Following proposals from Universities UK to make further changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the University and College Union (UCU) has called a series of strikes at 61 universities. The proposed changes would significantly reduce the pension benefits that it provides.
A number of BMA members either employed by or undertaking work for these universities have asked how they should respond to the strike action. The Medical Academic Staff Committee (MASC), working with the BMA's legal team has provided the following FAQs.
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Advice for BMA members
May I support a picket line question?
Supporting a picket would amount to participating and furthering the objective of the picket which includes encouraging others to strike. This would be unlawful for a non-UCU member (that is, someone not involved in the trade dispute) because it would be inducing others to breach their contracts, which is a statutory tort.
Where the member is not a party to the dispute they would not be protected under statute and would, therefore, run the risk of being held by the employer to be breaching their employment contract. The BMA does not recommend or suggest that its members take part in this industrial action.
Do I have to cross a picket line?
BMA members who are not also members of UCU will not be legally protected if they participate in the industrial action. Therefore, they should attend work as normal and as required under their employment contract, unless they have agreed something different with their employer in advance.
If it is physically not possible to get into the place of work because of a picket line then members need to report their absence using their employer’s normal absence reporting procedure.
I am responsible for teaching medical students in my hospital on the day of the action. I am not paid by the university and the work is not in my job plan. Am I still obliged to undertake the teaching?
You are responsible through your main NHS employer to undertake the teaching and, even if it is not formally included in your job plan, if it is something that you have done consistently, it is likely to form an implied part of your employment contract.
How can I show my support for colleagues in the UCU?
If you are not a member of the UCU, you will not be legally protected if you get involved in the industrial action. You can show moral support any way you like provided it does not amount to taking industrial action yourself or participating to encourage others to take industrial action (see above).
You can show support by not obstructing or discouraging colleagues from pursuing their legitimate right to take industrial action.
You may also take part in any demonstrations on the issue as long as this is in your own time and the demonstration is not designed to discourage people from working. Any support you provide must not compromise your own position as a professional and employee who is not directly part of the dispute.
If you are a BMA member and you have further questions, please call our employment advisers on 0300 123 1233 or email us