Overview and frequently asked questions

Overview

What is industrial action?

This is the term given to action taken by employees as a protest in the form of strike action, or Action Short of Strike (ASOS).

Will there be industrial action at the College?

UCU members at Imperial have voted to support industrial action. This follows a re-ballot on changes to the national USS pensions scheme and a local ballot on the College 2019 pay award. As a result, some staff may choose to take strike action or Action Short of Strike (ASOS).

What was the outcome of UCU’s national re-ballot on the USS pension scheme?

Of the 676 UCU members in College, 366 voted in this ballot (a turnout of 54.1%). Of those that voted, 263 (71.9%) have voted for strike action and 316 (86.3%) have voted for Action Short of Strike (ASOS).

What was the outcome of UCU’s local ballot on the College’s 2019 pay award?

Of the 676 UCU members in College, 381 voted in this ballot (a turnout of 56.4%). Of those that voted, 258 (67.7%) voted for strike action and 320 (84.0%) have voted for Action Short of Strike (ASOS). 

What is the latest from Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA)?

On 19 February UCEA and UUK published a joint open letter to all staff at universities affected by strike action. The letter provides an update on the significant progress to address concerns of university employees on pay, working conditions and pensions. You can find the letter here and also on UUK and USS employers websites.

Why is this industrial action happening?

USS Pension

This is part of a national dispute. Imperial is contributing to the debate, alongside other institutions, but the final outcome is not in our direct control. See the webpages on the details of the changes.

2019 College Pay Award

The College undertakes annual negotiations with UNISON, Unite and UCU (known as the Joint Trades Unions) on the rate of annual salary increase that is applied to all salaries from 1 August. UCU are in dispute with the College for not increasing all salaries by 5.44% and instead increasing these salaries by £1,080. The Joint Trades Unions 2019 pay claim also requested that joint working groups be set up to review the use of fixed-term contracts, workload concerns and the gender pay gap, and these groups have been set up. See the Local Pay Dispute webpage.

When are the strike days?

The trade union (UCU) has informed Imperial that staff will strike on the following dates:

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

What is strike action?

Those staff who choose to take strike action will not undertake any work on the above dates.

Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)

UCU has also asked their members to take ASOS from 20 February to no later than 27 July 2020. This will take the form of the following types of action:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action; and
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

The actions outlined above cannot be varied without UCU re-balloting its members.  

Will Imperial be closed?

No, the College will be open as usual.

Will I have to cross a picket line?

It is likely that there will be a polite picketing presence at some entrances to our campuses on the strike days. While pickets may ask you not to cross a picket line, they cannot stop you from entering the campuses or require you to engage in discussion with them. Those who wish to cross a picket line are allowed to do so. Pickets should consist of a maximum of six people on any picket line. Picketing at Imperial has always been conducted in a respectful way without any intimidation of staff, students or visitors. We are confident that this will continue to be the way our local unions conduct this lawful activity. 

What do I do if I have meetings arranged with external visitors or interviews on a strike day?

You may wish to inform your visitor that there may be a picket and that, while picketers may ask them not to cross the picket line, picketers will not stop them then entering campuses or force them to engage in discussion.

For meetings or interviews arranged for strike days: if you are concerned key members of the meeting may not be present, meetings should be, if feasible, re-arranged, or alternate members of staff should be identified to cover for potentially absent employees.

What are the College’s principles with regards to the industrial action and its potential impact on our students?

The Provost’s Board has considered the implications of industrial action on the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment to Imperial College students. The following principles have been agreed:

  • The College will respect and not seek to undermine people’s rights to take industrial action and to withdraw their labour
  • The College will seek to mitigate the impact on students’ education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment, though there may be some variation in delivery
  • Teaching and assessment will be prioritised.
  • Suitable alternative methods to deliver teaching and learning will be explored.

Staff FAQs

Do I need to inform the College if I choose to take industrial action?

If you are a member of staff, you are not obliged to inform us in advance of your intention to strike or ASOS. However, if you are willing to do so please email industrialaction@imperial.ac.uk, copying in your Head of Department and Departmental Manager.

