Planned UCU strike action - FAQ's - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Planned UCU strike action – FAQ’s

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Planned UCU strike action – FAQ’s

When are the strike days?

The proposed strike dates are:

  • Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March
Will The Courtauld be open on the strike days?

Yes, The Courtauld will continue to stay open as normal during the strike days and all Support Services will remain open. This includes the Library, Common Room and Helpdesks. In addition, Royal Literary Fellows, Counselling and Wellbeing services will be open as normal.

We will keep you updated if there are any changes to this.

Will all staff be on strike?

Not all staff at The Courtauld are members of the UCU trade union, or voted for industrial action.

Of those staff who did vote, some will choose to go on strike for 14 days and some may take action on certain days.

It is not possible for us to know precisely which staff who are members of UCU will go on strike. If we receive prior notification from staff that they will be on strike, then we will notify affected students in advance.

Will my lecturer be on strike? And how will this impact my tutorials, seminars or lectures?

If your lecturer is a UCU member who has voted for industrial action, they might choose to strike for all 14 days, or on certain days. Staff do not have to tell us in advance if they will be on strike, so it is not possible for us to know precisely who or when they might choose to do so. Other staff may choose to teach in a different location. You absolutely have the right to cross a picket line to attend classes, either at Vernon Square or Somerset House.

Staff who choose to strike will not undertake any work on those days and this may result in disruption to some lectures and seminars.  Any cancelled classes will not be rescheduled later – striking staff have no obligation to reschedule any of the work they’ve missed. Staff who are on strike will also not respond to work-related emails or hold their office hours.

If we receive prior notification from staff that they will be on strike, then we will notify affected students in advance. Unfortunately, this will not always be possible. We advise students to attend classes as normal, unless you hear otherwise, and to keep checking the VLE for further information. The best approach may well be to ask your tutor directly if your lesson is going ahead. Please note that some teaching may be taking place off-site in galleries and museums, and staff will usually notify you of this.

What should I do if my class is cancelled?

Where we know a class will definitely be going ahead, we will let students know. For most classes, we won’t have that notice, so we would encourage students to either ask their tutors if they are planning on teaching, or to monitor the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for details on their classes and whether these have been cancelled.

If you are uncertain about whether a class is going ahead you should attend as normal, but if you do find that your class has been cancelled, please do report this to the Advice Desk (2nd Floor at Vernon Square).

Will assessments and exams be affected by the strike?

We will ensure that no students are disadvantaged in any assessment activity as a result of the strike action.

You should assume that any assessment deadlines already set will remain in place. Please continue to submit your essays and other assignments as normal. You will be informed with advance notice if any deadlines change.

BA and Graduate Diploma examination papers have not been set yet, and we will ensure that all papers reflect the scope of the course as delivered.

What can I do to catch up on any lectures I missed?

Unfortunately, striking staff have no obligation to reschedule work that was missed during the strike period. However, if you would like to attend specific lectures next academic year, as you have missed them due to strike action, please contact advice@courtauld.ac.uk, and we will agree with you the best way of doing so. We do recognise that this may not be a solution for some of our students, but would be happy to support you where this is a possibility.

Will assessments and exams be affected by the strike?

We will ensure that no students are disadvantaged in any assessment activity as a result of the strike action.

You should assume that any assessment deadlines already set will remain in place. Please continue to submit your essays and other assignments as normal. You will be informed with advance notice if any deadlines change.

BA and Graduate Diploma examination papers have not been set yet, and we will ensure that all papers reflect the scope of the course as delivered. You will not be assessed on material that has not been taught as a result of strike action. Academic staff have also been asked to prioritise assessed essays and feedback during non-striking time, so that you can continue to work.

Will I still receive feedback on my assessed work on time?

Every effort will be made to ensure that feedback for assessed work is returned to students on the scheduled dates – this is something that academic staff have been asked to prioritise on non-striking days. They will be prioritising the most urgent deadlines for feedback first, so there is a chance that some feedback may be delayed until after the strike.

What support has The Courtauld been putting in place?

We have asked all staff who go on strike to ensure you have all the materials you need available on the VLE to enable you to continue working independently if your classes are affected during the strike period.

Will my attendance record be affected (including Tier 4 visa holders)?

If you miss any teaching sessions as a result of the strike, your attendance will not be recorded and will not affect your attendance record. If you hold a Tier 4 visa, your attendance will not be recorded and your status will therefore not be affected.

How will I know if the libraries are open?

Some library staff are UCU members – however, at the moment, we envisage the libraries will remain open as usual. If there are any changes to this, we will let you know, and also update our opening times web page as soon as possible. You may want to contact us on ‪+44 (0)20 3947 7630 or at booklib@courtauld.ac.uk before travelling if you have a long journey or need to see a specific item. Please bear with us if we take a little longer to respond than usual as we may be busier than normal. You absolutely have the right to cross a picket line to use the library, and it is unlikely that Vernon Square will be picketed for full library opening hours.

How will I know what library services are available?

