Strike FAQ for Warwick students

This is information for all Warwick students who would like to know more about why lecturers, librarians, IT and other professional service staff at Warwick are taking industrial action.

For a PDF version click here.


What is the strike about
What is it we want? What would constitute a win?
Why should students care?
How does industrial action affect you?
How can Warwick students help?


What is the strike about? 

There are two reasons why we are striking:  
  • First, to protect staff pensions, which are under renewed attack after last year’s dispute.
  • Second, to fight for the rights of casualised, female and BAME staff. Growing numbers of staff are working on short-term or precarious contracts that don’t pay them enough to make ends meet. There is also a persistent gender and racial pay gap. This means that at Warwick, for instance, women earn 74p for every £1 earned by men and BAME staff are paid an average of 25% less than their white colleagues. This action is about stopping the downgrading of pensions, ending casualisation and closing the gender and racial pay gap.

UCU Strikes Summary (PDF slides)

What is it we want? What would constitute a win? 

Our demands are simple:
  • Protect staff pensions so that we can retire without facing poverty;
  • Pay a £10/hour minimum rate for directly employed staff, and commit to the Living Wage Foundation’s pay rates for the lowest paid on campus;
  • Agree to develop a programme to close the gender and BAME pay gap; 
  • Agree to create a framework to eliminate precarious employment and to tackle rising workloads;
  • Ensure that staff pay keeps up with inflation (salaries have fallen 20% on average over the past decade)

These demands are easy to meet. We’re asking UUK (Universities UK, the association of university employers) to work with us to end the rampant levels of inequality in our workplaces and to make sure that people can actually afford to live on the pay for the jobs they do.

Why should students care? 

We know that you have incurred a large debt to attend university. Many of us fought hard against the meteoric rise of tuition fees. But the high fees you pay are not used to pay more to those who teach you. Gaps in gender and BAME pay, casualisation of staff and erosion of staff pensions are part of a decade-long assault on the integrity of universities as public institutions. As a result, we’ve seen the tripling of student fees, a trend toward short-term or sessional contracts at the expense of secure employment, the greater use of outsourcing models  and the ballooning of managerial pay – and with these developments, the persistence of racist and sexist cultures at our university.  

If we want an environment committed to fairness and transparency, where teaching, learning and research – not profit – are at the heart of what we do, then we must collectively take a stand.

How does industrial action affect you? 

We love teaching and working with students, and we do not take strike action lightly, any more than nurses or doctors do. The UCU has called for eight days of strike action from November 25th to December 4th. On these days:

  • UCU members won’t be teaching, holding office hours, marking or answering emails
  • Any work missed, including teaching, will not be rescheduled
  • After December 4th, UCU members will be observing action short of a strike (ASOS): this means working to contract, or working only the 36.5 hours per week stipulated in our contracts (most academics work 60+ hours, including weekends)

How can Warwick students help? 

In partnership with Warwick’s Student-Staff Solidarity Network, we will be holding a series of themed events on the picket lines, giving you a chance to join discussions about fees, debt, the future of work and radical alternatives to the status quo. We want you to be part of these activities. Join us! As Emma Goldman almost says, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your demonstration.”

Warwick Students Union voted to support the strikes – as individuals you can too.

If you want to help us stop hugely damaging changes to higher education, here are some ideas:

Remember: the more people support the strike, and the more unified that support, the sooner it’s likely to end.

With that in mind, please:

  • Boycott lectures and seminars on strike days – do not cross the picket line!
  • Join us as sympathetic onlookers/active supporters
  • Help organise alternative student-led events
  • Get in touch with any questions

Solidarity for all – together we can win this!

Local hardship fund claim form NEW – weeks 3 and 4

UCU Warwick has established a local hardship fund from branch reserves and external donations to offer financial support to those experiencing hardship as a result of industrial action. A full description of the principles of the fund is available here. UCU Warwick has now decided to open applications for weeks 3 and 4 of the strike thanks to the amazing amount of donations we have received!

