The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Universities threaten to cut pay of striking staff

UCU have warned that threatening big pay reductions could prolong strike action


Universities are threatening to withhold the pay of staff who have taken industrial action following ongoing pension disputes between University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK.

That’s the claim of UCU, who say that some universities have told staff that they will withhold their entire pay for undertaking ‘Action Short of a Strike’ (ASOS) and have warned that “overly punitive measures would annoy members and do nothing to help progress talks” which begin on Monday the 5th of March.

On Thursday the 1st of March, University staff at 61 institutions returned to work to undertake ASOS, which consists of working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking any voluntary activities.

UCU claim that if University of Sheffield staff have not rescheduled missed lectures within two days, it will deduct 25 percent of their salary and after five days it will withhold 100 percent of salary.

The University of Sheffield denied that this was their position but said that “the University reserves the right to make proportionate deductions for partial performance where this is in breach of a contract”.

UCU also claim that the University of St Andrews has said it will deduct 100 percent of salary for any form of action short of a strike, and also that the University of Kent will withhold 50 percent of pay for ASOS, but reserves the right to withhold 100 percent and any work staff then undertake would be voluntary.

A spokesperson for the University of St Andrews said: “no pay is being deducted from staff who are carrying out all their normal contractual duties and any suggestion to the contrary is utterly false.”

We contacted the University of Kent for comment. They sent us a link to their policy page, where UCU attained their information, and said, “we regularly review our position and will communicate any changes as and when relevant.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Universities that wish to exploit the law and punish their staff as much as possible are storing up problems for the future and risk prolonging the dispute.

“Action short of a strike highlights just how much universities rely on the goodwill of their staff who go the extra mile. Universities will need that goodwill when this dispute is all over, so it seems foolish to find ways now to maximise the punishment of their staff.

“It is encouraging that some universities recognise we are at a crucial stage in this dispute and are adopting a more conciliatory tone. We would urge institutions like Kent, Sheffield and St Andrews to do the same or risk being seen as the pariahs of the sector.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “A deduction of pay will be made for all employees who take any strike action. The University is entitled to withhold pay for staff who take strike action and it has been decided to deduct pay at 1/365th of annual salary for each day of strike action taken.

“The University will not benefit from strike pay deducted from staff and will use it to the benefit of students.

“Provided that the ASOS carried out by individuals does not impact upon the “proper discharge of their duties” then this should not result in partial performance of duties and no deductions of pay will be made. However, this is without prejudice to the University’s right to withhold full pay in the future for partial performance, should it be determined that there is an impact upon the proper discharge of duties.

“Should that be the case, then it has been decided to deduct 20 per cent of pay at 1/365th of salary. The University reserves the right to review the basis for making any deductions in respect of ASOS which may include refusing to accept partial performance and making deductions from salary of up to 100 per cent and will write to all staff to confirm the basis for any future calculations should these be changed.”

Strikes are scheduled to commence on Monday the 5th of March for four days, concluding with a five-day walkout from Monday the 12th of March to the Friday 16th of March.