The University and College Union has undertaken a boycott on the marking of formative work and setting of coursework in a bid to make the Government reassess changes to the pensions of University teaching staff. The strike began on the 6th of November in over 69 British institutions, including Royal Holloway, meaning hundreds of thousands of students will be affected.
The industrial action is centred around a dispute regarding the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The scheme is in a predicted £8bn of debt and, hence, wishes to reduce the pensions payable to teaching staff by 11-27%: in real terms this could result in a cut to pensions of £3000 to £12000 annually. The general secretary of the UCU Sally Hunt has been quoted saying that the current proposals were ‘full of holes’, and that there was no need for sudden action. However a Universities UK spokesperson, with whom UCU are attempting to negotiate, commented that the boycott is a ‘damaging course of industrial action, aimed directly at disrupting students’ education.’
In a letter released by the College Human Resources department, the College states that it believes the ‘overwhelming majority of staff’ will not partake in the boycott. However, the college is unaware which members of its vast body of staff belong to the UCU. The letter also states that ‘Royal Holloway reserves the right to withhold pay from staff who participate in both strike action and action short of a strike, which constitutes a breach of contract. The College will not accept the partial performance of the employment contract of any member of staff.’ This essentially means that if staff do partake in the industrial action and hence to do not undertake all contractual obligations, they may not be entitled to contractual pay from the day of the commencement of action.
The Orbital is aware of members of certain departments on campus who have currently decided to boycott the marking of formative assignments. Second year student Bryony Bower, who has been affected by the action, commented that ‘I feel like the action will be detrimental to my work, because as a student I rely on these marks to understand what progress I need to make.’ Further information regarding the impact of the boycott on Royal Holloway students is expected to be released by the College shortly.