University of York to cut staff pay by 50 per cent due to marking and assessment boycott

‘For each working day in the period, 50 per cent of your annual salary will be withheld’

The University of York will cut pay by 50 per cent for university staff choosing to take part in UCU’s marking boycott.

In response to this decision, an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor has been created by university staff urging the university to reconsider this decision.

University of York staff, along with staff at 145 universities across the UK, will be partaking in a marking and assessment boycott. This means that participating UCU members will not complete any duties related to assessments including marking essays, invigilating exams, and helping students prepare for assessments. This comes after 18 days of teaching strikes last term, as part of the UCU’s campaign for better pay and pensions.

In an email addressed to students, Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery said: “A marking and assessment boycott has the potential to cause more concern, impact and disruption to students than any other form of industrial action. With this in mind, we have made the decision to withhold pay for those taking part in the boycott.”

He continued: “We are committed to doing absolutely everything we can so that this boycott does not delay your progression, or the completion of your degree program or receiving your transcript and does not delay graduation ceremonies.”

As part of the email, Jeffery also directed staff and students to a website containing information about the industrial action. The website states that for each working day in the marking boycott period, 50 per cent of one 365th of the staff’s annual salary will be withheld.

The university justifies this decision for withholding 50 per cent of pay in this statement: “Legally an employee is obliged to carry out all their duties and implied duties arising from their contract of employment. If they choose to take part in selective industrial action short of a full strike, ie partial performance of these duties, they are refusing to undertake their full contractual duties. Any employees involved in partial performance are refusing to undertake their full, normal contractual duties and are therefore in breach of their contract.”

In response to this decision, the Head of York’s English Department, Helen Smith, has written an open letter, urging Charlie Jeffery to reconsider the pay cut. The letter, which has already been signed by hundreds of staff and students, argues: “There will be members of staff who will not be able to pay their rent, household bills, mortgages, childcare or other caring costs” as a result of the pay deduction.

The letter continues: “We know you appreciate how much University of York staff give to the institution and to our students. We know that you are painfully aware that many staff routinely work well beyond their contracted hours in order to support our students and fulfil our academic and social mission. A 50% deduction in salary is in no way proportionate to the time staff spend on marking, nor does it recognise the very significant hours staff regularly put in over and above the standard working week.

“The impact of the pay deductions, and of attempts to reallocate marking on an abbreviated timescale, have already had a catastrophic impact on staff goodwill.”

The letter concludes: “Like you, we fervently hope this dispute can be resolved soon. We hope too that we can come out of it with a sense of shared purpose and a collective determination to celebrate the University of York as a place where students and staff can thrive”.

A University of York spokesperson said: “We recognise the strength of feeling on this issue and understand the difficult decisions that individual staff will now be making.

“Industrial action is, however, collective action – and it is designed to have a collective impact. It is the significance and consequences of this whole boycott that we considered when withholding this proportion of pay. Ultimately, it has the potential to cause more anxiety, distress and impact to students than any other form of industrial action.

“We are committed to doing absolutely everything we can so that this boycott does not delay student progression or graduation.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Strikes Day Two: Everything that happened at the York Uni picket line today

UCU marking boycott: What does this mean for students?

We went to find out what’s ACTUALLY in Heslington Hall and it felt so illegal