UCU has announced a further 14 days of industrial action beginning on Thursday 20 February in a continued dispute over pay and pensions.

The dates are as follows:

  • Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February
  • Monday 24th until Wednesday 26th February
  • Monday 2nd – Thursday 5th March
  • Monday 9th – Friday 13th March

Please note that this means that there will be some dates over this period when staff will not be striking.

For many students this will be a confusing time and we want to make sure, as your Students’ Union, that you have all the information you need about the upcoming strike.

If any of your questions aren’t answered here, please email us at su.president@durham.ac.uk and we’ll make sure you get the information you need.

Who are UCU? [+]

UCU stands for the University and College Union, which represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

Why are they striking? [+]

UCU are going on strike for fourteen days over the treatment of university staff, their pay and their pensions. Around 450 staff voted for action, though this doesn’t mean this many will strike (it could be more and it could be less).

UCU have produced a couple of documents to help students understand why they are striking. Read about pay here and pensions here.

You can also read an article from your Postgraduate Academic Officer, David, here, to find out more about the ballot that decided the strike.

How will the strike affect students? [+]

Staff who are striking won’t be at work during the above dates. This includes lecturers, student support staff, librarians and some students who teach.

This means that some of your lectures and other contact hours will likely not go ahead, and striking staff won’t be answering their emails. Postgraduate research students may find that their supervisions or vivas are cancelled. You should pick this up with your supervisor after the strike.

The library and some student services may also be disrupted, but it is unlikely that they will be affected adversely. It is the University’s responsibility to ensure that student services are operational throughout the strikes.

You will also see striking staff forming picket lines at the entrance to university buildings. You can learn what a picket line is below, and why you may or may not want to cross one.

So what should I do during the strike? [+]

The University advises that students should attend all contact hours as usual during the strike. If your lecturer does not turn up, you could use the time to do your own study elsewhere.

You may, however, decide that you’d like to support striking staff by not attending your contact hours. This is completely your own decision, and we’ll be sharing plenty of ideas for ways you can support the strike. It’s important to be aware, however, that if teaching does go ahead, any material taught in that session may still be examined.

How do I find out if my lectures are cancelled? [+]

There’s no definite way to find out in advance if a lecture will be cancelled. Staff have the legal right not to give warning if they are going on strike.

Some of your teaching staff may decide to give you advance warning, but this is their own personal decision. You could ask your lecturers individually, but please do so in a respectful way and be aware that they have every right not to offer you a response.

The University, working with the Students’ Union, has produced a mitigations policy to help reduce the negative effects on students. This version has been sent to staff and might be useful to you. Students worried about academic issues should use our online Advice Service.

What is a picket line? [+]

A picket line is the boundary formed by striking workers outside their place of employment. In Durham this will most likely be across key teaching locations. You can check below during the strike to find out the exact locations of picket lines, in case you want to plan around them.

Should I cross the picket lines? [+]

For striking staff members, crossing a picket line represents breaking the strike. UCU are clear that how students engage with the picket line is up to them. You may decide to cross a picket line in order to get into university buildings, or you may decide that you don’t want to cross the picket as an act of support for striking staff.

UCU are very clear that they wish students to still use student services like Disability Support, the Counselling Service, or the International Office as normal. Using these services, going into the Palatine centre, or going to the library is not breaking the picket line. You mustn’t feel like you are undermining the strike if you use any of these services.

Where are the picket lines? [+]

There are picket lines:

  • On the Science Site
  • Outside Elvet Riverside 1
  • At the entrance to St Mary’s College, opposite the School of Government and International Affairs
  • Outside the Teaching and Learning Centre

We’ll be updating this information throughout the strike action. If you notice we have missed a picket line, please email info@durhamsu.com asking for an update to this web page.