Salaried staff, and hourly paid staff not experiencing hardship or with access to significant secondary income should apply to the National Fighting Fund. The branch is happy to support applications to the national fund with a branch note if this is needed.

The deadline for applying for the hardship fund including all evidence, regarding the first two weeks of strike, is Wednesday 2 May. The tight deadline is to ensure that we can make payments as soon as possible but avoid a first come, first serve scenario, enabling fair treatment. No final decisions on reimbursement will be made before that deadline. However, if  If you need funds urgently please contact treasurer@warwickucu.org.uk with details
of your circumstances and we will try to assist.

Before starting to fill out the form below, please read carefully what evidence we need to assess your claim. Thanks!
Instead of filling out the form, you can also download this word version and return it to the Treasurer with the necessary evidence at treasurer@warwickucu.org.uk

This Form is for claims relating to weeks 3 and 4 of the strike. If you want to make claims for weeks 1 and 2 because your deductions had erroneously not yet been applied, please fill out this form instead.
































At this stage we are unable to confirm the value or timing of hardship payments but it is likely they will not
exceed £500 (in total) per member. If you need funds urgently, or have any other question please contact treasurer@warwickucu.org.uk and anticasualisation@warwickucu.org.uk with details
of your circumstances and we will try to assist.

UCU Warwick’s position on rescheduling teaching

As many of you saw first in the Vice Chancellor’s blog post (which we responded to here) and more recently on insite, the University has suggested that striking workers reschedule their teaching. It is both this branch and UCU national’s position that our members should not reschedule missed teaching, for the following reasons:

  • Rescheduling classes devalues the principle of industrial action undertaken by colleagues in a collective struggle that is still ongoing, despite present cessation of the strike (note that a strike mandate remains live through June 19, pending ratification of the current agreement from USS).
  • Rescheduling will necessarily be uneven, given the differing timetables and capacities of modules and staff concerned – hence any rescheduling that does take place exposes some colleagues to the charge of neglect of students, further undermining departmental relations and leading to potential discrimination.
  • Rescheduling has significantly different impact depending on module requirements and assessment patterns – for those with exams, there is greater pressure to reschedule in order to cover material that may appear on a paper, while for those modules that are 100% assessed, staff have in many cases been responding to student queries throughout the break as spring deadlines approach; the difference in impact means that some will be responsible for more make-up work than others, regardless of rates of compensation.
  • The offer to pay only striking colleagues who teach for rescheduling ignores – and discriminates against – all non-teaching colleagues who have taken strike action, including many academic-related staff; this contravenes the basic principle of union solidarity

Response to VCs Blog of April 3rd

In his blogpost of April 3rd, our Vice-Chancellor seeks to intervene in the UCU vote over industrial action by campaigning for acceptance of the UUK’s current proposal. He then outlines the University’s post-strike plans. Given the important role the VC has played in this dispute thus far, we feel it necessary to respond.

The post begins by announcing that “there is a clear agreement between UUK and UCU on a way forward over the pensions dispute.” Whilst we entirely sympathise with the desire to find a satisfactory resolution to this dispute – for our students, for the university, and for ourselves – at present, there is anything but a “clear agreement” on a way forward, and the VC’s attempt to influence the vote on the current UCU ballot is worrisome. The VC himself has emphasised that any solution needs to include a Defined Benefit pension and numerous experts have argued, including some on our own committee, that the offer as it stands will not guarantee the sustainable, Defined Benefit pension we’ve been striking for.

Second, we take exception to the notion that the UCU’s goal in taking strike action is to “prevent students from graduating.” Our goal throughout this action has been to prevent UUK from taking away our pensions. The UUK triggered this dispute by unilaterally devaluing our retirement provision; if they cared as much about the student experience as the VC suggests, they would act to end it quickly. Instead, their willingness to play politics with students’ futures was further revealed when they amended the conditions of their own offer, after the ballot was announced. It will take more than this kind of maneuvering to restore trust between employers and staff in what has been an unnecessarily prolonged dispute.

