Strike FAQ's

We know strikes can be an incredibly frustrating time for students, so we have put together this comprehensive guide to all things related to the upcoming industrial action.

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We know strikes can be an incredibly frustrating time for students, so we have put together this comprehensive guide to all things related to the upcoming industrial action.

To make it easy to navigate we have divided the guide into 3 sections so you can jump to the information that is important for you. The sections are:

Part 1: Can someone explain what a strike is?

Part 2: But why are my lecturers striking?

Part 3: What support can I get?

Part 1: Can someone explain what a strike is?

Google the word strike and you will be met with dozens of definitions, but the one we think is the most straightforward defines the term as “a collective refusal of workers to work”. And that is exactly what it is. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution there have been examples of groups of workers organising strikes and boycotts due to disagreements with their employers around things such as pay, conditions or working hours. Throughout the 20th century strikes took on greater prominence with mass walkouts being organised by Unions in industries like mining and car production (anyone seen Made in Dagenham?).

Basically, the aim of a strike is to disrupt the productivity of a business in order for employers to change their working practices. For example, if a group of bar workers go on strike in a local pub (let’s say they are not happy with their wages), the pub would have to close down for the period of strike action as they would have no one to pull pints. This forces the owners of the pub to enter into negotiations with the workers and to (hopefully) come to an agreement.

Workers do not take strike action easily. In most cases under Union rules, enough workers have to vote to strike before organised industrial action takes place. Remember anyone who goes on strike does not get paid for the period of time they walk out so it is a difficult decision to make.

Strikes have had differing levels of success throughout the years. Some strikes have resulted in huge successes for example the 1970 Equal Pay Act came about as a direct result of the 1968 Ford Machinist Strike. Others have been less successful where companies or governments have refused to budge or enter into negotiations and workers are eventually forced back to work due receiving no income (there are some excellent articles out there on the Miners strikes of the 1970’s which are well worth a read).

Part 2: But why are my lecturers striking?

For several years now, many University academics have been unhappy with a range of aspects about their role. Lecturers and staff who belong to the Union UCU (University and College Union) were recently balloted to see if they would support industrial action (a strike). The strike is linked to two separate ballots: One on pay and conditions and another on pension contributions. As a result of this 58 Universities will be striking in early December, of which Essex is one of them.

The UCU is asking for pension cuts to be revoked and for employers to improve their pay offer to “commit to meaningful agreements and action on casualisation, workload and equality pay gaps”.

With many Essex academics taking strike action this could mean disruption for students. Why? Well, if you are taught by a member of staff who is part of UCU it is likely that you will not have a lecture during that day.

This is the important bit, to maximise the impact of the strike’s lecturers do not have to inform students of their intentions to strike (although some will). Therefore, we are putting in a number of support measures and working with the University leaders to ensure students are supported throughout the strike period.

Part 3: What support can I get?

As an SU we are making sure that we are on the ground supporting students throughout the strike period. We will be hosting pop up strike clinics across campus to load students with information and offer bespoke support during the three days of industrial action. We have also met with the University, who have confirmed the following measures are in place to ensure there is minimal disruption for students. Below is an explanation of these measures.

  • Accepting Strike Action as a valid reason for Extenuating Circumstances

Our Sabbatical Team met with the University who confirmed that missing lectures due to strike action is an acceptable reason for putting in an Extenuating Circumstances (EC) request when submitting work. We are also asking that students should not have to provide evidence of missed lectures when completing an Extenuating Circumstances form

  • Expanding the hardship fund to support students affected by the strike

The University have confirmed that any savings they make through the withholding of wages from striking staff will go into an expanded hardship fund allowing students who have travelled to University for lectures that then haven’t happened, to claim back things like petrol or commuting costs

  • Suspending all parking charges

The University will suspend all parking charges during the strike period meaning students will not have to pay for parking should they arrive for a lecture that doesn’t then go ahead

  • Keeping teaching spaces open for independent and group study

During previous strike periods our members (you) have told us it’s really useful to keep the lecture/seminar room open for group and individual study. Again, the University have confirmed these rooms will remain open and available to students.

  • Untaught material will not feature in assessments

The University have confirmed that untaught material will not feature in assessments. This may seem obvious but it’s important for our members to know that departments have confirmed that no lecture content missed as a result of missed lectures will not be included in future assessments. For example, if a lecturer in History strikes on the day, they are meant to be giving a lecture on Henry VIII’s second wife then there will not be an exam question on Ann Boleyn in any assessment.

  • Suspending Count Me In

Finally, the University will suspend count me in to ensure that student’s attendance is not affected by the strike action. If you are an international student, we know that attendance is a key requisite of some Visa agreements so by suspending Count Me In this will ensure your attendance is not affected. This will also mean that for all students your attendance total on LEAP is not affected.

  • Marking Boycott Assurances 

The Univeristy have assured us that any marking boycott will not have a detrimental affect to students. We have been told there will not be delays to graduation or progressing to the next academic year. Your SU Education Team want to hear from you if you don't feel this is the case. 


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