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Strike Action FAQs June 2021

Published: 8th June, 2021

Bright yellow poster, LUCU banner featuring picketing figures. Caption LUCU is on strike 9, 10, 11 June. Fighting Compulsory redundancies, attacks on academic freedom and union busting

Page last updated, 8 June 2021

What does taking strike action mean?

Strike action means not doing any work for all of the days specified by the union. This includes, for instance, time before 9am and after 5pm and includes any activity which is part of your work such as teaching, administration, meetings, emails relating to work, marking, research or conferences where you are directly or indirectly representing your employer. It also means not doing any preparation for work that you are due to do when you return to work after your strike. In a nutshell, don’t do any work at all on strike days!

When are we going on strike?

Wednesday 9th, Thursday 10th, and Friday 11th June.

Why are we going on strike?

This is an escalation of our ongoing dispute, declared on 4 February 2021, and based on the legal mandate for industrial action you voted for in April 2021. We are building on action short of a strike, ongoing since early May 2021, in response to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah’s refusal to negotiate when principal Leicester UCU officers met with him on 20 May. This is also in response to the 26 members of staff that have been served with compulsory redundancy notices, and for the dozens more that have been forced to leave – either by voluntary severance or through their resignation. This is a chance for us to show collective solidarity in defence of our colleagues’ livelihoods (27% of the 26 are Leicester UCU officers and representatives), to defend academic freedom and to protest the gross mismanagement of the restructuring plans  by the University’s Executive Board. The Vice Chancellor has been very clear: this is only phase one, phase two looms. We must stop this happening.

What will the picket lines look like given restrictions on outdoor gatherings?

There will be a maximum of 30 people at all picket line locations, except at Victoria Park entrance, where the open space of the park will be used to maintain social distancing in groups of no more than 30. Please report to the Victoria Park entrance in the first instance, and the picket supervisors may direct you to another picket line based on an assessment of the numbers. We ask that you download and check in on the University of Leicester ‘SafeZone’ app for safety and track and trace purposes. If you are unable to use this app, please report to the picket supervisor who will take your details.

Additional safety measures we recommend, based on a risk assessment conducted by your Health & Safety officers:

  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times, even though we’ll be outside.
  • Take a lateral flow test the night before joining the picket line and do not attend the picket lines if you test positive (rest, and get well soon).
  • Avoid joining the physical picket if you are part of a demographic vulnerable to COVID, and participate in the virtual pickets instead.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available at all picket locations, but please bring your own as well.
  • Bring your own refreshments.
  • Avoid shouting and singing. No whistles or wind instruments. We’ll have music and microphones (sanitised between every use).
  • Label any placards with your name and stick to carrying the same one throughout the strike.
  • Invite people to pick up a leaflet from a stack on our table or scan the QR code from our posters to find out more information about the strike. This will be safer than handing out leaflets. 
  • Maintain social distancing. To check you’re at an appropriate distance from others, you should be able to hold out your arms (helicopter style) without touching anyone. 
  • Picket lines will be located at Victoria Park (Attenborough entrance). Please report here in the first instance. To manage social distancing, you may be directed to Campus Entrance 1 (University Road, Carpark), Campus Entrance 2 (University Road, Mayor’s Walk), Campus Entrance 3 (University Road, Peace Walk), Lancaster Road (George Davies Centre), North Campus (School of Education) or Victoria Park Road (WQE). 

Why picket?

The picket line is a key tool in making strike action effective. That’s why it’s so essential that we organise them well and that all members make every effort to take part if they can. The strength and size of pickets show management, the public, the press and our colleagues how determined UCU is to win the dispute. It will be a big boost to everyone who’s been observing the marking boycott, the key aspect of Action Short of a Strike that is putting pressure on the Executive Board to resolve the dispute. See our full schedule of activities here.

In addition to the rewards associated with maximising the effectiveness of your action, picketing can be an incredible experience – especially after a year in which you may have felt isolated, both because of the pandemic and because of the way senior management have been treating your colleagues. Besides the camaraderie, picketing is a great way to meet your colleagues and students, not only those from your own department or section, but from across the university. Unbounded by the strictures of University-Leadership-sanctified structures, the picket line can be thought of as the ultimate trans-disciplinary event. 

What do I need to bring?