Furthermore, by trying to pit student interests against those of their teachers, librarians, and IT and office staff, the VC overlooks the extraordinary solidarity demonstrated by students in support of the strike. Students not only support their staff getting a fair and decent pension upon retirement, they recognise the hugely damaging impact the UUK’s proposals will have on the health of the sector as a whole. They have lived through (and suffered from) years of ruthless marketisation in education. Perceiving this dispute as just one symptom of a broken system, students and staff have come together in this action to demand an alternative model – one that does not treat students as consumers and universities as businesses.

Finally, we have serious concerns about the VC’s proposals for moving forward in the third term of this year should this dispute end. His proposal that, should the strike end, strike funds be returned to individual departments to tempt strikers back into the fold, so that deductions become an incentive to top up the salaries of those who reschedule teaching or otherwise “enhance the student experience,” is deeply problematic. We have been arguing throughout our action that all deducted wages should be given to a Student Hardship Fund, as has been echoed by the Students’ Union, because we believe that the money we have lost fighting the UUK’s campaign to degrade our benefits should go to the most vulnerable among us. This plan attacks the basic tenet of collective responsibility and principled sacrifice. Moreover, it threatens to exacerbate the deep inequalities among staff and across departments at Warwick, whereby those with the most to lose, including casualised and sessional tutors, are preemptively targeted on the basis of their vulnerability to any further pay deductions; and it ignores the sacrifices made by UCU members in non-academic departments, who will not see their deductions passed on to students at all.

Again, the VC appears to have missed the exceptional level of support for our action among the most precariously employed members of the university community. His blogpost fails to register the extent to which doctoral students, contract teachers and junior or early career colleagues have been striking in support of their – and our – collective future in higher education. The difference between a vision of this future as privatised, monetised and competitively administered, vs. one that is public, collaborative and academically led, has never appeared so stark. We hope that, whatever the result of the ballot, all members of the Warwick community will continue to work together toward achieving the latter outcome.

Warwick UCU Committee

ASOS FAQ

Action Short of Strike (ASOS) Q&A

As we return back to work, we’ve been receiving a number of questions about what it actually means to carry out action short of strike (ASOS). In response to these queries, we have developed an ASOS FAQ / Q&A covering the following areas:

  1. What does ASOS mean?
  2. Does ASOS imply breach of contract and if so, what does that mean?
  3. What is Warwick’s current position regarding ASOS Pay Deductions?
  4. What specifically is working to contract and what does that look like?
  5. What does ASOS and working to contract look like for workers on hourly paid contracts (VAM / STP)?
  6. What does this all mean on the ground?

It is a work in progress, so please check with us regularly and let us know if you have any further questions and/ or queries.

Day 14 Strike for Pensions

And we’ve made it – undiminished in strength and more unified than at the start, we are now at Day 14 of the strikes.

To celebrate this, we held an awards ceremony with some fabulous (or at least appropriate) prizes!

Here is our fabulous compere, Leon, announcing the winners.

Arianna was presented with her ‘halls throat sweets’ in honour of her sterling work on the microphone leading chants for the last few weeks!

And of course, the winner of ‘Best picket dog’, the fabulous Quince.

Some fantastic renditions of some old favourites:

‘See you on the picket line’ (to the tune of ‘Hit me baby (one more time)’ by Britney Spears

‘We need a pension’ (to the tune of ‘I need a hero’ by Bonnie Tyler)

A stirring speech from a retired UCU member warning of the risks and exhorting members to keep up the fight for everyones future.

And Claire, as picket supervisor, summed up what we were all thinking.

Thank you to all our members who stuck it out throughout the 14 days, in wind, rain and snow.

#solidarity #NoCapitulation #USSStrikes

Day 13 Strike for Pensions

We started small and determined on a cold morning, spread out across Gibbett Hill, Westwood, and University House and grew large and mighty with a concluding rally at the bus interchange in the much needed sun!

