Industrial action: guidance for staff
The College's local Universities and College Union (UCU) branch has approved its members undertaking industrial action in the form of strike action from 1 to 3 December followed by Action Short of Strike (ASOS). This is in relation to the USS Pension Scheme and its ongoing 2020 valuation.
We respect UCU’s rights to take industrial action and, whilst you may not be either a member of UCU or the USS pension scheme, it's important that you’re aware how this may affect you.
Will there be industrial action at the College?
Imperial’s local Universities and College Union (UCU) branch has voted in favour of industrial action. Strike action is scheduled to occur for 3 days, between Wednesday 1 and Friday 3 December (inclusive). UCU has also asked its members to take continuous Action Short of Strike (ASOS) from 1 December until no later than 3 May 2022.
What actions are included in ASOS?
Initially the ASOS consisted of members only working their contracted hours and duties and not volunteering to do more. There are now three further ASOS actions:
- 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 additional actions are effective from Wednesday 5 January 2022. Please see the 'Further details for staff' tab for more information on what is covered by ASOS in terms of uploaded materials.
Why is this industrial action happening?
This is part of a national dispute over changes to the USS pension scheme. USS – a separate entity from the College – is currently undertaking a valuation. You can learn more about what a valuation entails on our explanatory webpages.
USS proposed an initial plan that included contribution rate increases of up to 25%. This proposal was extremely disappointing and unacceptable for our staff. The USS Joint Negotiating Committee have agreed on an alternative proposal that:
- limited contribution rate increases to 0.5%
- called for a long-term governance review of USS
- maintained a Defined Benefit/Defined Contribution hybrid, albeit at a different ratio to the current structure
What was the outcome of UCU’s ballot?
Of our approximately 8,500 staff members, there were 748 members of UCU who were entitled to vote. On a turnout of 55.9% (418 staff members), 71.7% (297) voted for strike action, with 28.3% (117) against. 86.3% (360) voted for action short of a strike (ASOS), with 13.7% (57) against.
Further details for staff
What is covered by ASOS in terms of uploaded materials?
UCU have introduced a new action under Action Short of Strike (ASOS): “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”.
In line with the College’s strike principles – “The College will respect and not seek to undermine people’s rights to take industrial action and to withdraw their labour”, 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.
This 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.
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.
Do I need to inform the College if I choose to take industrial action?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, copying in your Head of Department and Departmental Manager.
In your email, please include:
- 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 and cannot be changed once you have been paid.
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 1/365.
Some of the ASOS action considered by UCU would be ‘partial performance’ of your contractual duties. 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 industrial 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 also be aware that:
- The College will record time off work due to strike action as part of legally organised industrial action in the TeamSeer 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, 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?
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. Lower pensionable pay means a lower level of pension builds up. Death in service and ill heath retirement benefits are still covered during the strike days detailed above (up to 31 days). USS trustees 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. Its important to advise us if you wish to do this when you notify email@example.com 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.
Learn more about USS
Learn more about USS
How did we get here?
Learn more about the structural and demographic factors have led to USS' current position