All-staff communications:

Thursday 5 March 2020: Industrial action - an update on the disputes

Dear colleague

I am sorry that we continue to see strike action here at the University of Sheffield and at more than 70 other universities across the country.

I want to assure you that I have been working closely with our national representatives to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing disputes over pay and pensions. Whilst national-level talks on both issues continue and are reported to be constructive, it is unfortunate that the disputes remain unresolved.

Our University has responded to consultations from both Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), which have sought views from employers on how progress towards a resolution could be achieved. The dispute negotiations take place collectively, through the national representatives of the employers and the University and College Union (UCU) members. As a participant in these national negotiations, we are expected to work together as a collective, and I am convinced that we are in a stronger position to influence the national approach if we are within the group than if we stand as a lone voice outside of it. Therefore, I prefer not to make a public statement about the details of our response. I can assure you that our position, as a prominent party in this dispute, is clearly understood by our representatives.

I will continue to support the positive approach we have taken in terms of working with our local trade union colleagues on matters relating to the USS pension scheme, casualisation, gender pay gap and workloads. I want to maintain the open dialogue and constructive relationship we have built with our UCU and Students' Union representatives. When we met again last week to discuss the strike action and potential ways to find a resolution to the national disputes, we focused on the latest developments in the national negotiations and explored where possible resolution may be found. The Students' Union gave updates on its position and the concerns raised by students over the impact on learning and teaching. We emphasised again the importance of continuing to mitigate disruption to students' learning while prioritising the welfare of students and staff. We agreed to hold further talks in the coming weeks if the disputes remain unresolved.

Strike action is taking place again today, and is scheduled for the full week commencing Monday 9 March. It is my sincere hope that a solution is found before this time and I will continue to do what I can to help achieve this.

You can find the latest information and FAQs on our industrial action web pages.

You can also email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk with any questions or concerns.

I fully appreciate that this is a challenging time and would like to thank everyone again for doing what you can to maintain positive relationships across campus.

With best wishes,

Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor

Thursday 20 February 2020: Strike action to begin today

Dear colleague

As you will know, the University and College Union (UCU) is asking its members to take 14 days of strike action over ongoing concerns about pensions, pay and working conditions, in Sheffield and at 73 other universities.

Whilst the University fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action and understands that action is not taken lightly, the next four weeks will again be a challenging time for our University community. We will continue to do everything we can to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research, prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students. I would like to thank you in advance for your support and flexibility in minimising the disruption to our students and to each other.

Over recent months, we have been maintaining pressure on our national representatives to find a meaningful, negotiated solution to the disputes, to prevent further disruption to our students. I will continue to urge them to find a resolution as soon as possible. These disputes can only be resolved with negotiation and compromise on both sides.

Earlier this week, Jake Verity, our Students' Union President, published a joint letter with students' unions from across the country, urging the relevant representative bodies to seek a negotiated resolution to the disputes.

You can read the latest updates from our national representatives, the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), here.

This includes a joint open letter to all staff at universities affected by strike action, published by UUK and UCEA yesterday. The letter provides an update on the progress in addressing concerns on pay, working conditions and pensions.

Other recent updates include the proposal UCEA sent to UCU on 27 January 2020, which UCEA hoped would lead to an end to the current pay and working conditions dispute, and updates on discussions between UUK, UCU and USS about the USS pension scheme, following the release of the second Joint Expert Panel (JEP2) report in December 2019.

We welcomed the publication of JEP2 and we hope it will provide the basis for a sustainable solution to the challenges facing the scheme. We have been working closely with UCU for some time to better understand and address issues relating to the pension dispute and we share many concerns and objectives. We want to see an attractive pension scheme that is sustainable and affordable for members and employers.

Although this is a sector-wide dispute that we cannot resolve through actions taken in Sheffield alone, we will continue to work constructively with our local trade union colleagues. Last week, I met with the local UCU branch and the Students' Union to look at potential ways to find a resolution to the national disputes, and to ensure that our students and staff are supported throughout this period of industrial action.

You can read more about this meeting, previous communications, and our joint work with local trade unions on a number of issues at the heart of the national dispute, including gender and ethnicity pay gaps, workloads and casual working, here.

