University threatens 25% pay cut for staff who do not upload learning material following strikes

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Durham University has threatened to deduct 25% of pay from University staff who do not upload teaching materials from sessions lost to the strike. 

This comes in light of UCU plans to strike consecutive weeks this term, starting next week from 14th to 18th February, followed by a two-day strike on 21st and 22nd February, concluding with a three-day strike between 28th February to 2nd March.

The university plan to withhold 25% of pay for Action Short of a Strike

After the proposed strike action, some staff will take part in Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) until 3rd May which will mean some staff will decide not to post missed learning material from the strike for students to catch-up online. 

The University said in an email to all staff that they intend “to withhold 25% of pay for ASOS” which according to the UCU would have included “sharing/uploading materials from teaching lost to strikes”. 

In response, Durham UCU has called the University’s decision “to be punitive deductions, unnecessarily confrontational, and an attempt to intimidate”. They also questioned the legality of the move. 

The UCU also believe this move is a “show that the employers are concerned about the impact of our industrial action” and called on its members to “make a strong response”.

In an email sent to all students, the University said they “expect all material relevant to cancelled classes will be posted no later than Monday 7th March”. They did not mention the threat of a wage cut in this email, although they admitted that some staff would likely not post materials due to ASOS. 

“I’ll be deducted 25% of my pay if I don’t retroactively do the work I didn’t get paid for”

dr daniel hartley via twitter @danieljhartley

The University’s decision to pursue the pay cut was criticised by some University staff. This included Dr Daniel Hartley who tweeted in response to the news “I’ll be deducted 25% of my pay if I don’t retroactively do the work I didn’t get paid for”. 

This sentiment was echoed by Dr Jack Copley who called the stance “unbelievably punitive and cynical”. He went on further to say that “if workers are forced to make up for any lost labour when they return from strike, then the right to strike is effectively revoked”.

Student organisations have also criticised the decision with the Durham University Labour Club giving their support to the UCU, saying that “University management have treated these workers disgracefully. This is yet another outrage, we stand unequivocally with @ucuatdurham”. 

The threat to deduct 25% of pay has also been made by other universities including Queen Mary’s and Birmingham. The University of Cambridge also intended to deduct pay, but has since backed down from doing so, with the UCU citing a “strong response from union members” as the reason for this. 

A spokesperson told Palatinate that Durham University has limited influence over changes to the pension scheme as it is national, but that it believes it is “a very good pension relative to other schemes” and said it is “currently paying more into the USS pension scheme than ever before”.

The University also said it has developed a comprehensive Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and that academic departments track and manage the workload of staff, welcoming collaboration with UCU members to review existing strategy. The University claims it has “limited the use of casual contracts” and that “all roles are aligned to the University pay scales at the appropriate grade.”

It continued: “There is transparency over the calculation of workload and payments, along with the expectations of roles. We continue to work alongside our recognised trade unions in this area.”

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