Strike FAQ

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What is the strike about?

UCU, the union for academic staff of universities and colleges, is conducting strike action on two issues: one relates to the pay and conditions of university employees, and the other to the management of the pension fund, USS, in which many academic staff are enrolled. The UCU branch for the University of Oxford is striking over both these issues. Notably, the students' union NUS is supporting the strike.

What are the dates of the strike?

The strike will take place on Thursday and Friday of fifth week, then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of sixth week, Monday to Thursday of seventh week, and the whole of eighth week of Hilary Term.

Will you be joining the strike?

It is part of the rules governing strike action that no notice need be given to an employer whether an employee will participate in a strike or not. In fact, an employee does not have to declare to the employer whether he or she is a member of a trade union or not, and employees can join the union at the last minute if they want to strike and enjoy the union's protection against unfair dismissal. So I decline to say in advance whether I will be joining the strike.

However, the dates of the planned strike have been announced, and in order to give the best service to students (who I hope are on the union's side), I have set out my plans in the event that some lectures do not take place. With luck, the strike will be called off because the employers side will agree to sensible talks.

I've seen you around college: why are you not on strike?

The action is against the University, not against colleges, partly because it would be impractical to ballot the UCU members in each individual college. So, during the strike, I will still be meeting students and giving tutorials, both for Oriel students directly, and for the students of other colleges whom I teach as part of an arrangement between colleges.

Aren't you amply rewarded for the work you do?

I think so. But the point of industrial action is that workers take it in a united way. Though my pay comfortably supports my way of life and that of my family, and my conditions of employment leave me feeling secure, there are many younger colleagues who are not in this fortunate position: paid too little to afford to live here, and kept on short-term contracts that offer them no real job security. It is for their sake that I want to be involved.

Isn't it unfair to punish users of your website because of a dispute that doesn't concern them?

If you are involved in education, then the dispute does concern you, as Oxford students have recognised. They realise that some of their best teachers have inadequate pay and untenable conditions of employment, and realise that the continuation of outstanding university education in Oxford is not viable unless pay and conditions improve. Everyone is involved in education to some extent, if only by enjoying the fruits of the research that is done in universities or benefiting from the skills of those educated there. But besides that, you are not being punished, just helped to appreciate the value of what is provided, free for all to use, as a side-product of my working for the university.

You say that the dispute does not involve colleges, but the web server for Spivey's Corner has a college address under oriel.ox.ac.uk. Shouldn't you keep it going during the strike?

Spivey's Corner is not maintained as part of my employment with the college; neither is it my duty to maintain it as part of my employment with the university.