Will things go back to normal after the strike? [+]

UCU have also called a period of Action Short of a Strike (ASOS), which begins at the time as the strike and will continue afterwards. ASOS means that staff will work to exactly what is written in their contacts. This could mean:

  • not covering for absent colleagues
  • not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
  • not undertaking any voluntary activities

This is intended to highlight the extent of work that staff do over and above what they’re contracted for. It will mean disruption, but probably not to teaching hours. Instead, ASOS will more likely affect marking, replying to emails and organising meetings. ASOS is expected to go on until Monday 4th May.

I’m a postgrad who teaches. Can I strike? [+]

If you’re a member of UCU, you can strike the same as all UCU members. If you are not a member of UCU, but still wish to participate in the action, you could consider joining UCU.

Though non-UCU members do have the legal right to participate in strike action at their workplace, it is strongly recommended that you join UCU so that you have the protection of a trade union.

Will postgrads who teach be asked to cover for striking academics? [+]

Postgraduates should not be asked to cover for striking academics. If you are asked, this would technically be strike-breaking and we would recommend you contact our Advice Service.

I’m a student who’d like to support the strike. What can I do? [+]

The SU Officer team are keen to help students support the strike action. We’re hosting teach outs (teaching activity, usually on relevant subjects or areas of interest, outside university buildings during the strike), and we will be sharing information to help people engage with the strike action meaningfully. Follow our Facebook page for students who support the strike.

If you would like to stand on the picket line to support the strike, please read our document here, which explains your rights with regards to picketing.

Where else can I find information and support regarding the strike action?

If you’re concerned about disruptions to your work and deadlines, struggling to access university services, or need advice on an individual matter… [+]

The SU Advice Service can support students impartially and independently to understand their rights, as well as signpost to the most useful services for you.

If you’d like to know more about your rights and what to do if you’ve been affected by the strikes, or if you’d like to make a complaint… [+]

The university plans to mitigate for missed learning opportunities, and states that its Mitigations Policy is sufficient to ensure learning outcomes are met.

The university has also announced that students will not be tested by examination on material covered through mitigations. You can find out more about this on the university web pages.

If, however, you do experience issues as a result of the strikes and you wish to complain, there will likely be a specific complaints procedure set up at the end of the upcoming period of industrial action. We will supply more information about this when we have it.

The university also plans to set-up a ‘strike fund’, where all unpaid staff wages resulting from the upcoming industrial action will be placed. To find out more about the 2018 strike fund and what happened with the money, you can read an update from the SU President here.

If you’re unclear whether deadlines are still set or if you’re expected to cover missed material yourself… [+]

Contact your Head of Department for more information about academic matters, including the mitigations being put in place for your specific course.

If you’re unclear what services, like the library or student support, you will be able to use… [+]

Check the University webpages first, and then ask a member of College staff.

It’s the University’s responsibility to minimise disruption and make sure that vital services stay operational. They should be issuing guidance soon, but if you can’t find that information anywhere, let Kate, your SU President, know at su.president@durham.ac.uk.

List of strike mitigations [+]
Department Mitigation? If so, what?
Classics N/A N/A
English No N/A
History N/A N/A
Music N/A N/A
Philosophy Yes 3 day extension on summative
Theology N/A N/A
Biosciences N/A N/A
Chemistry N/A N/A
Computing Science N/A N/A
Earth Sciences N/A N/A
Engineering N/A N/A
Maths N/A N/A
Physics Yes Summative viva made formative. Some exam questions stricken. Indication on past papers on which questions would have been stricken. Attendance for labs scrutinised so that those who unnecessarily missed out on lab time are marked fairly for their access to labs
Psychology N/A N/A
Anthropology N/A N/A
Sociology Yes Moved deadline, can apply for an extension if formative is returned late
Archaeology N/A N/A
Economics N/A N/A
Marketing No N/A, no strikers
Accounting N/A N/A
Education No N/A
Geography No N/A
SGIA Yes Cancelled formatives
Sport N/A N/A
Theology Yes Removal of exam question on non-taught material

Know something we don't? Let us know by completing the form here.

If you want to contact the University about the strike action, you can email strike.action@durham.ac.uk.


Page last reviewed: 11/03/2020