms of the gender and race pay gaps, we have seen positive movement over the last two or three years to address these. For example, our median and mean gender pay gaps in 2018 were 2.6% and 11.9% respectively compared to sector averages of 14.8% and 15.1%. We are just about to publish data from 2019, and we’re pleased to say that our median and mean gender pay gaps have further reduced. We are also one of the few universities to publish our race pay gap. Our median and mean race pay gaps in 2018 were 0% and 7.5%. Although we are in a relatively positive position compared to the sector, there is more we can do as any pay gap, however small, is unacceptable.
What does ‘action short of a strike’ mean for DMU students and how long will it last?
UCU have also called for ‘action short of a strike’ from 20 February to 27 July- continuously. We are advised by UCU that ‘action short of a strike’ will consist of members working to their contract. The duties that will not be covered are:
- covering for absent colleagues
- rescheduling lectures or classes that are cancelled due to strike action
- sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action
- undertaking voluntary activities.
There is currently no instruction from UCU to their members to cease marking or assessing work which means there is no impact expected on graduations.
Will campus be open on strike days?
The campus will be open as normal on strike days. Access to some controlled environments such as laboratories may be restricted but you should check this with your faculty Student Advice Centre.
When arriving on campus on strike days, you may need to pass staff taking part in the industrial action at the entrances to the university. Pickets are intended to be peaceful. Access to campus entrances will not be blocked and you should feel able to pass freely and easily.
Will lectures, seminars and other teaching events be cancelled?
We will work to ensure the impact on your teaching is kept to a minimum. However, there may be lessons and classes which are unable to run while staff are on strike. We will endeavour to let you know about these as soon as we can but this may not always be possible.
How will I know if my teaching events will be cancelled?
We will do our best to contact you ahead of time via email or text message if an event is not going to happen. However, this may not always be possible as legally staff taking part in the industrial action are not required to tell the university in advance so you may not find out until the day an event is due to take place. If this happens, please continue to utilise alternative physical and online resources (Blackboard, DMU Replay, the Library etc.)
Some staff may choose to tell you informally that they are striking in advance of the missed session.
What happens if I come onto campus and my lecture or seminar has been cancelled?
In cases where the university was not told in advance, we will not know this until the event is scheduled to start. If a member of staff does not arrive within the first ten minutes of the scheduled start time, you can assume the class isn’t taking place and you may leave.
Will DMU Replay still be available?
DMU Replay will continue to be available for those teaching events which are taking place and for modules with teaching events previously recorded via DMUReplay, but this will not cover all previous teaching events. You are encouraged to use the time to revisit materials on Blackboard.
Should I still swipe into my lectures?
If we know in advance that the event is cancelled, we will do our best to contact you ahead of time via email so please regularly check your university inbox for updates (we may also send you a text message). However, legally staff are not required to tell the university in advance if they will not be at work, so if you have not been told an event will be cancelled you should assume that it will take place, attend and swipe in as normal. If a member of staff does not arrive within the first ten minutes of the scheduled start time you may leave. Unless you have been told an event is cancelled, if you are a student on a Tier 4 visa, you must attend and swipe in as normal in all circumstances for regulatory purposes.
Will students be penalised for missing classes that have not been cancelled but fall within the strike?
We expect all students to attend their classes as normal. Please visit the student regulations and policies webpage for full guidance.
Will affected teaching events be rescheduled?
While we will make every effort to support your learning experience, it may not be possible to reschedule affected events.
Will my attendance record be affected if an event is cancelled?
Your attendance record will not be affected if an event does not take place, whether you were told in advance or not. We will have a record of all events which did not take place.
Should I submit my assessments if they are due to be submitted on a strike day?
You should submit all work by the published deadlines. If there is any delay in marking work, you will be advised by your faculty. If you have any specific concerns about this please contact your faculty Associate Professor Student Experience (APSE). Please see below for their contact details:
Will I be assessed on topics which should have been covered in teaching events which were cancelled?
You will not be assessed on material which has not been covered.
Will this affect my outcome at the end of the academic year?
No impact on outcomes is expected but we are keeping the situation under close review and we will update you as the year progresses if necessary.
What if my personal tutor/key staff member is on strike?
Support will continue to be available through your faculty’s Student Advice Centre. In many cases academic support will continue to be available in schools where colleagues are not participating in the industrial action. We cannot guarantee that any staff member taking industrial action will respond to any communications received during the strike period.
How will distance learning students be affected by the industrial action?
As distance-learning provision is different from campus-based learning with materials typically made available to students for self-study, we anticipate that the impact on our distance-learning students will be limited. You may experience some delay in receiving responses from staff who are participating in the industrial action. There may also be some delays to feedback on assessed work. We are monitoring the situation closely to understand what impact there may be on particular programmes and students and will take appropriate mitigating action as required.
I am a research student, how will my studies be affected?
If your first supervisor is taking industrial action you can consult another member of your supervisory team if they are available. If you had a supervisory meeting scheduled and this is cancelled you should rearrange a new meeting with your supervisor as soon as possible after the strike days.
If you have a viva scheduled for a strike day you should consult your supervisor if possible, or the Doctoral College to see if it will go ahead. Staff will be encouraged to notify students if they will not be attending a viva, but they are not required to tell the University if they are taking industrial action. If your viva does not take place, it will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.
If you need any advice about other issues, please consult professional services staff in the Doctoral College Office where staff will be able to help.
Can I make a formal complaint about the impact of the strike upon my study?
You can make a complaint, including any claim for potential redress (for missed tuition or travel costs incurred), if you believe the strike will have or has had a negative impact on your studies. You will need to complete a
strike action formal complaint form to raise your issue. You can also speak to DSU about anything tuition fees related as a result of the strike action.
Where can I get more support and information if I have wellbeing and welfare concerns?
We are taking all of the practical steps to ensure that staff, students (and others) are not exposed to any risks to their health and safety during the industrial action. DMU will maintain all current fire safety provision so please continue to follow existing guidelines. If you are concerned about the impact on your studies or welfare, you can contact your school/department or the Student Advice Centre. Alternatively, you can contact DSU for free and confidential support. For welfare and wellbeing concerns, you can access support via the #HealthyDMU hub or visit Student Gateway on the ground floor of Gateway House.
Will my exam results be published on time?
We’re not expecting the majority of exam results to be delayed but this could happen in a small number of cases as a result of the current strike action. If you are impacted, we will contact you separately via your faculty.