UCU strike action

Strike action in December 2021

Reimbursement of unnecessary travel and caring costs for students

The University has taken different approaches to providing financial support where strike action has been taken in the past. For the period of industrial action in the Autumn term 2021, we have agreed to reimburse the costs for any students who may have incurred unnecessary travel and/or caring costs when teaching events were cancelled as a result of the industrial action that took place on 1, 2 or 3 December 2021. It has been agreed that a portion of the money deducted from the pay of staff taking strike action will be used to cover these costs.

The terms and conditions and process for seeking reimbursement of travel and caring costs are set out below:

Eligibility

Eligibility will be calculated solely on the basis of the teaching timetable and using declarations of industrial action by members of University staff.

Eligible students will be those who have had all teaching cancelled on any one of the three strike days so that their journey to the University that day was unnecessary when they expected to access their teaching. Students will not be normally eligible for reimbursement where some but not all of their teaching on any given day was cancelled.

Claims for reimbursement of unnecessary travel and caring costs are in addition to the free hourly parking available on campus on strike days and are separate to applications to the University Hardship Fund.

Costs can still be claimed if a student participated in alternative activities to teaching that took place on campus on strike days, such as peer discussion in teaching rooms, individual study using online resources or any of our additional student support activities.

No automatic payments will be made. Anybody wishing to seek reimbursement is required to complete and submit the Strike Reimbursement Application Form (.docx), which will ensure payment reflects the actual costs incurred and targets financial support to those most impacted by the strike.

All circumstances will be considered in line with the eligibility criteria. The University’s decision is final in determining eligibility and any payment amount.

Process for requesting reimbursement

For travel and caring costs, students may submit a request for reimbursement using the application process along with the details of the costs incurred on one or more of the relevant strike days, i.e. 1, 2 or 3 December 2022.

Evidence of expenditure should be submitted with the application, for example, train or bus tickets or receipts, petrol receipts and mileage details, or invoices from caring providers, such as nurseries or day caring centres.

The deadline for the submission of requests is 5pm (GMT) on Friday 7 January 2022. No applications will be considered after the deadline.

Eligibility and the evidence submitted will be verified and payments will be made by 28 February 2022.

For University nursery costs, enquiries should be made direct to Wivenhoe Park Day Nursery in relation to paid-for but unused Nursery sessions. Eligibility will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Further information

We would encourage students who think they incurred unnecessary travel or caring costs to make an application in the first instance, attaching any relevant evidence. They will be contacted directly if further information is needed to enable a payment to be made.

Enquiries about the payment of costs should be made in the first instance to: strike.reimbursement@essex.ac.uk 

In addition to reimbursement of costs, funding from salary deductions will also be made available for students through our University Hardship Fund. We are committed to using all of the money deducted from pay during the strike to support students and student learning outcomes during this academic year.

Reasons for strike action

The strike is in response to concerns about change to the USS pension scheme and the cost of living pay increase from the most recent national pay negotiations. UCU are also asking for national agreements on equality pay gaps, decasualisation and workload. These are areas that Essex has been working locally with UCU on for some time.

Numbers of staff taking part

Not all members of staff are members of the union which is going on strike – the University and College Union (UCU). Even if staff are members of the union, they may choose not to go on strike. UK law does not require staff taking part in strike action to inform us in advance of their intention to do so.

Equally, non-union members can choose to participate in the strike action. If however, you are a member of another Union that did not ballot or receive a mandate for strike action you are unable to participate.

Coming to campus on strike days

The University will remain open on all our campuses and the Library, other facilities, activities and study spaces will continue to be available as normal, including some additional activities. We expect that most teaching will also continue as expected but there may be some disruption to teaching and some other services.

If you come to campus and your lecture or class does not take place – you will be able to use the allocated room and the time for individual or group study. We will be working with your Department or School to provide you with as much advice and guidance as possible, as we expect the strike to impact on some Departments and Schools more than others.