We have agreed to hold further meetings in the coming weeks if the disputes remain unresolved.

For all the latest updates about industrial action, including FAQs and information for colleagues taking part in the strike action, visit our industrial action web pages.

You can also email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk with any questions or concerns.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Tuesday 18 February 2020: Important information for colleagues taking industrial action

Dear colleague

I am writing to outline the University’s position in relation to the forthcoming industrial action which the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on its members to take here in Sheffield, and at around 73 other universities, from Thursday 20 February 2020.

I acknowledge that many staff will not choose to participate in the industrial action and apologise for having to write to everyone, however, we are unable to identify in advance who will be taking action. If you are intending to work as normal and not take industrial action we would like to thank you in advance for working through what may potentially be a challenging period for our entire University community, and for supporting our students. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

We will continue to work in partnership with the trade unions to address matters locally and use our influence to try to shape the national debate. We hope that the national disputes can be resolved as soon as possible.

The University respects the right of staff to take industrial action and our position on managing it is available here.

The University does not accept partial performance and where this breaches an individual’s contract of employment, the University reserves the right to withhold up to 100 per cent of pay.

Strike action

For those staff who choose to take strike action on any of the dates identified by UCU between 20 February and 13 March 2020 inclusive, you will be in breach of your contract of employment and, as such, a day’s pay will be deducted for each day that you participate in the strike. Daily deductions will be calculated for full time staff as 1/365 of annual salary (including any allowances/additional payments), and will be pro-rated for part-time staff. Further details can be found on our FAQ page.

If you do take strike action you must complete a strike notification form as soon as you return to work following your participation. The strike notification form must be sent to your head of department to countersign and then returned to HR at industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Download strike notification form for weeks 1 and 2 of industrial action (Word 32.8KB)

Download strike notification form for weeks 3 and 4 of industrial action (Word 33KB)

If you change your mind

If you choose to take part in the strike action being called by UCU and at a later stage decide to change your mind, you should inform your head of department (or their nominated deputy if they are taking strike action at the time) in writing by email immediately. Your pay will be reinstated to your normal contractual salary from the date on which you return to normal working. Any pay withheld whilst taking action will not be reinstated.

Action short of a strike (ASOS)

UCU is also asking its members to continue to take action short of a strike (ASOS) on a continuous basis, potentially until 29 April 2020. Details of the proposed ASOS can be found on our FAQ page.

The action short of a strike called by UCU has the potential to have a serious impact on our students. However, at this stage, we will not deduct any pay from staff who participate in this type of action.

We will assess the impact of any action on an ongoing basis and review our decision accordingly. If our position needs to change, we would only make pay deductions if there is a breach of the contract of employment.

If we do decide to make any deductions, based on breach of contract, we will send prior notice of the implementation of deductions. This will enable the relevant staff members to choose whether or not to continue to participate in action short of a strike before deductions are made.

The University’s principles and approach to pay deductions are available here. This will govern how the University manages situations of dispute resolution including those involving industrial action. In line with the University’s position outlined above, the University does not accept partial performance of the contract of employment of any member of staff and reserves the right to deduct up to 100 per cent of pay in such circumstances.

Pension scheme membership

For details of how taking industrial action will impact on your pension scheme membership and benefits see our FAQ page.

For more information about the industrial action, and to find answers to frequently asked questions, visit our industrial action web pages.

And if you have any queries regarding this message, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Regards

Ian Wright
Deputy Director of HR

Thursday 13 February 2020: Industrial action: February - March 2020

The University and College Union (UCU) intends to take further strike action here in Sheffield and at around 73 other universities from next week, as a result of ongoing concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions.

We appreciate that this will be a difficult and challenging time for our entire university community. Our industrial action planning group will continue to meet and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research, whilst ensuring the welfare of colleagues and students.

We will continue to keep colleagues regularly updated. We have updated our FAQs and our industrial action web pages. If you have any questions or queries, you can also email: industrial.action@shefffield.ac.uk

We have also prepared the below summary which outlines the current situation.

When is the strike action taking place?