You will be able to access our extensive collection of online resources as normal, wherever you are. Courtauld students and staff can also register with Senate House Library for free, enabling you to use its databaseseresources and online journals. Please bear with us if we take a little longer to respond than usual as we may be busier than normal. You absolutely have the right to cross a picket line to use the library, and it is unlikely that Vernon Square will be picketed for full library opening hours

What if my library books are due back on a strike day?

If you have finished with your books, we encourage you to return them so that others can borrow them – you have the right to cross the picket lines to return library books, and it is unlikely that Vernon Square will be picketed for full library opening hours. If not (or you are unable to visit the library) you find how to renew them online on our guidelines for use web pages. We will waive any penalties if you return your books late as long as you bring them in by 20 March 2020.

What is the strike about?

The strike is about national and local issues. On the national level, the strikes are about two separate disputes about national negotiations on pay and working conditions, and about changes to the USS pension scheme.  The decision to have a vote for industrial action and to determine the number of days for each strike has been made by UCU at a national level. However, the local union has also raised concern about a number of issues that they feel are specific to The Courtauld.

What is being done to resolve the dispute?

At a national level, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), which represents higher education institutions in national pay negotiations, has proposed further joint work on the non-pay elements of the trade union claim. More information about the national negotiations can be found in this open letter from Universities UK and UCEA.

The Courtauld has already worked with our UCU branch on local issues including casual and fixed-term employment. No teaching or research staff at The Courtauld are on a casual contract, and we will not use them in the future without agreement with the trade union.  We have already agreed to discuss the use of fixed-term contracts for teaching only roles, and agree when these are appropriate and where longer or more secure contracts can be offered.  We are now completing a piece of work to re-evaluate Associate Lecturer and Teaching Assistant hours and pay, which will be presented to the unions very soon, in order to be included in contracts for the next academic year.

Everyone at The Courtauld feels very strongly about improving the organisation’s Gender Pay Gap. The Courtauld’s median Gender Pay Gap is 22% and the mean (average) is 10.5% (the information is set out here).  Both numbers are different but valid measurements. Across the Higher Education sector as a whole the median is 15.5%, and the mean is 15.9%. We will always refer to both measures in future communications.

Following on from conversations with UCU, and with the Chairman’s Committee of the Governing Board, The Courtauld is also commissioning a formal review of staff pay, to be undertaken by an independent, expert company, which has experience in this area and appropriate knowledge of the HE sector. We are developing the brief for the project, which will then be shared with the trade unions before being put out to tender. The chosen partner organisation will be asked to provide a realistic timeline for conducting the review, including key stages and final deadlines for recommendations, which we can then agree with our recognised trade unions.  The “fieldwork” should begin as soon as is practicable and include discussions with a wide range of staff, including trade union representatives.  It is planned that a high level progress report of findings is made to the Governing Board by July, and provided to the trade unions at the same time. Once the final report is delivered, we will then be in a position to discuss the recommendations, their priorities and a timeframe for implementation with staff and the trade unions.

The Senior Management of The Courtauld is also fully committed to continuing to work constructively with the trade unions on these and other matters in future.

What is a picket line?

Staff who are striking create a picket line by standing outside the building where they usually work and explaining to people why they are on strike.

Will I have to cross a picket line?

Vernon Square and Somerset House may be peacefully picketed by union members during periods of strike action, but you will not be prevented from entering.  The picket is not aimed at students and everyone understands the many reasons you may need to enter the building, for example, to see counsellors, or to visit the library.  No-one should ask you to explain why you are accessing the site. We would encourage you to attend teaching as normal, unless you hear that it has been cancelled or rescheduled.

What do I do if I am a student and I do not want to cross the picket line?

You absolutely have the right to come into campus during the strikes. Picket lines are not there to stop you coming into your building, and many staff will be coming into the building as usual to go to work.

We understand that this may be a difficult decision, but if you chose not to cross the picket line and your lesson does go ahead, you will need to take personal responsibility for the teaching and learning that you will be missing.

If you experience any difficulties, you should contact academic.registry@courtauld.ac.uk or talk to the security team on duty.

Will I be compensated if any of my classes are cancelled due to the strike?

A decision on compensation has not been made yet. We will be monitoring the impact of the strikes, and will review this throughout the period of the strike. We will update you on the outcome of this review at the beginning of next term.

What happens to the pay of the strikers that is withheld?

Anyone who goes on strike has their pay deducted for that day. We have decided to either put that money towards student Hardship Funds, and other activities that support and benefit students in their learning experience. Find out more about the Hardship Fund and how to access it.

Where can I go for further advice and support?

We encourage you to speak to your Supervisor, Lecturer or any other staff in confidence if you have any other concerns or queries, or to our wellbeing and student support services.

You can also email any questions to advice@courtauld.ac.uk For more information about The Courtauld’s Student Support Services, visit the website.

This FAQ was last updated on 24/02/2020. The page will be updated accordingly as we receive more information, so please continue to check this page regularly for further updates.

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