In your correspondence to the Industrial Action inbox, please state the following:

  • Your name, CID number and Department
  • All dates you intend to take industrial action
  • All dates you intend to take ASOS
  • If you do not work full time, please include your work pattern
  • If you wish to make up your pension contributions, the College will also pay the corresponding employer contribution. If you do not state this, it will not be done.

If you choose not to provide this notification in advance of a strike day, you should do so on the day you are going to be absent, ideally prior to your normal start time.

What will happen to my salary if I take strike action?

The College will withhold a full day’s pay for each day that you take strike action, and this will be calculated at the rate of 1/366. 

Some of the ASOS action considered by UCU would be ‘partial performance’ of your contractual duties. The College does not accept partial performance and is therefore also entitled to withhold a day’s pay for each day of partial performance of duties or for any ASOS. At this time, the College will not be deducting pay for those taking ASOS. However, the College reserves its right to commence pay deductions after monitoring the impact of this action. Notice will be given of a change to the College’s position and will not be applied retrospectively.

Tier 2 and 5 sponsored workers should be aware that:

  • The College will record time off work due to strike action as part of legally organised industrial action in the Teamseer availability and absence management system and, in some instances, may need to report this to UKVI.
  • Although strike days are classified as a permitted exemption under UKVI ‘unauthorised absence’ rules, if you were to have 10 consecutive working days of unauthorised absence, the College would be required to notify UKVI.

What will happen to the salaries saved by the College?

The College will hold the salaries saved in a central fund. Departments will then be able to make requests for funds, commensurate with the salaries they have saved, in order to benefit student education.

What will happen to the money saved for research-funded staff

The funds will be retained in the grant and can be drawn down in line with the usual restrictions for use of the funds.

What will happen to my pension if I take strike action?

Industrial action automatically suspends a member of staff’s employment contract, impacting upon the build-up of their pension benefits. Death in service and ill heath retirement benefits are still covered during the strike days detailed above. However, USS trustees have reserved the right to review this position if the industrial action is extended beyond these days.

Where pay is withheld for strike action or ASOS, employee and employer contributions will also be withheld, which will in turn reduce the amount of pension built up (one day’s withheld pay will reduce pension build up by the equivalent of one day’s service). However, you will have the option to make up the shortfall in employee contributions – and, if you do so, the College will make up the difference in employer contributions. However, you will need to tell us that you wish to do this.

Lone Working

It is all of our responsibility to ensure that we work safely at all times. This remains so on days when colleagues are absent. If at any point you believe that your ability to work safely has been compromised by someone’s absence you should stop immediately and seek advice. See the safety webpages for more information.

Student FAQs

What is industrial action?

This is the term given to action taken by employees as a protest in the form of strike action, or Action Short of Strike (ASOS). Those staff who choose to take strike action will not undertake any work on the below dates.

Will there be industrial action at the College?

UCU members at Imperial have voted to support industrial action. This follows a re-ballot on changes to the national USS pensions scheme and a local ballot on the College 2019 pay award. As a result, some staff may choose to take strike action or Action Short of Strike (ASOS).

Why is this industrial action happening?

USS Pension: This is part of a national dispute. Imperial is contributing to the debate, alongside other institutions, but the final outcome is not in our direct control. See the webpages on the details of the changes.

 2019 College pay award: the College undertakes annual negotiations with UNISON, Unite and UCU (known as the Joint Trades Unions) on the rate of annual salary increase that is applied to all salaries from 1 August. UCU are in dispute with the College for not increasing all salaries by 5.44% and instead increasing these salaries by £1,080. The Joint Trades Unions 2019 pay claim also requested that joint working groups be set up to review the use of fixed-term contracts, workload concerns and the gender pay gap, and these groups have been set up. See the Local Pay Dispute webpage.

When are the strike days?

The trade union (UCU) has informed Imperial that staff will strike on the following dates:

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

 Action Short of a Strike (ASOS)

UCU has also asked their members to take ASOS from 20 February to no later than 27 July 2020. This will take the form of the following types of action:

  • working to contract
  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not sharing materials relating to lectures or classes cancelled as a result of strike action; and
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities.

The actions outlined above cannot be varied without UCU re-balloting its members.  

Will Imperial be closed?

