Communication from UCU HQ
As you know, the union took legal advice prior to the USS strike based on the fourteen days period of action. Our advice to members is at question 32, in the frequently asked questions (FAQs) here.
We also wrote to the home secretary on 15 March to express our disquiet at the effect that the management of unauthorised absence had on the fundamental right to strike.
Our parliamentary team have been strongly pressing the minister for a response but despite assurances none has yet been forthcoming.
Once we have that response we will be able to consider whether a legal challenge to this would be effective.
In order to protect members in the meantime we are asking branches to adopt the following position until further notice in any further strike action:
‘The support for strike action from staff on visas has been substantial despite the threatening and intimidatory atmosphere created by the government’s immigration and visa policy. We recognise that further strike action beyond the first fourteen days of action may heighten the risk of staff being reported for periods of unauthorised absence. Staff in this position should therefore be granted a local exemption to future USS strike action and – where it attracts a punitive penalty – the action short of a strike (ASOS). Our expectation is that staff exempted in this way will make an appropriate donation to the strike fund in lieu of any future action. We welcome national UCU’s campaign to exempt the taking of industrial action from the definition of unauthorised absences in order to protect the fundamental right to withdraw one’s labour.’
Please note that our understanding is that there is currently a statutory obligation on employers to report strike action as an unauthorised absence. Our advice is that employers – even those who are sympathetic on the issue – have little room for manoeuvre, hence the importance of the political campaign. If reassurances are received from the home office we will amend our advice accordingly.
Please email me with any queries. Also please note that we will be closing the online form for replacement e-ballot requests at 2pm today in order to give the team sufficient time to check and process requests.
UCU national head of policy and campaigns