University staff like many other government-associated employees are striking. Whilst many are concerned about pay not keeping up with inflation. Many other reasons have emerged as to why employees across all sectors are concerned about working arrangements. But what about students who are attending universities and are technically paying for tuition? How does this affect you?
What are the Sheffield Universities strikes?
Strikes are when employees who are members of a union, vote to withhold their services, in retaliation to a dispute about working conditions. In this case, the union is the University and College Union (UCU).UCU represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians, technicians, professional staff and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK
They broadly represent staff at over 150 higher education centres in the UK, including Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University. Sheffield College which provides access to higher education courses will also be taking part.
In total there are potentially 18 days, planned for strikes by university staff in the remaining academic year unless negotiations between the unions and universities are resolved.
Why are the Sheffield Universities Strikes happening?
Like many sectors, University staff are worried about the cost of living and pay not keeping up with the high rates of inflation. Currently, they have been offered a pay increase of between 4-5%. Due to the cost of living crisis, they have demanded a deal more in line with inflation which is around 12%. However, not all staff are taking industrial action on just the issue of pay. Other issues are affecting the staff such as working conditions like zero hours and temporary contracts. Excessive workloads result in hours spent in unpaid work. Previously university staff have been on strike over how their pension funds are handled. Even after this dispute began over 10 years ago it is still an ongoing issue.
Sheffield University staff have voted to take industrial action over pay, conditions and pensions. Whilst Sheffield Hallam University staff are striking over only pay and working conditions.
What do the universities say about the strikes?
On the other side of the argument, the UCEA (University & Colleges Employers Association) support higher education institutions by representing their interests as employers say any increase in pay “puts jobs at risk”. With some 30% of universities that are already in deficit. They argue that previous pay deals in august offer a higher rate for lower earners and are implementing changes to the pension scheme to stop higher contributions having to be made by employees.
How it will affect you
During the strikes in November, 70’000 members of the UCU took part. They reported being overwhelmed by the support of thousands of students. Universities UK which represents 140 higher education organisations reported that some universities extended coursework deadlines and rescheduled teaching.
Sheffield Universities Strikes are currently planned for the following days:
- 1 February
- 9 and 10 February
- 14, 15 and 16 February
- 21, 22 and 23 February
- 27 and 28 February
- 1 and 2 March
- 16 and 17 March
- 20, 21 and 22 March
Learning and teaching during Sheffield Universities strike action.
By law, staff do not have to inform the university if they are going on strike. You should however make every attempt to attend classes and lectures as normal unless informed otherwise. You will not be recorded as absent if a class is cancelled due to strike action. If the member of staff scheduled to deliver your session does not arrive after 10 minutes of the planned start time, you should assume that they will not attend because of industrial action.
University teaching is based around self-learning, and as such if your classes are cancelled you should still use the university facilities where possible for independent study.
Unless informed otherwise you should treat all deadlines as being unchanged. Both universities have plans in place to deal with any impact that industrial action may have on exams and assessments planned around strike action. You can find out more information here:
Remember that industrial action is not directed at the student’s or aimed to affect or debilitate students’ education. But, however, directed towards the universities as institutions and their employment practices which in turn affect the level and quality of education you receive.
What help is available to me on days when strike action is taking place?
Libraries and unions should still be open during strike days to enable you to continue to access university facilities. If you feel your ability to study is affected you can speak to a student support or well-being advisor.
If the strikes are affecting your mental health support networks will still be in place during the strikes. more information can be found on the pages given above.
Why am I paying for teaching time I’m not receiving?
Although it is an inconvenience, teaching time should be rescheduled or be considered to compensate for the loss, as already stated university staff are not out to impact your education and plenty of support and help are in place to minimise disruption. This will be constantly under review as negotiations with the unions are underway. If for any reason you are not happy about the strikes you have a right to complain to the universities about them. Following your universities complaints procedure would be the correct way to achieve this.
I’m not scheduled at University on some of those days.
If you’re not scheduled to attend on any of the strike days, treat them as normal, remember to keep to your deadlines and carry on as you normally would. If you used it for a study day normally carry on.
However, if you feel in support of the teaching and facilities staff, you can always show it by joining any picket lines they have organised. The staff will not stop students or non-union staff from entering or leaving University premises so respect others by allowing others access.
Keep up with the latest news about the Sheffield Universities Strikes
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Thornsett Properties have been providing modern student accommodation in Sheffield since 1985. We supply accommodation to over 650 undergraduates and postgraduate students studying at Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University every year. Designed to fit with your budget whilst looking for student accommodation. Thornsett Properties are property owners and not agents. All our properties are managed by ourselves and not reliant on third parties. We aim to help you succeed in finding student accommodation in Sheffield