No, the College will be open as usual.

Will I have to cross a picket line?

It is likely that there will be a polite picketing presence at some entrances to our campuses on the strike days. While pickets may ask you not to cross a picket line, they cannot stop you from entering the campuses or require you to engage in discussion with them. Those who wish to cross a picket line are allowed to do so. Pickets should consist of a maximum of six people on any picket line. Picketing at Imperial has always been conducted in a respectful way without any intimidation of staff, students or visitors. We are confident that this will continue to be the way our local unions conduct this lawful activity. 

What is the College’s position?

  1. The College will respect and not seek to undermine people’s rights to take industrial action and to withdraw their labour.
  2. The College will seek to mitigate the impact on students’ education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment, though there may be some variation in delivery.
  3. Teaching and assessment will be prioritised.
  4. Suitable alternative methods to deliver teaching and learning will be explored. 

How will I be affected?

We are working with heads of department to mitigate the impact on your education in terms of teaching, learning and assessment. If any of your academic staff choose to take part in the planned industrial action, they may refuse to give lectures or support teaching. Some staff may choose to strike in which case they will not work on those days. If they choose to strike or take Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) they may tell their department in advance, but they are not obliged to do so. This means that there may be changes to the delivery of your education. We are also making arrangements so that any scheduled examinations or other assessments go ahead as planned.

During the strike it is important that you continue to: 

  • Be aware of any changes to schedules 
  • Attend all lectures and other teaching sessions as scheduled 
  • Submit coursework by the specified deadlines 
  • Attend all scheduled examinations and other assessments

We ask for your understanding if your department has to make such last-minute alternative arrangements. Timetables are designed to even out the workload over the term, and this balance may be affected if lectures have to be rescheduled or rearranged. We encourage you to review forthcoming assessment deadlines and use any time released by postponed teaching activities for study, coursework or revision.

Will my lectures and tutorials go ahead?

The College is working hard to mitigate the impact on teaching and assessment activities.

Where teaching cannot be delivered as scheduled, it may be rescheduled, delivered by another member of staff, or delivered in a different format. 

Do I have to submit coursework during the strike period?

You should complete and submit your coursework by the deadlines agreed as usual, even if your lecturer is taking part in the strike.

Will any assessments during this period go ahead?

We will make every effort to ensure all your assessment activities go ahead and are staffed appropriately. Your assessment may be rescheduled.

Will my work be marked?

Your work will still be marked and feedback provided using the same standards and to the same rigour as always. It is possible that, due to the strike action, the marking and your feedback may be delayed.

I am a research student and my Early Stage Review, Late Stage Review or viva are scheduled during the strike period. What arrangements are being made?

It is possible that arrangements for the viva or reviews may be re-scheduled. You are advised to discuss this with your supervisor if you have any concerns. If your supervisor is not available, there are staff within the department that have an oversight of research degree students. If you do not know who this is for your department, check with your departmental office.

Will I get a refund on my tuition fee?

Your fees cover all aspects of your time at Imperial, and are based on the delivery of overall outcomes, rather than being payments for specific contact hours. Through our mitigation plans, we are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that any teaching and learning affected by the industrial action will be provided and we are working to mitigate any impact on your overall student experience.

Our focus is on your education and we will continue to do all that we can to maximise your outcomes while keeping the situation under review.
In the meantime, we are taking forward our plans to review pay and benefits with our staff and our academics are working on a more thoughtful and balanced approach to pension provision for the future.

Are exams affected?

We intend for all scheduled assessments and examinations to take place as planned, notwithstanding possible revised formatting or content. 

Can I apply for extenuating circumstances due to the strikes?

The strike action is not a valid reason to apply for extenuating circumstances. If any courses were affected by strike action, we will address this on a course-by-course basis. We understand your concern and we want to assure you that we are committed to mitigating the impact of the strike action. We take our responsibilities very seriously, and individual departments will let you know more as mitigation plans are put in place and/or updated. 

What if the answer to my question isn’t here?

In the first place, please get in touch with the office of your local academic teaching unit (for example, your Departmental Office). If you still don’t have the information you need, then please email strike-guidance@imperial.ac.uk.