Pay dispute and marking and assessment boycott

Pay dispute and marking and assessment boycott

Update on the pay dispute and marking and assessment boycott

Dear colleagues,  

I thought it might be helpful to provide you with an update on the boycott, both regarding the national picture and following discussions that have been held with our local UCU branch leadership. You may also find it helpful to refer back to my earlier messages.

Click here to read 24 April message

Click here to read 19 April message

Pay uplift

Nationally, UCEA has made clear on behalf of the sector that that there is no possibility of a new or revised pay award for the 2023-24 pay round, or re-opening of the 2022-23 round. Locally, we are committed to implementing the award in full, rather than exercising the option to delay its implementation by 11 months, as some universities have done. The first 2% of the award was paid in April, backdated to 1 March, with the remainder of the award, in total a minimum of 5% for all staff, to follow from 1 August. While acknowledging that the pay rise does not match inflation, it is comparable to pay settlements across the wider economy and is at the very limit of affordability for the sector generally as well as our own University.  

The University is also committed to continuing to pay the accredited living wage, benefitting our lowest paid staff, including hourly paid staff.

Marking and Assessment Boycott and pay deductions

Following discussions with our local UCU branch leadership I want to reiterate and reinforce the University’s position with regard to the boycott.

  • Staff who participate in the boycott will be in breach of contract by not working fully to their contract of employment.  The University does not accept partial performance of a contract and this means if staff are not willing to perform their full contractual duties they are consequently not entitled to their contractual pay. Should staff decide to participate in the boycott and, therefore, only partially undertake their work, the remaining work that they do undertake is on a voluntary basis.
  • The University’s approach to pay deductions, withholding 50% of pay, will be based on determining the date that participation started and, thereafter, applying the 50% deduction on a continuous basis (as the action short of strike notified by UCU is on a continuous basis). This will continue until EITHER staff confirm they are no longer participating by both confirming this in writing (assuming they have notified the University of their participation) and carrying out all marking and assessment expected in timely fashion, OR UCU either nationally or locally call the boycott off OR the period for assessment/marking has passed. The form for staff to provide notification is designed on this basis and we are asking staff to follow the requirement, included in the UCU guidance, to notify if they are participating or have participated in the boycott.
  • As participation is deemed to be continuous after notification, this means that staff do not need to notify the University of specific days they are or are not participating in the boycott once their participation commences. Moreover, if staff do not notify the University that they are participating when in fact they are doing so, they will be deemed to have been participating from the point at which marking and assessment was available for them to carry out but which they did not carry out.
  • As indicated in my message of 19 April, the University will engage with staff participating in the boycott, either because they have notified the University of their participation, or because it is clear that the expected marking and assessment has not been carried out. Staff will be provided with every opportunity to complete their marking and assessment. Provided that the marking and assessment is carried out in time for students to graduate or continue their studies, no salary deduction will be made. However, if at the final deadline (to be determined by the University), staff decide to continue participating in the boycott and not complete/submit the marking/assessment, then at this point pay deductions will take effect, based on 50% of salary and backdated to the point at which the marking and assessment was available to the staff member to carry out.  This final deadline date will be confirmed by the Head of School to each member of staff participating in the boycott individually.
  • As requested by UCU colleagues, the University is giving further consideration to the way deductions will be made for hourly paid staff. We will share our thoughts on this with local branch representatives when we meet again next week.   
  • The 50% deduction does not and is not intended to reflect balance of workload but, rather, is deemed by the University to be an appropriate level of pay deduction (while also retaining the right to deduct up to 100% of pay), given the severity of the impact of the boycott on students. To clarify, and as stated in the first communication to staff, staff who participate in the boycott but undertake other activities do so on a voluntary basis.   

Pay-related topics – Workload, Employment Contracts, Pay Gaps and Higher Education Pay Spine

I previously updated you on progress made at a national level following talks with ACAS, between UCEA and the trade unions, about terms of reference agreed for the four separate pay-related issues and the intention to take forward related work. However, in a consultation, UCU members nationally narrowly voted to reject this approach and instead called on members to participate in a marking and assessment boycott. 

As a reminder you can view the detailed Terms of Reference for the four areas of work at a national level.

The University does not believe that there is a realistic prospect of a national level resolution of the current dispute. We have therefore begun discussions with UCU locally to build on the significant progress already made in these areas by joint University/campus trade union working groups.

In that regard it may be helpful to provide a reminder and update on work being progressed in each area. Click here for more information in relation to each of the following areas.

  • Workload
  • Employment contract types
  • Pay gaps
  • Higher Education pay spine

The University hopes that work at a national level on the pay-related issues will get underway after the current industrial action has ceased, but UCEA has made clear that this will not be possible while the marking and assessment boycott remains in place. Despite this impasse at national level, we remain committed to working in partnership locally with our campus trade unions to progress action in these important areas.

It is acknowledged that this is a challenging period for all. The University is committed to ensuring that all students get the qualifications they deserve. The University is also committed to maintaining constructive dialogue through weekly discussions with our local UCU branch leadership and remains hopeful that a resolution to the dispute will be found.

You will find further information as follows:

Best wishes


Karl Leydecker

Senior Vice-Principal

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