All you need to know about the upcoming strike action.
More strikes are confirmed for 21 - 25 March.
The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) have called a strike at 58 universities, including Heriot-Watt University.
Who are UCU?
The University and College Union (UCU) are the nationwide trade union representing over 130,000 academic and support staff within Universities and Colleges.
58 UK Universities will be impacted by strike action this term. UCU has announced further industrial action over the future of the pension scheme, pay and conditions.
Since 2009, university staff pay has effectively been cut by over 17% in real terms, while staff are being asked to work harder and longer than ever before. Research highlights that women, black and minority ethnic, and disabled staff experience significant pay discrimination. Casual contracts continue to be widely used, and 3,000 university staff were made redundant during the pandemic. UCU are frustrated that university employers are refusing to commit themselves to meaningful action on any of these conditions.
UCU members want to be at work, not on strike, but the future of higher education is under threat. Growing inequality affects both students and staff because poor working conditions lead to poor learning conditions.
UCU are negotiating with employers now in a campaign called the 'Four Fights'. You can find out more here.
When is the next UCU strike happening at Heriot-Watt?
Monday 21 March to Friday 25 March
New strike dates have been confirmed by UCU
What does this mean for you?
It is difficult to predict how you will be affected. UCU represents a number of staff across a variety of academic and professional services roles, but not all staff at Heriot-Watt are members. Staff who choose to strike do not have to tell Heriot Watt of their intention beforehand and they may not commit to all strike days.
This industrial action could mean that your classes or lectures are cancelled or that labs and spaces are closed or have limited availability. You might also find that offices and student support services are not fully staffed on strike days.
You may see a picket line of UCU members at the entrances to campus. Staff may ask you not to cross their picket line, but they are not allowed to prevent you from entering buildings.
What do I do if my learning is affected?
At the lecturer's discretion, you may not be assessed on any academic content that was not properly covered due to strike action. You can find out more below about Mitigating Circumstances.
Does the Students' Union support the strike?
Yes. A motion to support the UCU Strikes was passed at our Annual General Meeting and supported by a student vote on our website.
How can I support the strike?
Here are some of the ways you can support staff on strike:
Join staff on picket lines. Each morning from 8:00, staff will gather outside the Heriot-Watt campus entrance. If you want to join them, feel free!
Sign the NUS open letter to show that Students stand in solidarity with UCU's demands. Sign here.
Be supportive of striking staff, they are doing this as a last resort. They’re fighting Universities UK (the representative body for Universities in the UK) and any frustrations you might feel should be directed at them.
If you can, don’t cross picket lines. If you can - work from home, in other public spaces, or in the Union. If you can re-arrange meetings to meet via Teams - do it. It’s the easiest way to show your support.
Will Students' Union buildings and services be open?
Yes, the Student Union building, Liberty’s café, Geordie’s bar and The Shop will still be open! If you arrive on campus to find your lecture cancelled, you can use our spaces to study.
Can I still attend / run a club or society event during the strike?
Yes. The strikes are unlikely to impact your events. The Students Union building will be open as usual.
Will I be penalised for missing a class because I chose not to cross the picket line?
You will not be penalised if you miss class because you have chosen not to cross the picket line. We are confirming information for students on Tier 4 visas.
What if I have a Tier 4 Visa?
As long as your are meeting the conditions of your visa, you should be okay! This means if you are an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Taught student, you should keep accessing canvas and make sure if you haven’t already, that you come onto campus and check-in via SafeZone before the 25th March.
If you are a Postgraduate Research student, you should continue monthly reporting via PGR Portfolio, and if you need to, pop into campus for Office Sign-in's.
Mitigating Circumstances - what can I do if the strike affects my learning?
You do not need to submit a mitigating circumstances form as Heriot-Watt have information about the impact of the strike on your classes. This includes exams and coursework assessment.
However, if you feel like you have been particularly affected on an individual basis (e.g. if your dissertation supervisor is on strike), we recommend you submit mitigating circumstances.
For more support on the above or any other academic problem, our Advice Hub is here to help. You can find out more about Heriot-Watt's Mitigating Circumstances policy here.
How can you find out whether your classes are affected?
As far as possible your department will try to tell you about changes to the teaching schedule through the usual channels, but please remember that striking staff do not have to tell Heriot-Watt in advance.
Throughout the period of strike action, you should:
What is a picket line like at Heriot-Watt?
A picket line is a boundary established by staff who are on strike.
This usually looks like a number of staff standing outside entrances to campus or buildings. Other staff and students will be asked not to cross these picket lines, as to do so could undermining the strike.
It is your personal choice as to whether you want to cross the picket line, staff cannot stop you from entering campus or campus buildings.
Do staff on strike get paid?
When staff go on strike they forfeit their pay. This is a hugely difficult decision for staff to make.
The money that Heriot-Watt University doesn't pay to staff due to strike action is often put into a Student Experience Fund which will be used to support students.