Industrial action: guidance for staff
Last updated: Wednesday 18 January 2023
There are two separate periods of industrial action relating to two disputes.
- The local branches of UCU and Unite have approved their members taking strike action on Monday 23 January. Our local UCU is also planning non-participation in certain departmental and college-wide events from Monday 23 January until Monday 17 April. This action is in relation to the College’s 2022 Annual Pay Award, in which all staff received a salary increase ranging from 8.5% for our lowest paid staff to 1.1% for the highest salaries.
- The national UCU has approved their members taking strike action on Wednesday 1 February. This is a national dispute in relation to the USS Pension Scheme and its most recent valuation.
Beyond these individual dates, the industrial action will include the previously notified Actions Short of Strike (ASOS). More information is provided below.
We fully respect the rights of our trade unions to undertake industrial action and, whilst you may not be a member of a union, it's important that you're aware how this may affect you.
Dispute on Annual Pay Award
The College implements an Annual Pay Award to increase salaries in line with the JTU pay claim, benchmarking and the national context. This year, we implemented a pay award ranging from 8.5% to 1.1% dependent on salary, with a £1,500 minimum payment and £3,300 maximum payment. This process is negotiated with our JTUs. The College preference is always to reach agreement. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to an agreement and the award was implemented on 1 August 2022.
Dispute on USS pension scheme
This is part of a national dispute over changes to the USS pension scheme. USS - a separate entity from the College - undertook a valuation in 2020-21. The College has shared its frustrations with the valuation process and has called for a more sustainable, affordable footing for the scheme.
What actions are included in ASOS?
ASOS is continuous and consists of the following actions in relation to the USS pension scheme:
- members only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more
- not rescheduling classes and lectures cancelled due to strike action
- not covering for absent colleagues
- removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
These actions are effective until Thursday 20 April.
ASOS consists of the following actions in relation to the Annual Pay Award:
- Working to contract;
- Not covering for colleagues;
- Not undertaking any voluntary duties including Open Days;
- Not making up work missed during industrial action;
- Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, work that will be or has been cancelled as a result of strike action;
- Not providing materials for others to cover work during industrial action;
- Boycott of annual TOAST survey;
- Boycott of staff surveys and training, including Imperial Essentials training;
- Non-participation in certain departmental and college-wide events.
These actions are effective until Monday 17 April.
If you are a UCU member and undertaking ASOS, you should be aware of what is covered by the actions and potential implications - please see the 'Further details for staff' tab.
What were the outcome of the ballots?
The UCU national ballot on the USS pension scheme was a 'disaggregated ballot', meaning we are only provided with the national results, not Imperial's results.
- Turnout: 60.23% (28,649 members)
- In favour: 84.88% (24,239 members) for strike action; 90.14% (25,753 members) for ASOS
- Against: 15.12% (4,319 members) against strike action; 9.86% (2,817 members) against ASOS
The ballot on the Annual Pay Awards were:
- Turnout: 61% (438 members)
- In favour: 78% (345 members) for strike action; 87% (382 members) for ASOS
- Against: 20% (89 members) against strike action; 12% (53 members) against ASOS
- Turnout: 51% (105 members)
- In favour: 79% (83 members) for strike action
- Against: 20% (22 members) against strike action
Further details for staff
What is strike action?
Staff who choose to take strike action will not undertake any work on impacted days.
Will the College 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 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 the College has always been conducted in a respectful way without any intimidation of staff, students or visitors and we're confident that this will continue.
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. You may choose to conduct the meeting or interview online via Teams or Zoom. For meetings or interviews arranged for strike days: if you are concerned key members of the meeting may not be present, meetings should, if feasible, be re-arranged, or alternate members of staff should be identified to cover for potentially absent employees.
Do I need to inform the College if I choose to take industrial action?
No, you are not obliged to inform us in advance of your intention to take strike action or ASOS.
If you choose not to provide this notification in advance of a strike day, you should do so as soon as reasonably possible on your return by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, copying in your Head of Department and Departmental Operations Manager or equivalent.
For new notifications, please email email@example.com as soon as reasonably possible, copying in your Head of Department and Departmental Operations Manager or equivalent, outlining the type of ASOS you intend to take.
Information required in your email
- Your name, CID number and department
- All dates you intend to take industrial action
- All dates you intend to take ASOS (please supply start and end dates)
- List of type of ASOS being taken
- If you do not work full time, include your work pattern
- Whether you wish to make up your pension contributions
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 and cannot be changed after you have been paid.
What is covered by ASOS?
The College fully respects and will not seek to undermine the right of our staff to undertake industrial action and withdraw their labour. No pay will be withheld for members of staff undertaking ASOS, although we reserve the right to amend this position after monitoring the continuing impact of industrial action. If you are a UCU member and undertaking ASOS, you should be aware of the following in relation to specific components of ASOS:
Removing uploaded materials
- We will not challenge members of staff who remove uploaded materials. However, the action specifically links to actual strike days, and therefore, full-scale removal of material which is not related to an actual strike day is not in line with the ASOS.
- Our commitment to the delivery of education to our students includes them having access to recorded material for the duration of their course/studies. Any material which is removed should not be destroyed (as this would be outside of the ASOS), and it is expected that after the strike day the material is re-uploaded to ensure that students once again have access.
- Learning materials developed with other colleagues may be temporarily removed if all parties are participating in the strike action; however, such material should not be taken down if one or more contributors are not participating.
ASOS also should not extend to asking another member of staff to undertake this action on their behalf and, if asked to do so, individuals may wish to discuss this with their Head of Department.
All staff must complete the six Imperial Essentials courses within the first six months of joining the College to ensure College compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. Successful completion of the probation period may be delayed until all the required training has been completed.
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 1/365.
Some of the ASOS action considered by UCU would be ‘partial performance’ of your contractual duties. At this time, we will not withhold pay for anyone taking ASOS, however we reserve the right to amend this after monitoring the impact of this industrial action. Notice will be given of a change to the College’s position and will not be applied retrospectively.
Skilled Worker/Tier 2 and Temporary Worker/Tier 5 GAE sponsored workers should be aware that:
- We will record time off work due to strike action as part of legally organised industrial action and in some instances, may need to report this to UKVI.
- Although strike days are classified as a permitted exception under UKVI unpaid leave rules, if you were to have 10 consecutive working days of unauthorised absence, the College would be required to notify UKVI. However, this should not impact on either your current status or ability to extend your permission to stay in the UK.
What will happen to the salaries saved by the College?
Withheld salaries will be reinvested to support our students’ experience. Most funds from withheld salaries will be paid directly into the Student Support Fund. Some funding may be allocated to departments if they need to mitigate the impacts of the strike action on students.
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. Lower pensionable pay means a lower level of pension builds up. Death in service and ill health retirement benefits are still covered during the strike days detailed above for members of SAUL. USS trustees have agreed that cover will be maintained for up to 31 days per year but have reserved the right to review this position if the industrial action is extended beyond these days.
Should you wish to maintain contributions on days when you are not paid the College will also maintain the employer contribution on your behalf. It's important to advise us if you wish to do this when you notify firstname.lastname@example.org of days you are taking action.
How will industrial action impact 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.