UCU Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) - Marking and Assessment Boycott

UCU Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) - Marking and Assessment Boycott

Marking and Assessment Boycott starts tomorrow - update on industrial action.

Dear colleagues,

This is to provide information about the industrial action (marking and assessment boycott) that UCU has called on their members to participate in as part of their national dispute over pay and pay-related issues.

The boycott is due to commence from tomorrow, 20 April 2023. I am therefore writing now to provide you with information regarding the boycott and what it means if you decide to participate in it.

Whilst we accept that UCU members are legally entitled to participate in the action, we are concerned at the potentially severe impact that a marking and assessment boycott may have on our students. We are aware that most staff may choose not to participate in the boycott, and steps are being taken to reassure our students that we will do all that we can to ensure that they are able to graduate or progress to the next stage of study.

Staff who participate in the marking and assessment boycott will be in breach of contract by not working fully to their contract of employment.

The University does not accept the partial performance of the contract of any member of staff. This means that if you are not willing to perform your full contractual duties, for example by not carrying out the marking and assessment duties that are required as part of your role, you will consequently not be entitled to your contractual pay. Should you decide only partially to undertake your work, the remaining work that you do, whether in the University, at home, or elsewhere will be voluntary on your part and we reserve the right to withhold pay from when it becomes evident that you have breached your contract.

In these circumstances the University is entitled to withhold up to 100% pay from staff participating in the boycott. Whilst there is no legal obligation to pay any salary in these circumstances, the University has decided that pay will be deducted from those participating in the marking and assessment boycott at the rate of 50%, whilst reserving the right to deduct pay based on 100%. This is in recognition of the severity of the impact of a marking and assessment boycott on students.

You are obliged to confirm, when asked, whether you are or have been participating in the marking and assessment boycott, as also indicated in UCU Guidance regarding this. Your Head of School/ALM will ask you to do so from 20 April 2023 and, if you are participating in the boycott, you are asked to complete the form to confirm this and to return it on 20 April 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter to your Head of School, copying in hr@abdn.ac.uk. Your Head of School/ALM may also ask you to reconfirm participation at periodic intervals after 20 April.

Participating staff will be paid 50% salary for the continuous period, starting no earlier than Thursday, 20 April 2023, from the date at which staff are required to undertake marking or assessment work but refuse to do so. It will be assumed that this is from 20 April 2023 unless staff indicate otherwise on the form. Where this date is not 20 April 2023, this will be decided by the Head of School.

In these circumstances pay deductions will continue for staff participating in the boycott until:

  • they confirm they are resuming full duties including assessment/marking, or;
  • the end of the boycott is announced by UCU, or;
  • the period during which they would be expected to undertake marking and assessment has passed.

From the point at which staff are required to undertake marking/or assessment work but indicate that they are participating in the boycott, a number of opportunities will be provided for them to undertake the marking and assessment to remove the impact on students. Therefore, the University will carefully consider at what stage salary deductions will be applied.

The University has agreed that employer pension contributions will be maintained at 100% for staff who participate in the boycott. It will also be assumed that staff wish to continue their employee contribution at the normal rate.

I regret that the threat of a marking and assessment boycott means that I have to write in this manner, and I know that many staff involved in marking and assessment will not be participating in the action. Given the severity of the impact on students that the marking and assessment boycott will have, the steps I have outlined in this message are unfortunately necessary.

The University remains hopeful that the ongoing discussions at a national level will bring an end to the disputes and we will also continue to have regular discussions with Aberdeen UCU during this period.

You will find further information as follows:

Best wishes


Karl Leydecker
Senior Vice-Principal

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