The proposed 14 strike dates are spread over four weeks, as follows:

Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March

The ongoing UCU action short of a strike (ASOS) continues.

What do I need to do if I’m intending to strike?

The University fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action and our position on managing it is available here. We will be writing to all staff again next week with further information. In the meantime, please visit our updated FAQs.

What about staff not taking action?

We acknowledge that many staff will choose not to participate in the industrial action. If you are intending to work as normal and not take industrial action we would like to thank you in advance for your support in minimising the disruption to our students and to each other. Please also see our updated FAQs.

What is being done to resolve the dispute?

Since the last round of strikes ended in early December 2019, positive talks relating to both disputes have taken place between all national representatives.

Following the publication of the Joint Expert Panel's second report (JEP2) in December 2019, Universities UK (UUK), UCU and USS have met a number of times to discuss the recommendations of the JEP2 report and to seek to agree common aims for the scheme. These talks are reported to have been positive and constructive and focussed on building a common understanding on the future of the scheme, the 2020 valuation and governance issues. There has been an agreement that these talks will continue through February and March 2020, with more meetings scheduled.

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA), which represents 147 HE employers in national pay bargaining, has continued talks with UCU over the national pay dispute and last week offered national level proposals on matters relating to casual working, workloads and gender/ethnicity pay gaps.

What is being done at Sheffield?

This is a sector-wide dispute which means that we cannot resolve the national issues through actions undertaken in Sheffield alone.

However we continue to work constructively with our local trade union colleagues on a range of issues. These include gender and ethnicity pay gaps, workloads and casual working, which are at the heart of the national dispute. You can read more about our joint work here.

Our President and Vice-Chancellor, Koen Lamberts, has continued to lobby national representatives to work collectively to reach a negotiated solution.

We have been unequivocal in our support of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) and see it as key to establishing the future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme. We are working with UCU colleagues in responding to various consultations regarding the JEP2 report and, in due course, the 2020 USS Valuation. You can read all of our responses to the consultations so far here.

Wednesday 5 January 2020: Industrial action update

Dear colleague

I write to inform you that University and College Union (UCU) has decided to call on its members to take 14 more days of strike action across four weeks in February and March 2020 on both the USS and national pay disputes.

Since the last round of strikes ended in early December 2019, positive talks relating to both disputes have taken place between all national representatives.

Following the publication of the Joint Expert Panel's second report (JEP2) in December 2019, Universities UK (UUK), UCU and USS have met six times to discuss reform to the USS pension scheme. These talks are reported to have been positive and constructive and focussed on building a common understanding on the future of the scheme, the 2020 valuation and governance issues. There has been an agreement that these talks will continue through February and March 2020, with another four meetings scheduled.

The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) has continued talks with UCU over the national pay dispute and last week offered national level proposals on matters relating to casual working, workloads and gender/ethnicity pay gaps.

It was my sincere hope that these talks would provide the basis for an agreed approach and that further strike action would be avoided.

Whilst the University fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action and accepts that action is not taken lightly, this will again be a challenging time for our entire University community.

Our industrial action planning group will continue to meet and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research, whilst ensuring the welfare of colleagues and students.

The proposed 14 strike dates are spread over four weeks, as follows:

  • Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
  • Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
  • Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
  • Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March

The ongoing UCU action short of a strike (ASOS) continues.

We appreciate that not everyone who is a member of UCU will want to take action and that periods of industrial action can be difficult for all staff and students. I would like to thank colleagues in advance for their support in minimising the disruption to our students and to each other.

The talks between national representatives are ongoing and I urge all parties to work collectively to reach a negotiated solution.

Whilst this is a sector-wide dispute and we cannot resolve the national issues through actions undertaken in Sheffield alone, we continue to work positively with our local trade union colleagues on a range of issues. These include gender and ethnicity pay gaps, workloads and casual working. You can read more about our joint work here.

We have been unequivocal in our support for the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), which was formed to suspend the industrial action in 2018. We are working with UCU colleagues in responding to various consultations regarding the JEP2 report and, in due course, the 2020 USS Valuation. We will continue to ensure our responses are published in the interest of transparency.

