These Questions & Answers are from an all-student email sent out by the University.
Questions and Answers
Bangor University is doing everything possible to ensure that there is no impact on your degree qualifications and that any impact on your studies from the strike action is minimised. The University is working closely with the Students’ Union to monitor developments and we will provide further updates to this Questions and Answers page as the situation develops. In the meantime, unless advised otherwise, you should continue to attend your teaching sessions and submit all coursework as normal.
Who is involved in the dispute?
This dispute is between UUK (who represent Higher Education Employers) and UCU (University and College Union), which is the trades union representing many staff working in universities. The strike action is only being undertaken by staff who are members of UCU. Not all UCU staff will join the strike and staff who are members of other unions and non-union members will be working as normal. Because, by law, staff do not have to provide advanced notice of their intention to strike, the University cannot provide detailed information about the activities that will be affected. However, we have asked that staff let students know if they intend to be on strike.
What is the dispute about?
The dispute is about two things. It is about the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme), which operates the pension scheme for many university staff in the UK, and about pay and working conditions. By working conditions this refers to matter such as the contractual arrangements, workload and mental health, gender pay gap, and ethnicity pay.
Does this relate to the strike action that took place in November and December 2019?
Yes, this is a continuation of the same dispute
Has there been any progress made towards settling the dispute?
The bodies representing Universities have met for talks with UCU in recent months, however there has been no agreement or settlement to the dispute to date.
What is USS?
USS is a national pension scheme, managed by its own trustees and overseen by the Pensions Regulator. The issues under dispute relate to proposed changes in the way in which the pension scheme will operate in the future. As USS is an independent national pension scheme involving some 350 employers, individual universities have no control over the running of the scheme.
Why are some staff taking strike action?
Staff are taking strike action due to changes to the USS Pension Scheme. These changes affect many university staff across the UK as the USS scheme is an independent national pension scheme.
In terms of pay and working conditions, this is negotiated nationally on an annual basis between the body that represents Universities and recognised Trade Unions. Pay increases have been implemented for this current year, ranging from an increase of 3.65% to 1.8%, with other elements to the offer made such as steps to address gender and ethnicity pay gaps, workload issues, and casualisation. The pay offer was rejected by UCU, and agreement has therefore not been reached at national level.
Staff who are members of UCU have a legal entitlement to take industrial action, and this is taking place at over 70 Higher Education Institution’s across the UK.
When are the strike dates?
Fourteen days of strike action are planned taking place over a four week period as noted below;
Thursday the 20th and Friday the 21st of February
Monday the 24th, Tuesday the 25th, and Wednesday the 26th of February
Monday the 2nd, Tuesday the 3rd, Wednesday the 4th and Thursday the 5th of March
Monday the 9th, Tuesday the 10th, Wednesday the 11th, Thursday the 12th and Friday the 13th of March
On these days, some members of staff may be taking part in the strike action, and there may be some disruption to some teaching activities. However, as not all University staff are members of UCU, the impact of the strike will vary from one part of the University to the other.
What is the University doing to ensure that students at Bangor are not disadvantaged?
Not all of our staff here are members of UCU, so the impact of any actions taken may vary across the University. In November and December of last year, less than 20% of Academic staff members at Bangor took part in Strike Action, and of those that did the majority did not strike for the 8 days.
The University will therefore remain open on the dates that have been selected by UCU for industrial action, and this includes key services such as the Library and Student Services. As soon as your School is aware of the extent to which classes may be affected, you will be informed of any changes that they will put in place. Legally, staff do not have to provide advanced notice of their intention to take industrial action, but our experience at Bangor University is that staff will often inform students of their intentions.
A number of measures have also been put in place to mitigate the effect of the industrial action and to ensure that learning outcomes can be delivered. Examples of these include extending deadlines, and making materials available through Blackboard. As a result the University expects to be able to ensure that the necessary material can be delivered across its academic programmes.
Will the action affect any assessment work that students submit?
If the industrial action should affect any assessments, the University will take this into account when considering extensions or special circumstances. The University Senate has the power to enact special regulations governing assessments to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in circumstances such as these.
Where can I get further information about my personal circumstances?
If you have further questions, please speak to your Personal Tutor or Head of School, and of course the Students’ Union are also available for further support. Special circumstances claims should be directed to the Request Centre, where the request will be dealt with accordingly.
Will the University be open on strike days?
Yes, The University will remain open during the strike action and staff who are not members of the University and College Union will continue to work as normal. As a result, there will be minimal impact in some areas, whilst in other areas teaching activity could be affected. Places such as the Library, learning spaces, computer labs, and sports facilities available as usual. If you are carrying out project work in a laboratory, this is likely still to be possible, but you should ensure that you take local advice to ensure that there is an appropriate level of support available from a health and safety perspective.
How will I know if my lecture, seminar, laboratory or other teaching session is cancelled?
We are expecting that many teaching sessions will go ahead as normal. However, it is possible that some of your sessions will be cancelled. Although staff do not have to provide advanced notice of their intention to take industrial action and there is no obligation to do this, there is a possibility that you may turn up for a session that is cancelled. Our experience at Bangor University however is that staff will often inform students of their intentions as a courtesy to their students. Members of staff may inform you either directly, by email or through Blackboard so please do look out for the latest information. You should attend Lectures as normal unless you have been informed otherwise.
Will teaching sessions be rescheduled if they are cancelled?
We are not currently able to give an answer to this question because it is too early to say how many staff will take strike action. We will, however, be seeking to ensure that no student will be disadvantaged because of this action and we will try to rearrange as many cancelled events as possible in order to limit, as far as practical, the impact on your studies. However striking staff are not obliged to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action.
Will I be assessed on topics which were not covered because of the strike action?
If the industrial action should affect any students’ preparedness for assessment, the University will take this into account when considering extensions or special circumstances to ensure that no one is disadvantaged. The University Senate has the power to enact special regulations governing assessments, to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in circumstances such as these.
Will I receive financial compensation for any missed lectures?
The University continues to do everything possible to ensure there is no impact on your degree qualifications and that any impact on your studies is minimised, and therefore we do not expect the need for refunds to students or compensation. Measures have been put in place to mitigate the effect of the industrial action and to ensure that learning outcomes can be delivered. As a result the University expects to be able to ensure that the necessary material can be delivered across its academic programmes. For this reason, it is not anticipated that compensation or refunds will be necessary. Once the industrial action concludes and the nature and scale of the disruption is clearer we will consider how to respond to any requests for compensation.
Will my coursework deadlines be altered?
You should assume that any deadlines which have been set remain in place and work to the deadline accordingly. If there is an assessment deadline on a strike day, you should submit your work in the normal way. Once any impact of strike action becomes clearer, we may deem it appropriate to give you a longer time to complete the work if you have not covered enough material in the teaching sessions. If you feel you do need an extension, then you should submit these requests through the request centre in MyBangor. However, we will be looking at all possible options across particular degree programmes to avoid storing up coursework deadlines until the end of the semester.
What can the University do to resolve this?
Resolving this dispute requires agreement at a national level, which means that Bangor University is not in a position to come to a local resolution. However we are hopeful of a resolution to this dispute, and in the meantime we will do everything we can to reduce any possible impact the strike could have on you as students, and the University will remain open during the strike period