Striking staff are asking the university to suspend their pay deductionLouis Ashworth

The University plans to maintain pay deductions for staff who took part in strike action in February and March despite the financial uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Members of staff who participated in strike action between 20th February and March 13th will have their pay deducted. The Cambridge branch of the University and College Union (UCU) described this move as “frankly startling”, given the additional work demands and social uncertainties created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cambridge UCU has said that they are “disappointed by the University’s decision on this” whilst its members are said to be “angry”.

Employers are not obligated to pay workers who are striking, so while UCU members were on strike they received no salary from the University. The maximum possible deduction for each day of strike action, according to UCU’s website, is 1/260th of their annual salary.

In a series of meetings in March and April, Cambridge UCU raised the issue of pay deductions with the University Human Resources (HR) department. Cambridge UCU alleges that they were met with negative responses on each occasion.

On the 17th March, Cambridge UCU asked the HR department to suspend pay deductions, citing the “phenomenal efforts” made by university staff who were also “dealing with crippling uncertainty and worry”.

The pay deduction issue was raised again on the 2nd April in a meeting with HR. On this occasion, representatives from Cambridge UCU felt that the University didn’t understand their concerns about the suspension of pay deductions.

A spokesperson for Cambridge UCU explains that the Union “pointed out that this wasn’t a question of ‘need’- that, just as staff were going above and beyond the call of duty, so HR might think of ways to recognise that hard work”.

A University spokesperson told Varsity that “the University has already volunteered to spread strike-related pay deductions over a three-month period to help lessen the financial impact on UCU staff members who chose to go on strike this year.”


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They added that “the University pays all money related to strike pay deductions into the student hardship fund”.

In an attempt to encourage compromise, Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, told Varsity that “in a changed world, the widespread use of short-term contracts and insecure employment should be revisited. This will only be achieved through negotiation and dialogue, and it might be best to draw a line under past disagreements and start afresh. In that spirit, I would urge unions and employers to come to an early agreement on how to deal with past deduction.”

The issue of whether universities should waive or postpone salary deductions has been controversial. Whilst several universities - including KCL, Birkbeck, St. Andrew’s, Southampton and Newcastle – have agreed to waive the pay deductions as a gesture of ‘goodwill’, most have continued with salary deductions.

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