These industrial action web pages will continue to be updated with the latest information and FAQs. If you have any questions or queries, you can also email: industrial.action@shefffield.ac.uk

Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor

Wednesday 8 January 2020: Industrial action – update on national discussions

Dear colleague

I hope you have had a restful Christmas break and I welcome you back for the New Year.

I wanted to write and update you on the national discussions that are happening as a result of ongoing concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions, which led to industrial action taking place here at Sheffield and at around 59 other universities.

You will know from my previous communications that I called for the early release of the Joint Expert Panel's (JEP) report and urged our national representatives, Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), to keep talking with the University and College Union (UCU) and the USS Trustee to find a negotiated solution to the disputes.

I therefore welcome the news that following publication of the Joint Expert Panel's second report before Christmas, it has been announced that UCU, UUK and USS will meet at talks facilitated by the chair of the JEP, Joanne Segars.

The second JEP report makes a series of interlocking recommendations covering the governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology, and the scheme's sustainability. I have been vocal about the need to agree this valuation process before going on to discuss any future changes to the scheme. I am therefore pleased that the report offers the chance to do this and I hope fresh discussions in response to it will be fruitful.

As I outlined before Christmas, UCU's higher education sector conference met in December and passed a number of motions, including one that calls for a further 14 days of strike action between 20 February and 13 March 2020 if the dispute is not resolved. The UCU HE Committee will meet at the end of January 2020 to decide their next steps.

Whilst I hope the planned talks will be key to ending the dispute, we do not know yet whether there will be any further strike action. Action short of a strike will continue, potentially until the end of April 2020. I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their support in minimising the disruption to our students and to each other.

We will continue to keep these web pages up to date with the latest information as things develop.

I hope very much that fresh talks and the Joint Expert Panel's second report will provide a platform on which to build an agreed approach with UCU, UUK, and the USS Trustee, and that further strike action can be avoided.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Monday 16 December 2019 (email sent via staff update): 
Industrial action – national discussions

Dear colleague

I wanted to write and update you on the national discussions that are happening as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions, and the industrial action taking place here at Sheffield and at around 60 other universities.

Whilst strike action is over, action short of a strike continues, potentially until the end of April 2020. I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their support in minimising the disruption to our students and to one another.

I was delighted to see the publication of the second Joint Expert Panel report (JEP2) at the end of last week. You will know from my previous communications that I called for the early release of the report, and I see it as key to establishing the future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme.

The purpose of the second report is to establish key principles to underpin the future approach to the valuation of the USS fund that all parties – University and College Union (UCU), Universities UK (UUK) and the USS Trustee – can accept. It makes a series of interlocking recommendations covering the governance of the scheme, the valuation methodology, and the scheme’s sustainability. The recommendations include establishing a new, jointly agreed, purpose statement; improving the operation of the Joint Negotiating Committee; creating a series of joint bodies in USS to better agree on issues relating to the future direction of the scheme; and agreeing a more appropriate valuation methodology, driven by the newly agreed purpose of the scheme.

UCU and UUK have issued statements welcoming the report. UUK will ask us for our response to the report in the New Year, and I will share this with you in due course.

Ahead of the release of the JEP2 report, UCU's higher education sector conference met last week and passed a number of motions, including one that calls for a further 14 days of strike action between 20 February and 13 March 2020 if the dispute is not resolved. These are indicative motions and they do not mean that further strike action will definitely take place. The UCU HE Committee will meet at the end of January 2020 to decide their next steps.

UCU and the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) are due to meet again tomorrow (17 December) to explore further sector-level joint work on the key issues of workload, gender pay gap, ethnicity pay gap, and casual employment.

It is my sincere hope that progress can be made as a result of these discussions and the publication of the JEP2 report, and that further strike action can be avoided.

We will continue to work closely with our local trade union colleagues.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Thursday 5 December 2019: Industrial action - action short of a strike

Dear colleague

Thank you for your support over the past eight days of strike action. Thank you to those colleagues who continued to work as normal; your efforts have been vital in minimising the impact on our students. To colleagues who have taken action, thank you for your professional conduct during the strike.

