Update on the ongoing UCU industrial action

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The image shows the OU Students Association speech bubble logo

Over the last year, the University and College Union (UCU) have been undertaking industrial action as part of a dispute with the higher education sector. This dispute has been in relation to their pay, working conditions, job security and pensions. During this period of industrial action, members of UCU have undertaken strike action, as well as observing a Marking and Assessment Boycott since 20 April 2023. The mandate allowing UCU to undertake industrial action is due to end at the end of this month (September 2023).

UCU Announcement
On 6 September, UCU made an announcement about the next phase of the industrial dispute. These were:

  • There will be an end to the Marking and Assessment Boycott with immediate effect. 
  • There will be five consecutive days of strike action from 25 - 29 September. 
  • They intend to re-ballot members on whether to renew the mandate to continue industrial action for a further 6 months. 

What does this mean for students?
The end of the Marking and Assessment Boycott is a positive step for those still waiting for assessment and module results. Whilst it will take a bit of time for the backlog to be cleared, we are happy that there is an end in sight for those who have had to experience an indefinite delay in receiving their results. 

Whilst the five consecutive days of strike action will take place before the start of term for most students at the OU, we know that there will be some disruption. We will be working closely with the OU to mitigate the effect of the disruption, but we ask students to be conscious of any last-minute changes and to keep an eye on their emails for any updates. 

The timing of the UCU ballot on whether to renew their mandate for industrial action will bring some brief respite for students. The current mandate is due to end on 30 September, and the new ballot will not conclude until early November. Therefore, there should be no disruption throughout October and early November. If UCU members vote for further industrial action, students can expect disruption for a further 6 months. 

The OU Students Association's position on the industrial action
At the Students Association, we respect the right of trade unions to take part in industrial action. Though we may sometimes disagree on the tactics, and the impact it has on students, we recognise that it is a legitimate, lawful way for employees to express their discontent in the workplace. 

During any dispute, our primary focus is to have the best interests of the students at heart. Ideally, this will see a long-term solution that is satisfactory to all parties being reached, which ends the sustained period of industrial action that we have seen over recent years. We continue to call for this to happen and encourage all parties to work constructively together to bring this dispute to an end. 

Whilst the dispute continues, we will work proactively with the university and UCU to minimise the disruption students face. We also encourage students to share any issues they are experiencing via our Student Issues page, allowing members of our Student Leadership Team to identify any issues and explore possible solutions. 

External News Stories on the Dispute
UCU calls five days of strike action and the end of the Marking and Assessment Boycott
UCU announce the dates for a new ballot on industrial action
UCEA (collective body of university employers) react to the end of the Marking and Assessment Boycott
BBC news story on upcoming strike action