Following the Union Council meeting of 26th February, the student body passed a motion for further support of the strikes, to the effect of; publishing a stronger statement, contacting the university executive to use their position to defend staff and oppose changes to the USS pension scheme, and for the Students’ Union to supply resources to enable students to campaign actively alongside their lecturers should they wish to do so.
On Monday 22nd January, University and College Union (UCU) voted in favour of 14 days of strike action in response to proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – a pension scheme which many of our university staff are enrolled in. These changes could see staff losing tens of thousands of pounds from their pension.
The changes to pensions will not only affect many of our staff who have dedicated their careers to higher education but will also disproportionately affect new career starters. Many of these people will be our own PhD students who are currently working within their departments and hoping to begin a career within higher education. You can read more detailed information about the strikes here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9309/Strike-message-to-students
Therefore, Aberystwyth Students’ Union are proud to support our staff who feel like they have no other option but to stand up for what they deserve. We believe that happy staff ultimately results in an excellent education and student experience for all of our students. We believe the implications of these cuts to staff pensions could be huge and may result in demotivated staff and subsequent recruitment and retention problems which would have a huge impact on our students’ education.
As these strikes are taking place over a long period of time, we are asking staff to do undertake the following actions alongside their strike action:
1) Make use of BlackBoard to upload presentations and basic lecture notes where possible - we do not believe this makes the strike redundant as students will still be missing out on 1-1 teaching and support
2) Inform students if teaching will be cancelled, even if this is only on the morning of the lecture
3) To not include any missed teaching within exams
When are the strikes happening?
There are 14 days of strikes in total, over the space of four weeks.
Week 1: Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd February (2 days)
Week 2: Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th February (3 days)
Week 3: Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th March (4 days)
Week 4: Monday 12th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th, Thursday 15th and Friday 16th March (5 days)
How many staff will be striking?
There are 407 local members of UCU at Aberystwyth University, and we are expecting up to half of these members to strike, based on a poll which occurred in mid-January. However, we cannot be sure how many of our staff will strike until the strikes begin, and the numbers striking will likely change over the strike period. The results of the January poll can be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9023/Aberystwyth-University---USS-ballot-result-Jan-18/pdf/Aberystwyth_University_-_USS_ballot_result_-_Jan18.pdf
How do I know if my lecturers are striking?
You can email your lecturer and ask them if they are striking but they are not obliged to tell you if they are striking before the day of the strike
How will my teaching be affected?
Staff who are striking will not be teaching any lectures, seminars or laboratories on the days they decide to strike. UCU has asked staff to not reschedule any missed teaching activity, but this will be at the discretion of each lecturer. Your lecturer should let you know if they are striking and if they will be cancelling lectures. Your Academic Affairs Officer, Emma, will be working with university staff to encourage them to upload basic lecture content to BlackBoard to ensure that students can still access learning material.
How will my assessments be affected?
Some lecturers may choose to extend assessment deadlines if they fall within the strike period, but we recommend working to original deadlines unless you have an extension date in writing. If you would like to ask your lecturer to extend a deadline, you should ask them via email well before the strikes begin or contact your Academic Rep to contact them on the behalf of your module. We are currently working to ascertain whether topics which have been missed as a result of the strikes will be included in exams.
Will the Students’ Union, Libraries and Student Support Services be open?
All these services will be open with minimal impact
What disruption can we expect?
Many staff will be striking at picket lines, which are usually at entrances to university grounds and buildings. You may cross the picket lines and staff will not stop you from entering buildings. Staff may also not answer their emails during the strike period, so you can expect some slower responses to any emails. As with any dispute like this, we cannot be sure of the full extent of the disruption until it occurs. Students should be prepared for disruption across all campuses at this time and we would recommend that you check your emails regularly for updates.
Are staff members paid for striking?
No, staff members are not paid for the days on which they strike, including PhD teachers. UCU members have expressed a desire to resolve this situation quickly to ensure that staff do not lose more days work and that students are not further affected by this dispute. The money that is saved on staff salaries goes back into student experience and in previous years has been put into the Student Hardship Fund, which any student can access if they experience severe financial difficulties during their time at University.
How can I support the staff members who are striking?
We would recommend talking to university staff who are striking to further understand their reasons. We encourage students to join staff at picket lines, which are located at the entrances of all of our Aberystwyth campuses. The Students’ Union will also be providing resources for you to make placards and banners should you wish to do so. Please ask at the SU reception if you would like to take part in this.
Am I allowed cross the picket lines onto campus?
Where possible, we encourage students to work from home and not to enter campus grounds. However, we know that for many students this is not possible and they need to access campus grounds. You are able to cross picket lines and it is against the law for anyone to intimidate or stop you from crossing picket lines. If you feel uncomfortable about doing so, the top entrance to campus via Cwrt Mawr is not picketed and you can enter via this entrance without having to directly cross a picket line. Please do let us know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if this changes.
How will my attendance be affected?
The university do not know which staff are striking until after they report their industrial action when they return to work. Therefore, we cannot account for attendance before timetabled teaching happens and your attendance will go down for any teaching you cannot attend due to the strikes. However, you will not be negatively affected by this and students who had a good attendance record before the strike action will not be called up by departmental staff. Tier 4 students will also be protected and the University will provide you with evidence for your visas to ensure you can prove that you were in attendance for the whole period of time.
If you are joining picket lines, we recommend that you only do this outside any teaching activity that is continuing regardless of the strikes, as we cannot offer any protection to students who miss teaching that is continuing to support the strike action.
Where can I get advice and support from?
You can make a complaint through the University’s Tell Us Now form: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/student/your-voice-matters/tell-us/ and write to the Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Treasure (email@example.com) to express your concerns and support for the strike action and encourage her to oppose the proposed changes by UUK to our staff’s pensions.
You can also contact your Academic Rep to submit any comments or concerns on behalf of a group of students. To find out who your Rep is, use our ‘Find My Rep’ app: https://www.abersu.co.uk/shapeaber/studentrepresentatives/findmyrep/
The Students’ Union will also be offering advice with any appeals or complaints that occur as a result of the industrial action. For academic advice or appeal please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For general concerns or comments about the strikes please email email@example.com.
What will the Students’ Union be doing to support students at this time?
Your Students’ Union Full Time Officers will be working with the university to ensure that the student experience and your education is protected as much as possible. Your Academic Affairs Officer is in regular conversations with UCU members and will be ensuring that students are kept up to date with any changes and that these are communicated appropriately, as well as encouraging staff to make full use of BlackBoard and extending deadlines.
We will be offering help with any complaints or appeals through our advice service: firstname.lastname@example.org drop in Monday-Friday 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm. If you have any comments or questions which have not been answered in the FAQs please contact Emma on email@example.com.
We hope that staff and students can empathise and be respectful of each other during this difficult period and hope that this situation can be resolved as quickly as possible to ensure as little impact on students as possible.
Your AberSU Full Time Officers