Although strike action is over, the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on its members to continue with action short of a strike until the end of April 2020 at the latest. We fully respect the right of staff to take industrial action. As before, we will do everything we can to minimise disruption and fulfil our responsibilities to our students. More details of what action short of a strike means and implies can be found on our FAQs.

I am continuing to urge our national representatives, Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK), to keep talking with UCU to find a negotiated solution to the national disputes over pensions, pay and working conditions.

I am also hopeful that the next Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report on the sector-wide USS pension scheme, due to be published before Christmas, will provide a platform from which to build an agreed way forward with UCU and the USS Trustee.

In the past few days, I have received a response from UUK which is available to view above.

I have also received a letter from our local UCU Branch President, which is available to view above. I will post my reply once drafted too.

We will continue to keep our industrial action web pages up to date with the latest information as things develop.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Tuesday 3 December 2019: Industrial action – local and national negotiations

Dear colleague

As you know, strike action over pensions, pay and working conditions is due to continue until Wednesday this week, with the possibility of action short of a strike until the end of April next year.

In my previous email, I said I had written to our national representatives, Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), to call on them again to work with the University and College Union (UCU) to find a meaningful negotiated solution, so we can end the disputes. I also urged UUK to do all they can to ensure that the next USS Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report is published as soon as possible.

I now understand that the JEP will issue its second report on the sector-wide USS pension scheme before Christmas. The report will provide information and recommendations relevant to the 2020 valuation of USS. I expect that it will cover a broad range of issues, including the valuation methodology, scheme governance, and ways to achieve a sustainable and valuable scheme for the future. I hope it will provide a platform from which to build an agreed approach with UCU and the USS Trustee.

I also mentioned in my previous email that UCEA had met with UCU, with discussions focusing on the non-pay elements of the national pay negotiations dispute. I understand that UCEA intends to provide fresh thoughts on sector-level work on gender and ethnicity pay gaps, casual employment arrangements, and workload. Here in Sheffield, we will continue to work with our trade union colleagues on these issues.

Yesterday, I met with colleagues from the local UCU branch and the Students’ Union, to discuss management of the industrial action and to explore paths to a resolution of the national disputes. The meeting was constructive and positive and, once again, included a focus on ensuring our students and staff are supported throughout this period of industrial action. We shared a desire to ensure that our University community can continue to work and study constructively together once the disputes end.

We welcomed the opening of discussions between UCU, UCEA and UUK, and all parties supported moves towards a mutually acceptable negotiated resolution that will bring an end to the industrial action.

You can read the full statement following yesterday’s meeting above.

I know that last week was difficult for many colleagues and students and that the industrial action continues to bring challenges. Thank you once again for all your support. If you have any questions please take a look at our FAQs and latest information, which we are updating regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered on the web pages, please email: industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

I will continue to maintain pressure on our national representatives to find a negotiated solution, and to share the latest information with you.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Thursday 28 November 2019: Industrial action – thank you for your support

Dear colleague

As you will know, members of the University and College Union (UCU) have been participating in industrial action here in Sheffield and at 59 other universities since Monday as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions.

As the week draws to a close, I recognise that this has been a challenging time for many colleagues, and for our students, and wanted to thank you all for your support. If you have been working as normal and not involved in the industrial action, thank you for your flexibility and for supporting our students. If you are taking part in the industrial action, thank you for expressing your views and for picketing in a way that is supportive of our collegial values.

On Monday, I met with colleagues from the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, and with our Students’ Union Officers, to discuss what more can be done locally to end the current disputes and industrial action. The meeting was constructive and everyone present expressed a strong desire to find a resolution. We were also able to come to an agreement with UCU representatives not to make any pay deductions for strike action in December, but instead to spread deductions over January and February. We have updated our FAQs page to reflect this.

On Tuesday, I wrote to our national representatives, Universities UK (UUK) and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA), to call on them again to work with UCU to find a meaningful negotiated solution, so we can end the disputes. I also urged UUK to do all they can to ensure that the next USS Joint Expert Panel report is published as soon as possible. This report is key to establishing a future approach to the operation of the sector-wide USS pension scheme that satisfies the needs of members, employers and the USS Trustee. Copies of my letters to UUK and UCEA are available towards to the top of this page.

