FAQs for Cambridge UCU members

See also the national FAQs at https://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs


1. What is work-to-contract?

Work-to-contract means that you should work no longer than a 37 hour week for the duration of the dispute.

2. What if I cannot complete all my weekly duties in 37 hours?

Work that you cannot reasonably complete in one week should be carried forward to the next. If you cannot complete your normal contractual duties within 37 hours, inform your manager or colleague that you are supporting the UCU ‘action short of a strike’ (ASOS) and that you will be unable to meet competing priorities.

In the case of a manager, you should ask them to tell you in writing which tasks the university wishes you to prioritise. Please note that we are not asking you to to decide not to do tasks within your contractual responsibility to undertake. For more information on work-to-contract, please see 21-38 in the national FAQs: https://www.ucu.org.uk/heactionfaqs.

3. Will I get pay docked for working to contract?

No. Our understanding from the university is that pay will not be docked for working to contract.

4. What about answering emails?

Use this as your auto-response:

Please note I am ‘working to contract’ as part of the UCU industrial action in support of fair pay, rolling back casualisation and closing the gender pay gap in higher education. This may mean it takes longer for me to respond to emails. You can find out more about the dispute here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/fair-deal-for-HE

Resigning from external examining

5. How do I resign?

Send the relevant institution with a due notice of termination (ensuring that you are not in breach of contract) as specified under the terms of engagement

6. Should I accept or agree to new examiner posts?

Not until the dispute is over.

7. What if no notice period is given in the external examining documentation?

You must give a ‘reasonable’ period of notice, which will depend on the circumstances such as the time one has been in employment and the formality of the relationship. If notice is not written into the contract, the employer does not get to solely define ‘reasonable notice’.

Some employers have told members resigning that they can do so with immediate effect, others have said ‘3 months’, in which case you should consider fulfilling your duties within the notice period.

8. Is there any point in me resigning if my examining duties over the coming months fall within the notice period?

Yes. There is a fairly high chance this dispute will continue into the new academic year, so your resignation will matter even if it doesn’t disrupt examining in June/July.


9. My department/faculty/employer/administrator has asked me if I am going on strike/has demanded to know if I am going on strike

You have no legal or contractual requirement to notify your employer in advance of taking strike action and UCU recommends that you do not do so. Some administrators have used phrases such as ‘you will need to notify your department’ or ‘you will need to complete and return this form as soon as possible’.  You are under no obligation to do so: if after the event, respond truthfully, but you do not have to say anything in advance.

10. I don’t want to let my students down, so can I tell them that I will be on strike?

The branch will be giving staff leaflets to hand to students. By all means tell them about the strike and indicate that they should check on the day to see whether lectures/tutorials are still on. But it would still be better to avoid telling them for certain that you won’t be teaching.

11. I am on annual leave that day. Do I have to tell my employer that I will be on strike?

No. The same rules apply. You might want to tell them after the action and claim back your leave if pay is deducted. Or you might want to cancel your leave and then take strike action instead. But you are not required to notify them in advance.

12. What about answering work emails from home?

We suggest you use the following automated reply:

I will not be responding to work-related emails on Wednesday 25th and Thursday  26th of May because I will be on strike.

The University and College Union is taking industrial action because vice-chancellors and principals have recently received a 6.1% pay rise whilst the UCEA are offering a 1.1% rise to staff that does not begin to address a real-terms pay cut of over 14.5% since 2009, because there is a gender pay gap of 12.6% across higher education, and because casualized contracts are spreading rapidly throughout the sector.


13. Can I go and do my own work in university buildings?

No this also constitutes breaking the strike.

14. Can I keep my appointments to give talks elsewhere other than the university?

If this is work you do as part of a contract with the university then you should cancel the talks on the grounds of the strike.

15. What if I work for a college? (e.g. people paid directly by a college for supervisions)

If your contract is with a college you should work as normal (but please visit our pickets as a supporter and come to the strike rally at 12.30pm on Wednesday May 25th at Wesley Methodist Church!). If the work is part of a contract with the university then you should not do it.

16. If I work part-time will I have a full 1/260th deducted from my salary?

The University has informed us that deductions are calculated on a pro-rata basis for part time staff.

17. If I am…

  • Not a union member
  • Employed by someone other than the university
  • A student

…what can I do?

Please show your support! Come to our meetings (open to members and non-members), visit our pickets when we strike in June/July (date TBC) and talk to your friends and colleagues about why we’re taking industrial action.

Also, consider joining UCU – people can join the union at any point up to and including on the picket line on the day of action and still lawfully join the strike. Membership can cost as little as 99p per month depending on your earnings: https://www.ucu.org.uk/join