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Industrial Action Graphic

Industrial Action

Strike Action Dates

UCU strike dates: 25th - 29th September 2023

Unison strike dates: 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th, 29th September 2023

On 24th October 2022, the University and College Union (UCU) announced that staff at universities across the country, including at the University of Birmingham (the University), had voted for industrial action. This announcement comes from two aggregated ballots of 145 institutions on Pay and Conditions and 68 institutions on the USS Pensions Scheme. UCU Members were balloted on strike action as well as action short of a strike consisting of working strictly to contract and refusing additional duties. The University of Birmingham is included in all of these ballots.

It is the UCU’s stance that a resolution in these disputes will support higher quality education in the longer term for students. The University note that these disputes are based on national issues that cannot be resolved by the University alone. The University also maintain that any industrial action will have a disproportionate impact on students’ education in the short term.

We've put together the following information to help explain who UCU are, what is happening and how it might affect you.

Strike Action

Why have some staff voted to take strike action?

UCU recently balloted its members in its branches at higher education providers including at the University of Birmingham.

The ballot was on whether staff wished to take strike action and action short of strike in relation to two disputes:


Please check back later for more news.


Industrial Action FAQs

Take a look at some of our most Frequently Asked Questions about the strike:

The University and College Union (UCU), are a trade union who represent over 130,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

Members of the UCU across the UK, including at Birmingham, have voted to take industrial action over pension cuts, pay and working conditions.

UCU is asking for pension cuts to be revoked, as well as for universities to improve pay and commit to action on casualisation, workload and equality pay gaps – what UCU calls its ‘four fights’. To achieve this, the industrial action will include a three day walkout (strike) this Semester, as well as ‘action short of strike’ from the 23rd November where staff will work strictly to their contract and not take on additional duties.

The University will experience 3 days of strike action:

• 24, 25 – 30 November 2022

This means that members of academic and professional staff who are members of UCU and choose to strike will not work on these days, and that there may be picket lines on campus. Your School will be best placed to let you know how the strikes will affect your timetable – not all staff are members of UCU or will choose to strike.

UCU has been undertaking action short of strike (ASOS) from Wednesday 1 December, which will continue until May 2022. During ASOS striking staff will be working to their contracted hours only, which means they will not work outside of these hours or cover additional duties, such as for other staff who are on annual leave or off sick. The University’s priority during this time will be minimising disruption to students.

On a strike day, some members of UCU will not work and there may be picket lines on campus. This is where staff gather at the entrance to campus as a protest. This means that some classes will not take place, if they are led by striking staff. Not every School or course will be affected in the same ways.

No-one will know in advance which Schools will be most affected, because staff striking don’t have to let their Schools or Departments know in advance of them taking action. We know from previous strikes that not all academic staff are in UCU or might not strike on all of the days. Some staff may let you know in advance about their intentions to strike, but are not required to do so.

Your School will be the best source of information about cancelled or rescheduled classes and activities.

Yes, you can study remotely, and the Guild study space is here for you if you choose not to cross the picket line but would like somewhere quiet to work.

'Crossing the picket line' means carrying on with your ordinary activities at a workplace during a period of strike action. Some people consider this to amount to undermining the industrial action and pickets will seek to persuade other staff members not to cross the picket line and not go into work as normal.

During strike action, students may decide not to cross the picket line. This means you act in solidarity with those striking and do not come onto campus for teaching, learning and other activities.

You should be advised that the University has informed the Guild that it would not consider a student's personal decision not to cross the picket line to be an "extenuating circumstance" if your learning or results were impacted. International students on Student Visas will also need to be aware that normal attendance requirements would continue to apply unless your individual teaching sessions were cancelled due to strike action.

Coming to the Guild Building and/ or Sports Pitches are not considered crossing the picket line.

You can also access Student Support and Wellbeing remotely, and using these services is not normally considered crossing the picket line.

Prior to the three days of UCU strike action in December 2021, the Guild’s members voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to support UCU industrial action for the duration of this academic year. The Guild therefore continues to stand in solidarity with the UCU in their fight for secure pensions and working conditions.

Your School will be the best source of information about cancelled or rescheduled classes and activities.

You can also talk to Guild Advice if you are worried about the impact of the strikes on your studies. Your Guild Officers will also be working to represent your academic interests throughout the strike period.

Guild Officers will be asking the University to consider the following:

- That you should not be assessed on material for which no teaching is provided

- Assessment deadlines should be extended on affected courses

- Exam boards should be able to scale marks where students’ performance in affected modules is impacted

- Students should be compensated for teaching not received through additional learning opportunities or monetary compensation

- Any savings on unpaid wages during industrial action should be ring-fenced for student-focused causes

Regardless of your stance on strike action, Guild Advice are here to help you with any academic issues during the strike period. They can also help you submit a complaint about the impact of strikes on your education, should you so wish.

Student Reps will be working with staff on your course at a local level to support.

If you are on student visa you will not be penalised if you are unable to attend classes that have been cancelled due to the strike action. You should continue to engage with your programme of study as advised by your School.

Regardless of your stance on strike action, Guild Advice are here to help you with any academic issues during the strike period. They can also help you submit a complaint about the impact of strikes on your education, should you so wish.

Jargon Buster

If you're wondering what we mean by any of the words or phrases above, take a look below for an explanation:

A picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, usually at the entrance to their workplace, which others are asked not to cross. We currently do not know what would be considered a picket line when teaching is delivered online.

Industrial action is usually organised by trade unions, most commonly when employees are forced out of work or unhappy with a work related situation where the employees were unable to reach an agreement with the employer. Industrial action can include striking, action short of strike or lockout (where the employer stops workers from working).

Action short of a strike (ASOS) is defined by the UCU to potentially include: working to contract (only the hours defined by their contract, e.g. 9-5pm); not undertaking any voluntary activities.

The transformation of a workforce from largely employed on permanent contracts to largely employed on a short-term or casual basis.

An organised association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, trade unions are formed to protect and further the rights and interests of their members (this is different to students’ unions which are charities rather than trade unions).

Either a system of voting secretly and in writing on a particular issue, or as a verb, an organisation asking members to vote secretly on an issue.

A strike is a period of time where employees decide not to come into work in protest about a particular aspect about their employment. They do not get paid whilst on strike. Strikes are often referred to as ‘industrial action’.

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