Talks have also continued at a national level. UCEA met with UCU on Tuesday this week, and issued a statement that can be found on UCEA's web pages.

As of today, however, UCU are still asking their members to continue strike action next week from Monday 2 December to Wednesday 4 December, and to continue with action short of a strike until 29 April 2020 at the latest. We will continue to do everything we can to minimise any disruption.

Please refer to our industrial action web pages for further information, including FAQs and contact details, which we will continue to update.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

I am due to meet with local UCU representatives and the Students’ Union Officers again next week and will continue to keep you updated about this and any other developments.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Monday 25 November 2019: Industrial action due to begin today

Dear colleague

As you will know from previous emails, starting today (Monday 25 November 2019) members of the University and College Union (UCU) are participating in industrial action here in Sheffield and at around 60 other universities, as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions.

Many of you have written to me, or the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, about the industrial action. I would like to thank you for your messages and reassure you that they have been received. To help us handle the large number of emails we expect to receive over this period of industrial action, I have asked for support from a small group of specialist colleagues, to ensure that we can respond to all your emails in good time and with correct and relevant information.

As I explained in my previous email, we cannot resolve these national disputes through local action only. I will continue to call on the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK (UUK) to engage with UCU and other trade unions, to explore what can be done to reach an agreement, end the disputes, and prevent further disruption to our students. Finding a meaningful solution to these issues will require a willingness to negotiate and compromise, and I hope this is something that can be achieved as soon as possible.

Later today, I will be meeting with colleagues from the local UCU branch, and the Students' Union Officers, to discuss what more can be done locally. Later this afternoon, I will give you an update on the outcome of this discussion via the latest information section of our dedicated industrial action web pages.

Please refer to our industrial action web pages for further information, including FAQs and contact details, which we will continue to update.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

The next week and a half will be a challenging time for our entire University community. The University fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action, and we accept that action is not taken lightly. We will continue to do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students. If you intend to work as normal and not take industrial action, we would like to thank you for your flexibility and for supporting our students.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor

Thursday 21 November 2019: Important information for colleagues taking industrial action

Dear colleague

I am writing to outline the University’s position in relation to the forthcoming industrial action which the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on its members to take here in Sheffield, and at around 60 other universities, from Monday 25 November 2019.

I acknowledge that many staff will not choose to participate in the industrial action and apologise for having to write to everyone, however, we are unable to identify in advance who will be taking action. If you are intending to work as normal and not take industrial action we would like to thank you in advance for working through what may potentially be a challenging period for our entire University community, and for supporting our students. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

We will continue to work in partnership with the trade unions to address these matters locally and use our influence to try to shape the national debate. We hope that the national disputes can be resolved before we are impacted by any industrial action.

The University respects the right of staff to take industrial action and our position on managing it is available here.

The University does not accept partial performance and where this breaches an individual’s contract of employment, the University reserves the right to withhold up to 100 per cent of pay.

If you are intending to participate in the industrial action please see below for further information.

If you have any queries regarding this message please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Further details and answers to frequently asked questions are available here

Regards

Ian Wright
Deputy Director of HR

Information for those taking part in industrial action:

Strike action

For those staff who choose to take strike action on any of the dates identified by UCU between 25 November and 4 December 2019 inclusive, you will be in breach of your contract of employment and, as such, a day’s pay will be deducted for each day that you participate in the strike. Daily deductions will be calculated for full time staff as 1/365 of annual salary (including any allowances/additional payments), and will be pro-rated for part-time staff. Further details can be found on our FAQ page.

If you do take strike action you must complete a strike notification form as soon as you return to work following your participation. The strike notification form (Word, 32.1KB) must be sent to your Head of Department to countersign and then returned to HR at industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk

Provided forms are received by HR by 10am on Friday 6 December 2019, deductions from pay will be spread over the December 2019 and January 2020 payroll runs. If forms are received after this date, all deductions will be made in the January 2020 payroll. Details of this process can be found on our FAQ page.

