At least 11 universities threatening to dock day's pay from any staff taking part in two-hour lunchtime walkout.
Martin Williams Guardian Professional,
University bosses have been accused of "penny-pinching and bullying", in a dispute over a strike by academics.
Across the country, thousands of lecturers are set to walk out for two hours
on Thursday 23 January, over a pay dispute. But at least 11
universities have told staff that they will have their pay docked for
the entire day if they go on strike.
In an email, seen by the
Guardian, one university said that going on strike was a breach of
staff's employment contracts. Although the strike is only set to last
for two hours at lunch time, university bosses told academics that they
should leave for a whole day, if they wanted to strike.
said: "If you take two-hour strike action but perform your normal duties
during the rest of the day, those services you do provide on the strike
day whether in the university, at home or elsewhere, will be voluntary
and at your discretion and you will not be paid."
and College Union (UCU) said the universities threatening to dock pay,
include: Nottingham Trent University, University of Chester, University
of Dundee, Oxford Brookes University, Glasgow Caledonian University,
University of Leicester, De Montfort University, Staffordshire
University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Surrey and Leeds
College of Art.
The union has threatened legal action against any
universities that withhold an entire day's pay from staff. It said
university bosses had a "baffling willingness to increase disruption for
students as a way of intimidating staff."
The "lock out" is the
first of its kind by universities in recent strikes, and lecturers say
it represents a escalation in their dispute with employers.
academic who is planning to strike, and asked to remain anonymous, said:
"This is clearly designed to be intimidating, but we are not going to
be intimidated because what we are doing is legal. Any attempt by the
university to lock staff out would be unlawful.
"The disruption to
students from our strike would have been minimal, but the university is
now increasing that many times over. Instead of just two hours, a full
day of teaching is now going to be wiped out for students. They are
turning people against them."
She added: "Not only are they
increasing support for strike action, they are making a mockery of the
university right across the world."
The union has threatened to
escalate its industrial action if the university deprives striking
lectures of a full day of pay. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said:
"UCU's legal advice is that a two hour strike should lead to the
deduction of two hours pay – no more or less."
She added: "Any
university that tries to dock a full day's pay for a two-hour walkout
will face a legal challenge from us and an escalation of strike action,
as well as risking considerable damage to their reputation for fair
The two hour walk out follows strikes by academics and support staff in October and December
over a "miserly" 1% pay increase for rank-and-file university staff.
UCU says that the pay offer means academics across the UK faced a 13%
pay cut in real terms since October 2008.
Meanwhile, vice-chancellors have received wage increases averaging 8.1%, with some now on more than £400,000.
the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association have supported the
docking of pay, saying that universities are doing their best to help
A UCEA spokesperson said: "The unions are fully aware of
the employers' consistent position regarding withholding pay for
partial performance, and that they are entitled to withhold a full day's
pay if staff do not work normally.
"It is disingenuous for UCU to
suggest that the employer should be blamed for any further disruption
they may call on their members to cause."
One of the universities
that has threatened to dock pay for staff, stood by its warning.
Leicester University said: "We do not accept that staff should pick and
choose the duties which they are prepared to perform, in a way which is
deliberately targeted to cause maximum harm to this institution and the
education of our students, without recourse from their employer."
the National Union of Students (NUS) has urged universities to
negotiate. NUS president, Toni Pearce, said: "It's clear that the
continuing pay dispute, over the measly pay offer to staff made by
vice-chancellors who are receiving pay raises of 8%, now risks causing
She added: "Students want a speedy
resolution. We need to see the employers and unions getting round the
table and negotiating a fair and sustainable pay settlement."
View the article on the Guardian.