You are the most important thing! You may wish to bring placards, which you are welcome to do. Also think about bringing your own water bottle to keep hydrated (sunblock in the event of hot weather) and snacks. We discourage members from buying items from University catering outlets, but feel free to visit local businesses on Queens Road and London Road. 

Can we access University Facilities?

Yes. We have agreed with security that those on pickets can use WCs in University buildings. You can also make use of the bike and car parks as you would normally.

How can I participate virtually?

If you are unable to make it to campus, you can still make your voice and your action heard! You can join the virtual rally each day from 10am onwards. There will also be a number of virtual teach-outs and other events. Full details of the schedule can be found here.

Share your participation on social media, using the hashtags #NoOneIsRedundant, #BoycottLeicester and #LeicesterStrikesBack. You might like to post something relevant to the strike themes on each day. Don’t post or promote any posts that discuss anything work-related: this is part of observing the virtual picket line.

Volunteer to write a reflective commentary of around 300 words, expanding on one of our slogans to be included in the newsletter/blog we’ll be publishing daily during the strike, to correspond to the theme of the day: (Weds=Solidarity, Thu=Governance, Fri=Academic Freedom). It can be eponymous or anonymous- up to you! Please email to or 

The slogans are:




Where can I find details of the strike days?

Details of what is happening (and where) on each strike day can be found here. This is being regularly updated as new activities, speakers and events are confirmed. We encourage members to participate where possible and to show solidarity with one another.

What does refusing to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action mean?

This includes any scheduled teaching activity which would have taken place on one of UCU’s strike days and applies to all UCU members not just those directly responsible for the relevant lecture or class. You should refuse to reschedule this activity or share materials that would have been covered in the class or lecture when asked stating in response that you are supporting UCU’s action short of a strike.

What should I do if I have already rescheduled strike hit classes or if someone else such as my head of department has already rescheduled them?

Once the action has started you should not teach rescheduled classes whoever has rescheduled them.

Do I have to tell my employer I am going on strike or intend to take action short of a strike before the action begins?

No. You do not have to tell your employer whether you plan to take industrial action in advance of the date when action begins. Doing so will enable them to minimise any disruption the action is aimed to cause and therefore undermine the dispute. UCU has already provided your employer with all the information about the action required by law including those categories of members who we are calling on to take action.

When is it OK to tell my employer I am taking industrial action?

Once the industrial action has begun and you are back to work following the strike action you should respond truthfully to any query from your employer as to whether you have taken or are taking industrial action. You should not, however, respond to any such query while you are on strike.

You may want to use the following out of office reply whilst you are on strike:

I am currently unavailable as I am striking over the University of Leicester’s plans to make 26 colleagues redundant, and the implementation of the ‘Shaping for Excellence’ business cases (phase one and phase two).

Background to the dispute can be found here:

You can support us by joining UCU ( and taking part in strike action.

I will respond to your email on my return — though there may be a delay in my response. 

Are there any exemptions from having to take industrial action?

No. All UCU members employed at the institution are called upon to take action.

Should I reschedule lectures or classes that are cancelled due to the strikes?

No. This is part of the action short of a strike that members voted to undertake. Rescheduling classes will dilute the impact of the original strike action.

Will the union be paying strike pay?

UCU’s national officers have approved access to the fighting fund for Leicester UCU members, but you will only be eligible to claim after the third day of action. At present, only three days of strike action have been declared. Should the dispute require further strike action, Leicester UCU members can apply to the fund. More details will be provided in due course. 

At the EGM on 2 June, you voted to establish a local fighting fund to provide financial assistance to colleagues who may face substantial pay deductions for Action Short of a Strike, especially the marking boycott. Leicester UCU has received donations from several UCU branches, including the Open University UCU, UCU Ulster and Bangor UCU. More details on how this local hardship fund will operate will be circulated soon. 

I have external commitments at another institution not affected by the dispute on a strike day – should I fulfil them?

If the external commitments arise from your employment with the institution where the strike is taking place, then you should not fulfil them. For example, if you were due to attend a conference in your capacity as a lecturer at a strike bound university you should not go.

What can I tell my students about the strike?

Tell them the reasons you are striking, and what this may mean (cancellations of classes, etc.). They are welcome to join us on the physical pickets, and there will be opportunities to join in virtual events too. 