Action short of a strike (ASOS)

UCU is also asking its members to take action short of a strike (ASOS) from 25 November 2019 on a continuous basis, potentially until 29 April 2020. Details of the proposed ASOS can be found on our FAQ page.

In line with the University’s position outlined above, the University does not accept partial performance of the contract of employment of any member of staff and reserves the right to deduct up to 100 per cent of pay in such circumstances. This means that if you choose to take part in any ASOS by declining to undertake duties which normally form a part of your role, or to follow a reasonable management instruction, you may not be entitled to your full pay from the date you start to participate in the ASOS.

The ASOS called by UCU has the potential to have a serious adverse impact on our students and operations. Whilst the University reserves its right to do so, we will review the impact of the action before deciding whether and how to make deductions from pay where staff are in breach of their contract of employment. Staff will receive prior notice of the implementation of deductions to enable them to choose whether or not to continue to participate in ASOS before deductions are made.

Anyone who chooses to commence taking ASOS must complete a notification form on the first day they begin taking the ASOS and send it to their Head of Department immediately. Download the action short of a strike notification form (Word, 30.4KB).

Pension scheme membership

For details of how taking industrial action will impact on your pension scheme membership and benefits see our FAQ page.

If you change your mind

If you choose to take part in the action (strike or ASOS) being called by UCU and at a later stage decide to change your mind, you should inform your Head of Department (or their nominated deputy if they are taking strike action at the time) in writing by email immediately. Your pay will be reinstated to your normal contractual salary from the date on which you return to normal working. Any pay withheld whilst taking action will not be reinstated.

Tuesday 19 November 2019: Industrial action due to begin next week

Dear colleague

As you will know from my emails over the past couple of weeks, the University and College Union (UCU) intends to begin strike action here in Sheffield and at around 60 other universities from next week, as a result of concerns over pensions, pay and working conditions. It is a matter of great regret that we are once again facing the prospect of disruption to our students' education and divisions within our University.

Despite the positive steps we are taking with our trade union colleagues to address the issues of concern (see, here) and our work with UCU colleagues to influence the direction of the sector-wide USS pension scheme (see, here), we cannot resolve these national disputes on our own. For many years, we have participated in the national pay bargaining process, supported by our trade union colleagues, and we are therefore bound by the collective view of higher education employers. However, that does not diminish my willingness to continue to work with our local trade union colleagues on the important matters that form part of the national pay claim, including addressing our gender and ethnicity pay gaps and issues around workloads and precarity of employment.

We have continued to express our concerns, alongside UCU, over the way the USS scheme valuations are undertaken. We have been unequivocal in our support for the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP), which was formed to suspend the industrial action in 2018. I urge the JEP to release their second report as soon as possible, ideally before the end of this week. I hope that the report will provide a way for all parties - employers, UCU and the USS Trustee - to seek an immediate solution to the USS-related issues through meaningful negotiation.

At a national level, I have been calling on the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and Universities UK to talk to UCU and other trade unions to see what else can be done to prevent the disruption to our students. If we are to make progress, it will require a willingness to negotiate and compromise on both sides. It remains my sincere hope that we can find a way to avoid industrial action.

Here in Sheffield, I have invited the UCU Branch President and our Students' Union President to meet with me, to explore what more we can do locally. I recognise that we are at heart a community of scholars, professionals and students, and I want to do all I can to support that community.

We have created some industrial action web pages designed to help you find information quickly and easily. These include FAQs, which we will continue to update as we have more information, and details of whom to contact if you have any questions or concerns. You can find these pages at: www.sheffield.ac.uk/staff/industrial-action

If you have any questions or concerns that are not answered in the FAQs, please email industrial.action@sheffield.ac.uk or get in touch via the web form on the industrial action web pages above. I will also make sure you are kept updated with the latest information.