We understand that some students who commute a long way to campus may decide not to come in on strike affected days (see below for how this will not affect your attendance record). Your Department or School will be keeping in touch with you and you should check your Essex email account regularly for any updates.

If you have deadlines for the submission of coursework that fall on days affected by the strikes, you should submit your coursework as normal.

Your attendance record

For all students, including those from overseas subject to immigration permission, your attendance record will not be affected adversely by the industrial action.

If your lecture or class takes place – just tap in as normal. If you are studying online then your attendance will be recorded in the usual way, no further action is needed on your part.

If you come to campus and your lecture or class does not take place – you don’t need to tap in, our records will reflect these particular circumstances.

If you decide not to come to campus and your lecture or class does take place – your non-attendance will be recorded but will not appear negatively on your record for strike days.

This will also apply to any contribution that your attendance makes to your module assessment.

Car parking fees

For those paying for parking by the hour, parking on Colchester Campus will be free on strike days.

How to keep up to date

The impact on teaching and your course will vary depending on exactly what modules you are doing; many modules will not be disrupted at all. Most communications will come through your Department or School, who will let you know of any changes whenever possible.

They will communicate all strike updates via your Essex email address, so keep an eye on your University email account.

Any room changes and last minute cancellations may also be communicated, where possible, via text message to your phone.

All-student communications will be sent by email with any University-wide updates.

Find out more about the likely impact on your studies

In the first instance, check your Essex email account regularly for any updates. If you are still unsure, please contact your Department or School.

UK law does not require staff taking part in strike action to inform us in advance of their intention to do so. It is not possible, therefore, to be certain how the action will affect individual modules, which makes it difficult to arrange cover for lectures and classes.

The University is not operating a policy of requiring other members of staff to cover for colleagues who are not delivering lectures as part of the strike action. However, we are trying to anticipate the impact the strike may have on your lectures and classes and will let you know details and provide alternatives if we are able to do so.

Impact on your course requirements if lectures are cancelled

Where possible, lecture notes and slides will be made available in the usual way and the room in which your teaching was located will be available for group study during the time your teaching was scheduled.

Our focus during the period of industrial action will be on supporting Departments and Schools to ensure that you are still able to achieve the learning outcomes of your course. We want to ensure that any adverse impact on your studies is minimised. Each Department and School has been asked to make plans to ensure that your learning outcomes are met in a fair way and that you are not assessed on any teaching material that has not been delivered. This might include making lecture materials available on Moodle or, after the strike, providing additional support or uploading last year’s lecture on Listen Again where the material is relevant to your course or could contribute to wider learning outcomes and opportunities.

Support for you where you incur costs coming to campus if your lecture does not take place

We are entitled to deduct pay from the salaries of staff who take part in strike action. We will use this funding to deliver student benefit in a range of ways, including targeting support where it is needed most. This will include reimbursing travel and caring costs where you have come to campus to attend classes or lectures that are subsequently cancelled. As part of our commitment to delivering student benefit, the deductions will also be used to enhance our student Hardship Fund. More information will be available soon through the Student Directory.

Supervision

If you have any concerns about your academic supervision for dissertations, other coursework or research, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, please contact your Department or School, and they will advise you on the appropriate next steps depending on your circumstances.

Supporting you to succeed

The Board of Examiners will be made aware of any significant strike impact on particular courses or modules so they are in a position to take it into account. If, as a result of the strike action, you feel your individual academic performance is affected adversely, our No Detriment approach will support you. You should consider submitting an extenuating circumstances application to enable the Board of Examiners to determine if and how any impact should be taken into account. Information about the extenuating circumstances process and contains information about the issues you should consider before applying.

It is our intention to ensure that the overall impact on your learning is as minimal as possible and that all of your intended learning outcomes are met. We are committed to ensuring that you will still be able to access the wealth of materials on offer to support your education and that you will be fairly and properly assessed.

How to support staff who are striking

The University and College Union website contains some useful information on the strike, including resources explaining the action.