University House

Westwood

Bus Interchange

The turning point was most certainly the amazing cheese and cheese and ham pancakes that a member brought at 9am, which revitalised us all!
We’ve long been saying this strike isn’t just about what happens on the picket line, but all of the other sites of organising that have occurred: from the free University which has carried out 4 weeks of stellar events, to the departments who have been organising play lists, events, and themed days together, to the unprecedented mass all-members meetings we’ve had throughout.
Today was an especially good example of that. Following the demo, one members led a walking tour called “Mapping Corporate Walk: A Walking Tour.”
Meanwhile , UCU regional led a well-attended caseworker training session we had a departmental contact meeting, and we had an amazing departmental contact meeting.
Not bad for day 13.

Open letter to our students – what happens next?

Dear Students,

You may have heard that on Monday 12th March an ‘agreement’ was reached between UCU and UUK to end ongoing dispute over the USS pensions reforms and this was then rejected by thousands of university staff, including many here at Warwick.

These staff, having already taken strike action all over the UK during the last four weeks, voted in large numbers, and almost unanimously, to reject the offer and we imagine this is both confusing and raises many concerns and questions for students, and are writing to address them here.

There are many reasons that we rejected the UUK’s offer, but the bottom-line is that it didn’t address the reason we went on strike: to secure a long-term future for a defined benefits pension scheme. The offer amounted to a substantial reduction in our pensions income; it was predicated on inappropriate assumptions (which even Warwick’s own Vice Chancellor has criticised) that cuts are necessary to fix a ‘deficit’ in pension funds; and it was a three year deal, at the end of which we would likely be facing another round of attempted cuts.

It is for these and other reasons that UCU members all across the country rejected this ‘offer’ and pushed for a better outcome. As a result of this democratic action, the UCU rejected the offer at the national level in favour of continued strike action, possibly including 14 further days of strike action in Term 3, during which we will continue to go unpaid in a fight for what we believe is fair and in the best interests of UK Higher Education.

It is not with a light heart that we have taken the decision to say no to this offer leaving us with the prospect of continuing with strike action. We know that not only does this means a continued negative impact on the learning of our students but it also puts many of us at great financial risk and, in some cases, risk of deportation. But we also know how high the stakes of this struggle are. This is a national test case. If we capitulate, we don’t just lose our pensions, but possibly guaranteed pensions across the UK. And, more importantly, if we capitulate on our pensions, we are also capitulating to the financialised and privatised university of soaring tuition fees, casualised staff, and intensified marketisation; and, we are capitulating to the idea that workers are not entitled to economic security, or indeed to a life after work.

We are doing everything we can to ensure this dispute doesn’t go into term 3 and it is already working. UUK have called for a new round of negotiations and we believe if we keep the pressure up, this dispute can be resolved. Thank you for your continued support. We believe that if students join their voices to ours, we will be able to defend our pensions and end this dispute quickly, to everyone’s best interest, before Term 3 commences.

Warwick UCU

Day 12 Strike for Pensions

Another cold morning, but with another strong turnout at the picket lines. Lots of questions today following the extraordinary events of yesterday and luckily we had just the people to answer them!

However, first we were joined by the Chair of the South Warwickshire Keep our NHS Public who spoke extensively on the challenges they face on protecting our local NHS services and the risks that are currently in play.  Please support them as much as you can, these service are essential.

And then the big hitters arrived!

Myka, Branch Secretary, and Justine Mercer, Branch President and Midlands HEC representative, spoke about the HEC meeting yesterday – an event that was described as ‘electified’ by Myka who talked about how the voting across the country had supported the branch reps, and HEC members to  to reject the current offer.

And what was more amazing, is that we were joined by members new to the picket who had been to the meetings, felt the #solidarity and were now more engaged than ever before.  So the message we want to send is that we are still here, we are still engaged and enraged, and we will not stop until proper deal is ‘on the table’.