In the distinct likelihood of industrial action next week, my University Executive Board colleagues and I would like to thank you for your efforts to ensure we maintain positive relationships and support our students and each other. We will do everything we can to minimise disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor

Wednesday 6 November 2019: Industrial action - action planned from 25 November 2019

Dear colleague

Last week I emailed you to say that the University and College Union (UCU), one of our recognised trade unions, had achieved a mandate through a ballot of their membership for industrial action over two ongoing disputes - increased member contributions to maintain existing benefits in the sector-wide USS pension scheme; and the national pay negotiations, incorporating issues of workload, casualisation/precarity of employment and the gender pay gap. This mandate was achieved here at Sheffield and at 60 other UK universities.

Yesterday, we received further details about when and what form this industrial action will take. UCU intend to take strike action from Monday 25 November to Friday 29 November 2019 and from Monday 2 December to Wednesday 4 December 2019 inclusive. They have also informed us that this will be accompanied by action short of a strike from 25 November 2019 onwards, which means taking action that falls short of a full withdrawal of labour.

My University Executive Board colleagues and I understand that staff only take industrial action as a last resort, having exhausted all other avenues, and that no one wants to disrupt students' education. We will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education, learning and research whilst prioritising the welfare of colleagues and students. We are doing all we can to prepare, including working closely with heads of department, HR colleagues, Student Support Services and the Students’ Union.

We appreciate that not everyone who is a member of UCU will want to take action and that periods of industrial action can be difficult for all staff and students. I would like to thank colleagues in advance for their flexibility and support in minimising the impact on our students.

We have created some industrial action web pages designed to help you find information quickly and easily. These include FAQs, which we will continue to update as we have more information, and details of who to contact if you have any questions or concerns. You can find these pages at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/staff/industrial-action. You will also find a link to the student and parent FAQs, which are currently being updated.

Of course, we will continue to work with our local trade unions on a range of matters of concern to them and colleagues across the sector. And I will make sure you are kept updated with the latest information about this industrial action.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor

Friday 1 November 2019: Trade union ballot outcomes

Dear colleague

I am writing regarding the ongoing disputes over the sector-wide USS pension scheme and the national pay negotiations. Three of our recognised trade unions, the University and College Union (UCU), UNISON and Unite, have balloted their membership to seek a mandate for industrial action - UCU and UNISON over both issues and Unite over national pay negotiations only.

Yesterday, we received notification that UCU have received a mandate for action on USS at 43 universities (out of 69 balloted) and on pay and related issues at 55 HE institutions (out of 147 balloted), including here at Sheffield on both issues.
UNISON did not secure a mandate for industrial action over the national pay negotiations dispute. We are awaiting news from UNISON regarding its other ballot on USS and Unite in respect of their ballot on pay and expect those results shortly.

We do not yet know whether there will be any industrial action, when it may be, or what form it may take as a result of the UCU ballot outcomes. We anticipate receiving details early next week.

If we do face action, I want to make it clear that my University Executive Board colleagues and I understand that staff only take industrial action as a last resort, having exhausted all other avenues, and that no one wants to disrupt students' education. We will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and will make it a priority to mitigate any impact on education and learning as soon as possible following any disruption.

We appreciate that not everyone will want to take action and would like to thank colleagues in advance for their flexibility and support in minimising the impact on our students.

The dispute over the USS pension scheme relates to the increase in member contributions to maintain current benefits and address the deficit in the scheme. We have been working very closely with UCU over the past 18 months to better understand and address these issues and we share many joint aims and perspectives. We want to see a scheme which is good quality, sustainable and affordable and we share some of the concerns that UCU has raised. Further information can be found here.

The dispute over the outcome of the national pay negotiations also includes a range of non-pay issues. We continue to participate in national negotiations between the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) and the recognised higher education trade unions, a process supported by our trade unions locally. Further information can be found here.

We continue to work with our local trade unions on a range of matters which are of concern to them and colleagues across the sector to find ways to address issues such as workload pressures, stress and mental health concerns, casual working and gender and ethnicity pay gaps. Read more about our joint work here.

We have also reached an agreement with UCU over casual teaching arrangements and are committed to further joint work. Read our joint statement.

We will continue to work in partnership with the trade unions to address these matters locally, inform our position, as well as use our influence to try to shape the national debate.

I will make sure you are kept updated with the latest information about these disputes and the anticipated industrial action.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Koen Lamberts
President and Vice-Chancellor