I am not a member of UCU, if I join can I then take part in the action?

Yes, if you join UCU you will be able to participate in the action with the protection of the union as soon as you are signed up. While non-UCU members have the legal right to participate in strike action at their workplace our strong recommendation is that you join UCU so you have the protection of a trade union before you join the action.

If you have provided the details requested on the form your membership will be active from the date of application. This means that you are able to take part in any strike action while awaiting your membership number.

Am I in breach of my contract if I go on strike?

Yes, taking any industrial action is a breach of contract. However, UCU has carried out a legal ballot and complied with all legal formalities, the law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action or at any time within 12 weeks of the start of the action and, depending on the circumstances, dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later. This kind of dismissal has never happened in higher education.

Can my employer deduct my pay when I take part in industrial action?

Yes, your employer is entitled to deduct your pay if you participate in industrial action. For strike action, the union contends that any deduction should be at 1/365th of any annual salary or equivalent. For part-time staff or those employed on a session by session basis, deductions should only reflect the pay normally due for the work not undertaken and no more.

For action short of a strike, your employer has the right to refuse to accept the partial performance of your contract and to deduct up to 100% of your pay while you are participating in the action so long as they make their intentions clear. At present, the employer intends to deduct 25% of pay (if using their preferred means of reporting) or 33% of pay (if you don’t use their preferred means of reporting) per day for action short of a strike. 

How will taking strike action affect my pension?

In previous strikes it has been the experience of UCU that most employers do not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action has not generally affected pensions. Institutions that do choose to withhold contributions often make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay. In terms of your final pension, the impact of participating in the industrial action called by UCU is minute compared to the benefits that the union has protected through action in the past. For example, a member earning £50,000 who supported the eight days of strike action called in November 2019 would see a reduction of around £100 in their annual pension as a direct result of the strikes.

My employer has told me that I will lose core pensions rights such as death in service if I take part in strike action, is this true?

From time to time, individual employers seek to bully staff by saying that if they should die while taking strike action they will not receive a death in service payment. We understand that USS themselves are not aware of any such case. You should notify UCU if you are threatened in this way and our local branch will take the issue up on your behalf.

What is the law on picketing?

Peaceful picketing is allowed and members are encouraged to get involved. Picketing should be carried out at or near an entrance or exit from a site at which the pickets work. When others who are not in dispute come into work or use these entrances or exits, pickets must not interfere with them. 

I am not a UCU member. Can I refuse to cross the picket line?

We would like everyone to respect the picket lines, but if you are a member of another trade union you should seek their guidance before refusing to cross a picket line. If you are eligible to join UCU we recommend that you join the union, on the picket line if necessary, and do not cross the picket line. We will support any member who is subject to disciplinary action for refusing to cross a UCU picket line.

I am a research fellow fully funded by external bodies but I don’t want to cross the picket line. What do I do?

It depends upon who your contract is with. If it is with your home institution and that university is on strike you should join the action. If your contract is with a body who is not part of the dispute you should not take action. If you need further advice contact

Will participating in strike action affect my entitlement to statutory maternity pay (SMP)?

You are entitled to SMP (subject to fulfilling the other statutory requirements) if you have been continuously employed for 26 weeks ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the expected week of confinement (EWC). The calculation of continuous employment does not, however, include any week during which you participate in strike action. So, if you take strike action and have worked for your employer for less than 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before your EWC you will lose your right to SMP. If you are in this situation, please advise your branch officers immediately. Or put another way, a woman needs 26 weeks of continuous service going into the qualifying week (15 weeks before the EWC), but a week in which she is on strike does not count (though it does not break continuous service). So the woman needs an extra week’s service before the 15th week (assuming the strike does not affect more than one week of service, otherwise she will need more service to compensate). It will usually only affect recent employees, because if a woman has, for example, two years of service the issue would only arise if her service is broken for some other reason. There is further explanation and useful diagram on the Department for Work and Pensions website.

I am on study or research leave during the strikes – what should I do?

If your leave is unpaid you have no labour to withdraw and cannot join the strikes. If your leave is paid you should join the strikes.

I am booked to be on annual leave during the strikes – what should I do?

If your annual leave is essential you should take it as planned and donate to the strike fund. If your leave is not essential you may wish to move it so that you can participate in the action alongside colleagues.