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Strike Action at Leeds Beckett University

Industrial strike actions, including a marking and assessment boycott, are currently taking place at Leeds Beckett University?and many other universities across the UK. The strike action is being taken by some university staff who are members of UCU, a union recognised by Leeds Beckett University.? 

The UCU represent mainly academic and teaching staff. The strike action is in response to ongoing disputes over pay and conditions, following the breakdown of the national collective bargaining process which ended without resolution in 2022. 

As a Students’ Union that represents over 25,000 students at Leeds Beckett, our primary charitable responsibility is to students’ education, and this always has to be our main focus. With this in mind, we are asking the University to do everything it can to minimise any disruption that might occur as a result of the industrial action.  

We believe that the working conditions of university staff reflect directly on the experience of our students, and to that end we are fully behind the principles leading to the planned action.?However, we are extremely concerned about the tactics of refusing to mark and return student assessments due to the significant stress and negative impacts this could place on students.? 

We are going to be making contact with the DVC Academic to find out how they plan to mitigate against potential negative impacts on students. We will also be getting in contact with the UCU to better understand their intentions. When we have more information, we will be able to release a further update. 

UCU have asked us to help communicate why they feel they have had to resort to strike action – you can find their statement below. 

Students should continue to prepare for their assessments and submit to their deadlines as normal. The University is committed to ensuring that students will be able to graduate and progress without delay.  

Below we have outlined some answers to common questions around industrial action and what it might mean for students. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know using the link below.

What is industrial action?

Industrial action is a general term for actions taken by members of a trade union in protest against their employer. The most common form of action is to go on strike, which is often the last resort after negotiations have failed. A strike is when workers refuse to continue working because of an argument with an employer about working conditions, pay levels, or job losses. Staff who are on strike will not get paid for the duration of the industrial action.

Why are some staff going on strike?

Statement from Unison and UCU:

Like elsewhere in the public sector, staff pay at Leeds Beckett University has been significantly eroded over the last decade. It has declined by more than 20% against inflation since 2010. The University’s pay offer of 3% while inflation is set to over 10%, is a substantial real-terms pay cut.

For this reason, UCU (University and Colleges Union), which represents academic staff in Further Education and Higher Education, (including lecturers, librarians, researchers and learning support professionals), are taking strike action in February and March starting on 1st February. As trade unions, we fight for good working conditions for our members and for the health of the sector as a whole. The working conditions of staff at the University are directly linked to the learning conditions for you as students. Working conditions directly impact upon your experience as a student and the quality of the degree you spend so long working to achieve.

When we face stress and time pressures, this impacts on our ability to deliver what you expect of your education, and the quality of your education suffers.

When we spend each day worried about being able to afford our household costs, food and support our families, the quality of your education suffers.

We work here because we are passionate about making the student experience the best it can be; we want to ensure that the right support is in place for you and we want to share our knowledge and develop your understanding of your chosen disciplines.

When we are overworked, underpaid and facing year-on-year cuts to our terms and conditions, the quality of your education suffers.

We are also asking the University to take steps to end excessive and unsafe workloads which have been perpetuated for years and have got even worse over the pandemic; end an over-reliance on precarious contracts and address engrained and embedded inequalities including pay and progression gaps and real terms pay cuts.


What is a picket line?

A picket line is a form of protest, which involves workers establishing a boundary, often at the entrance to their place of work, which other people are asked not to cross. You may be asked by workers on strike not to cross picket lines established in front of University buildings. You should not be physically prevented from entering a building with a picket line, and there is official guidance on picket line behaviour. You may want to take the opportunity to speak to staff on picket lines to find out more information about the strike.

How might the strikes affect students?

Strikes aim to influence decision-makers in the University – they are not aimed at making a negative impact on students. However, because this industrial action is likely to involve both teaching and support staff, it is likely that some impact that will be felt by students. This could mean things like last minute cancellation of lectures and seminars, less staff being available in the libraries, or cancellation of appointments with University advice and support services.

Will our Students’ Union still be open?

Yes – we are a separate entity to the University and our staff are not on strike. All of our services, spaces, activities and opportunities will be running as normal through the strike action and will be available for you to access regardless of your feelings about the strike.

Take care,

LBSU Officer Team x