UCU tells universities to pay unlawfully docked money back to striking staff

15 May 2014

UCU tells universities to pay unlawfully docked money back to striking staffUCU logo

UCU today named and shamed the minority of UK universities that are deducting a full day’s pay from staff who took two hours’ strike action during the recent pay dispute.

The union said it considers any money taken from staff in excess of the two hours they were on strike for to be an unlawful deduction. UCU has written to the vice-chancellors and principals at the 26 universities* who took a full day’s pay, or threatened to, demanding the money is returned or the threat to deduct it is lifted.

UCU added that after such a protracted and bitter dispute now would be a good time for university bosses to make the effort to build bridges with their employees, rather than be branded as a rogue employer that treat staff poorly. The union said that if universities still refused to pay the money back that they would seek redress through the courts.

The dispute was resolved at the start of the month when UCU members voted to accept a 2% pay rise. That vote took place just days before a marking boycott was due to start. During the dispute around 35 universities said they would dock a full day’s pay from staff who took part in UCU’s two-hour stoppages.

‘We consider any money either taken, or threatened to be taken, from staff for more than the two hours they were on strike as an unlawful deduction. If universities do not repay the money, or remove the threat to deduct it, we will seek redress through the courts on behalf of our members.’
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘We have written to the small number of universities that threatened to take a full day’s pay for our two-hour stoppages. We have told them to either remove the threat to deduct a full day’s pay or pay back the money taken. Their hard-working staff took the action in a legitimate attempt to reverse years of declining pay.

‘We consider any money either taken, or threatened to be taken, from staff for more than the two hours they were on strike as an unlawful deduction. If universities do not repay the money, or remove the threat to deduct it, we will seek redress through the courts on behalf of our members.

‘To be treated so poorly by your employer leaves an incredibly bitter taste in the mouth. At the end of such a protracted, and at times bitter, dispute we would hope most universities would be keen to build bridges with their staff.’

Since the end of the dispute a number of universities who had threatened to deduct a full day’s pay have said they will not make the full deduction or will pay the extra deductions back. The 26 universities who deducted a full day’s pay or are still threatening to represent just 17.5% of the UK institutions hit by the action.

Five of the universities still threatening to dock money are in Scotland, four are in the north-west of England and three are in London. Both Leicester universities, De Montfort and the University of Leicester, along with their East Midlands neighbours the Nottingham Trent University, are also refusing to hand back the extra cash they took. The full list is below.

UCU members took three two-hour strikes in January and February as well as three full-day strikes. Some institutions threatened to deduct a full day’s pay for all three two-hour stoppages, some for one or two of them. The University of Greenwich said it would deduct half a day’s pay from staff involved in the two-hour walkout.

*University of Aberdeen
Anglia Ruskin University
University of Bolton
University of Bradford
University of Central Lancashire
De Montfort University
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of East London
University of Greenwich~
Leeds College of Art
University of Leicester
Manchester Metropolitan University
Norwich University of the Arts
Nottingham Trent University
Oxford Brookes University
Queen Mary, University of London
Queen’s University Belfast
Robert Gordon University
University of Salford
Staffordshire University
University of Stirling
University of Surrey
University of Ulster
University of the West of Scotland
University of Wolverhampton

~ Greenwich said it would deduct half a day’s pay from people involved in the two-hour strike

The letter in full:

Dear vice-chancellor

Earlier this year we wrote to you concerning the intention of your institutional management to treat a two-hour strike as constituting partial performance and to withhold pay for the entire day. We informed you of our legal advice and of our view that deducting a full-day’s pay for a two-hour strike was unreasonable and disproportionate.

Your institution was in the minority in threatening this route. Others, who initially threatened a full day’s deduction for a two-hour strike either did not make deduction at that level or have subsequently reviewed their position.

As you will also be aware, following the 2% pay offer for 2014/15, our members have agreed to settle the dispute and call off the proposed assessment boycott on Tuesday 6 May. This is the first time that the UCU has been in a position to reach agreement since the new negotiating machinery was introduced in 2009.

I believe we now have a period in which we can address a number of other issues of critical importance to the sector, both at national and institutional level. For example, the issues raised in our equality claim. No doubt, you and your management team will also have local issues to progress.

After a dispute of this nature, I suggest that this may require the rebuilding of the trust and confidence that has been damaged by your institution’s approach to pay deductions. In the light of the dispute having been settled, I would ask that you review your position with a view to either not proceeding to dock a full day’s pay for a two-hour strike or finding a way of repaying the money.

I am, of course, available to discuss this further with you and I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Sally Hunt
General secretary
University and College Union

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