Major Disruption 2020

This is our hub of information about the UCU strikes taking place in February and March 2020 and the move to online teaching following the Covid -19 outbreak.

Last updated Thursday 21st May 2020


On this page:

> About the strike

> The Union's stance

> Advice and support

>> Guidance on major disruption complaints

> Jargon Busters

> Enquiries

> Frequently asked questions


About the strike

From 20th February – 13th March 2020, University staff across the UK who are members of UCU and/or UNISON will be taking strike action over 14 days.

The University and College Union (UCU) represents over 110,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

On Monday 3rd February 2020, it was announced that UCU voted in favour of strike action to protest against the following issues:

  • A 12% BME pay gap
  • A 21% drop in pay since 2009
  • A loss of approximately £240,000 in pensions
  • Precarious work contracts for staff
  • Ever-increasing workloads
  • More marketisation of education


The dispute has been going on for a long period of time - click here to see a UCU timeline with information.

Members of UCU across the University of Greenwich will be striking from 25th February over pay and conditions. Proposed dates are as follows:

  • Week one: Tuesday 25 February
  • Week two: Monday 2 - Thursday 5 March
  • Week three: Monday 9 - Friday 13 March
  • Week four: Tuesday 17 - Friday 20 March 


You can read more about the other universities striking on the UCU website.

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The Union's stance

As a Union, we are giving our support and solidarity with UCU and the staff of the University of Greenwich who are a part of this union. We are also joining in the national lobby through the National Union of Students (NUS) in urging the University of Greenwich to take every action to move toward a quick resolution to this dispute. 

We have written a few letters to various people, explaining and expanding on our stance - click the titles below to read them

Our open letter to Greenwich students

Our letter to the University Vice-Chancellor

Our letter to UCU and its Greenwich members

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Advice and support

If you feel that you may be affected by the strikes, please contact our free and impartial Advice Team. They can help with a range of academic and non-academic issues.

We have published resources about what you can do if you'd like to make a complaint about the industrial action - click here for all the information.

If you would like to feedback to GSU with your views and thoughts on the planned strike action then please let us know through our feedback form which can be found here -

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Jargon busters

Here are some terms you may read and hear over the coming weeks, and what it all means!

UCU - Universities & Colleges Union. The trade union for higher education workers, including professional services staff, academics and postgraduate research students. Their Higher Education Committee, a group made up of representatives (or reps) elected by UCU to represent their Higher Education members, has launched both strike ballots.

UUK - stands for Universities’ UK, which is the representative body for universities across the UK. They are leading the negotiations with UCU about the amount employers and staff should pay into USS pensions.

CMA - Competition and Markets Authority. They are an independent non-ministerial department linked to the UK government. They're responsible for ensuring that consumers get a good deal when buying goods and services, and businesses operate within the law.

OfS - Office for Students. They are the independent regulator of higher education in England.

OIA or OIAHE - Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, an independent body set up to review student complaints.

Casualisation - refers to academic staff being employed on ‘casual’ contracts, for example for a half-day of teaching per week, rather than on an annually-salaried basis.

Joint Negotiating Committee - this is where UCU and UUK meet to discuss pensions.

RPI - the Retail Price Index. this is a way of measuring inflation by charting the cost of a shopping basket of standard goods each year. Therefore, if someone’s wages are increasing ‘below RPI,’ the increase in their pay is not going up at the same rate as the cost of a weekly shop.

Picket - a picket is a person or group of people who stand outside a workplace or other venue as a protest or to try to persuade others not to enter during a strike.

Picket line - a picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike, especially at the entrance to the place of work, which others are asked not to cross.

SMT - SMT stands for Senior Management Team. They are the top management of a university. They may be referred to as SLT also (Senior Leadership Team).

Ballot - a system of voting anonymously and in writing on a particular issue.

Action short of a strike - where workers take action such as working to rule, go-slows, overtime bans or callout bans.

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If you have a question about the strikes, please email us at You can also leave us a note via our Suggestion form, or make an informal complaint via our Complaints form

For press enquiries, please contact our Head of Marketing.

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Frequently asked questions

Staff and postgraduate students who are members of UCU may strike, which may affect everything from lecturers, tutorials, labs and assessments to other services across the University.

It is difficult to know how strike action will impact individual students, as it will differ from course to course and depending on your level of study. We expect some Faculties to be impacted more than others by the strike action. In the event of any strike action, the University should communicate with you via Faculties and departments about any disruption or other matters.

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You can talk to your tutors, lecturers and supervisors to find out more about why they are striking. If strike action takes place you can get involved in rallies, picket lines and writing letters to the University.

You can also talk to your Academic Reps who can raise your views and concerns to the University.

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Yes. The University campuses will remain open as normal with places such as the library, study spaces and sports facilities available for your use as usual. The Students’ Union will be open as usual too. You should be able to go into all buildings as you normally do, but there may be picket lines in place as part of the strike action. For questions regarding specific teaching facilities, please contact your Faculty.

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Individual lecturers/tutors etc. are under no obligation to disclose if they are going on strike. Unfortunately, we at GSU are unable to confirm which University staff will on strike or from what Faculty - we don't hold this information at all.

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At this stage it is unclear, it will become clearer once strike action is underway, but regardless, the University will be working to ensure your academic progress continues.

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Yes, you can contact staff as you would normally do. It is possible that there may be a delay in you receiving a response, especially if your enquiry is sent in the strike period and your lecturer/tutor is taking part in the strike action.

If you have an academic issue which requires urgent attention during the strike period and you are not sure if the member of staff is available, then please also contact your Faculty and they will be able to advise you.

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We are aware that this is an important concern for some students. We will keep you informed of any information we receive, along with information and advice from the Office for Students (OfS), Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).

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We are working to provide students with the most up to date information from UCU and the University, so you know what is going on regarding the industrial action. We'll keep you updated regularly on our website and through social media. We will also be involved in meetings and discussions with the University to ensure mitigation measures are implemented for students impacted, and to raise any concerns that students have.

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Our Advice Centre can support you if you wish to make a formal complaint, applying for concessions or extensions as well as any other academic concerns.

For International students, the University can advise on any concerns with impact to your visas. For more information, visit the University website.

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