We are writing concerning the return to work subsequent to the strike, and particularly in light of the university management’s measures to move work online in response to COVID-19.
As you know, there is a local agreement to spread the deductions for strike action over 4 months, in return for which the York branch of UCU agreed to a joint statement with the University management, the salient points of which concerned the prioritization of student-facing activities, and agreement to prioritize work as directed by line managers. However, the preamble to the statement also says that the University management respect the right to strike action. The first principle of strike action is that labour withdrawn is not replaced.
We understand that some members have been put under pressure by their line managers to re-arrange activities (including but not limited to teaching sessions) that were missed due to the industrial action; in addition, some members have reported additional pressure to meet deadlines, or to “catch up” on work that was missed. We want to reassure members that the union’s position is that while UCU understands the need to engage with students now the strike action is over work lost through strike action will not be performed. We are not catching up after a break: we were not paid for that work, and so we do not have to do it.
Moreover, as part of UCU’s lawful mandate for industrial action, UCU members at York are still engaged in Action Short Of a Strike (ASOS) until the 16th of April 2020 including a directive to members to work to contract. This means that you only work your contracted hours, and do not undertake voluntary activities. In our joint statement concerning the industrial action, university management undertook to ‘advise students and staff about alternative means to support learning which take account of UCU’s position’ regarding ASOS.
These matters are particularly pressing in light of the University management’s measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Moving activities and events online requires a great deal of work, and that is why we have written to the Vice-Chancellor to ask that appropriate resources and support are given to ensuring that staff are not asking to undertake yet more additional unpaid work.
The specific ways in which these matters will be handled will vary significantly across different departments and sections of the University. In some cases what you choose to prioritize will be a matter of personal judgement. The local branch will be happy to answer any queries you may have about particular cases. We will also be there to support you if any unreasonable attempts are made to pressure or force you to replicate struck work, or to undertake work beyond your contracted hours. If you have any questions or need support, please contact VCattini@ucu.org.uk
Finally, we wish you and your loved ones well in this difficult time. We will keep you updated in relation to our communications with the university management.
UoY UCU Exec