A message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Student Education and Chief Operating Officer: Industrial Action – Reporting and Mitigation

An email sent to all staff on Monday 6 February by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, Professor Jeff Grabill, and Chief Operating Officer, Rachel Brealey.

Dear colleague,

As colleagues will be aware, the University is facing unprecedented industrial action by all three campus trade unions over the next few months as part of a national dispute on pay, working conditions and pensions. 

We know that everyone in our University community is united in our dedication, passion and care for our students and cares just as deeply for their colleagues. We know the decision to take industrial action is one not made lightly. We know that this situation is stressful for everyone, and we want it resolved as quickly as possible.

We also know, from analysis of previous experience, that industrial action is likely to have a sustained and significant impact on our entire community, severely disrupting the experience of our students and creating additional workload for academic and professional service colleagues. 

The impacts of past action have been discussed with Senate, Leadership Forum and Council – the University governing body – which share the serious concern that, whilst we respect the right of colleagues to take strike action, our focus through the coming months must be on the collective responsibility to protect the interests of our students, retain the cohesion of our community, protect the standard of Leeds degrees and qualifications, and adhere to the requirements of the Office for Students. 

Over the coming weeks we will work together to minimise this disruption, whilst continuing to progress the activity outlined in the email to all staff last week, and working to improve the efficiency of our processes around student education – and marking and assessment in particular.

The message below is to remind leaders and managers of their responsibilities to support all of our staff through this period of industrial action; the requirements of colleagues taking strike action on reporting their involvement; and the need for us all to prioritise student education through this period. 

Continued delivery of educational activities

To minimise the impact of industrial action on our students and to ensure continued compliance with the conditions of registration with OfS, all staff taking part in strike action should prioritise the delivery of required educational activities on their return to work. Required educational activities should be delivered as soon as possible and within timescales agreed with Heads of School/Institute (or agreed delegate). For the purposes of this message, ‘required educational activities’ are defined as:

  • Timetabled teaching activity, including lectures, seminars, lab classes
  • Personal tutoring support
  • Examinations or other formal assessments associated with progression and award (dissertations etc.)

Where timetabled teaching activity is impacted by strike action, rescheduling of this activity must be prioritised. Colleagues taking part in ASOS are also required to prioritise educational activities and deprioritise or stop other work (including research-related activities).

Rescheduled educational activity should in principle be delivered as ‘like for like’ (e.g. face-to-face teaching should continue to be delivered face to face). Where it is not possible to reschedule on a ‘like for like’ basis owing to timetabling/space constraints, colleagues should deliver a high quality, interactive alternative (e.g. a live online lecture to cover a cancelled in-person session or small group tutorial sessions to cover missed materials).

Marking and assessment

Marking and assessment is an essential part of our educational activity. The processes around assessment, marking and release of marks are complex and involve academic and professional services colleagues working in partnership. Furthermore, turnaround times are tight and enable inter-related processes to be completed. Although wider work is ongoing to simplify and make more efficient these processes, it is vital that marking is prioritised and deadlines for the return of marks are strictly adhered to. 

Notification of strike action and pay deductions

Staff are required to notify us of strike action taken. We would urge you to make clear to your line manager in advance if you will be participating in industrial action.

Following identified periods of industrial action, Heads of School/Institute and Heads of Professional Services will ask all colleagues to formally declare to them if they have taken part in strike action to enable the University to ensure the continued delivery of educational activities. 

All staff are required to respond to the request to confirm whether they have taken part in strike action within a reasonable and defined timescale. Colleagues are asked to regularly check their emails and respond to this request in a timely way. 

In addition, the usual process of reporting participation in strike action via the ESS system will be required with an agreed timescale. This is to ensure that appropriate salary adjustments can be processed. Pay will continue to be deducted for strike action based on 1/365th of pro rata annual salary. 

If you do not wish to take part in industrial action, you should attend work as normal on the affected dates.

Action Short of Strike (ASOS)

The University does not accept partial performance or any breach of contract. If you take part in Action Short of Strike and refuse to complete your contractual duties or otherwise fulfil your contractual obligations within contracted hours, this can be deemed partial performance. 

Notwithstanding this, pay will not be deducted for taking ASOS where all required educational activities (as defined above) are carried out as a priority on return to work and delivered within the timescales agreed with Heads of School. However, failing to prioritise and deliver agreed educational activities in the timeframe agreed with the Head of School/Institute (or delegate), including the prompt return of examination and assessment marks, is considered a breach of contract and the University will deduct 100% of pay at a rate of 1/365th of pro rata annual salary per day until such activity is delivered in accordance with the timescales agreed with the Heads of School/Institute or their delegate. This position is in line with Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) guidance.

Heads of School/Institutes and Heads of Professional Services – working closely with Faculty Executive Deans – will be in touch with you in the next few days with further information and guidance. 

With best wishes,

Professor Jeff Grabill 
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education 

Rachel Brealey 
Chief Operating Officer

Posted in: