- When does it start and how long will it last?
Our marking and assessment boycott began on Monday 23 May. Our mandate lasts until 7 October, however the bulk of the boycott will be completed over the summer period, as exams will be completed by July.
- What activities are included in the boycott?
All activities that lead to the production of feedback or marks. This includes but is not limited to:
- All marking and assessment, both Undergraduate and Postgraduate, including:
- Final examinations
- Any form of in-course continuous assessment
- Traditional essay marking
- The assessment of projects and dissertations, laboratory and other practical work, performance (eg in music or drama) and supervised practice (eg in teacher education)
- Examination of dissertations and theses at postgraduate level, as well as vivas
- Attendance at meetings to arrange marking or moderation or to discuss marking
- Processing of marks
- Submission of completed marking through any University administrative procedures;
- Preparation for exam/assessment boards/meetings
- Attendance at exam boards/meetings.
- How do I participate in the boycott?
Please cease undertaking any activities related to marking and assessment.
We encourage you to attend the Let’s Discuss and branch meetings in order to stay up to date with the dispute and stand in solidarity with your colleagues who are participating in the action.
- Do I need to notify People and Culture using their self-declaration form?
You are under no obligation to inform the University in advance that you are planning to take ASOS – including a marking and assessment boycott. This includes both requests from your line manager or People and Culture (P&C). People and Culture have acknowledged this and have stated:
“We recognise that there is no legal obligation to inform us of participation in the boycott in advance of action.”
- Do I need to tell my line manager?
Again, you are under no obligation to provide advance notification of your intention to undertake ASOS (including in a marking and assessment boycott).
If you are asked directly about your participation in ASOS, including the marking and assessment boycott, then you should respond truthfully but only in terms of action you have already taken or are currently taking. You do not have to provide information of your future intentions regarding ASOS.
- Do I need to tell my colleagues?
You do not need to tell your colleagues.
You should avoid giving any details of your participation in the action to colleagues who may use this to minimise the impact of your action by arranging to cover your marking and assessment activities.
Colleagues need to be careful not to reveal to other staff or students another union member’s ASOS actions without the express permission of that person. You should therefore avoid commenting on any other person’s participation in this action.
- Do I need to tell my students?
Again, you are under no obligation to tell your students that you are participating in ASOS, including the marking and assessment boycott.
We know that some members may choose to tell students about their reasons for fighting against pay cuts, inequalities, casualisation and excessive workloads.
It is important to emphasise to students that:
- The action is in pursuit of our Four Fights, which aims to improve the state of Higher Education for everybody.
- The action was the only avenue available to us after university management at Essex and across the country refused to meaningfully engage with staff and student unions on casualisation, workload, pay cuts and inequalities.
- The current arrangement of Higher Education will have negative consequences for students, and NUS are very supportive of the action for this reason.
- We want to work with students in applying pressure to management to ensure that we can resolve our dispute as swiftly as possible.
- What should I do if I do not feel able to participate in the boycott?
Please do not inform management if you are not intending to take part in action.
Marking does not need to be submitted until the due date. We understand that this has been a difficult few years for staff at the University and that members may want to undertake any marking with your workload and health in mind. It is reasonable for members to make full use of the time allocated to them to undertake marking.
If you are asked to cover marking you should take care not to take on more work than has been accounted for in your workload. If you believe that additional marking would take you over your workload then you should write to your manager flagging this and declining to undertake the additional marking unless other elements of your workload are removed. We have provided template letters that members can adapt and use when informing their managers. See the template workload letter here.
Lastly, please donate to the local hardship fund.
- What should I do if I am having money deducted and want to stop further deductions?
If you are receiving deductions but no longer participating in the marking and assessment boycott, for example because your marking has been reallocated or because there is nothing left for you to mark or assess, then you should write to P & C confirming this. You can use this template letter about ending your participation in the marking boycott to inform People and Culture that your deductions should cease.
Should UCU instruct members to pause or stop the marking and assessment boycott as part of our negotiated settlement with the University then further guidance will be provided.
- What if marking is reallocated to me once stop participating in the boycott?
If marking is allocated to you after you have ended your participation in the marking and assessment boycott, we advise you to send a letter/email stating that you are working to contract in keeping with our mandate for ASOS (see FAQ 15 below), and will not be able to complete the work in the usual 20-day timeframe.
You should request that the 20 days start from when you are given the work. You should also ask People and Culture to confirm that you will be reimbursed for any deductions taken from you for not previously undertaking this marking. See this template letter about maintaining a 20-day marking turnaround.
If you have a concern about your workload, we advise you also to write a letter/email to P & C, outlining that you are working to contract and that you may not be able to complete your marking unless you are given a reduced workload and clear instructions as to how to reduce your workload. See the template workload letter.
- Should I ‘mark and park’?
No, you should undertake no activities relating to marking and assessment during this action.
Officially, marking and parking is not something we can advise, as completed assessment material is the property of our employers. If university management know that the marking and assessment has already been completed then this weakens our action.
- Are PhD supervisory boards included in the boycott?
PhD supervisory boards will not be included in the boycott and we ask that members whose sole or predominant marking and assessment duties involve participation in PhD supervisory boards to donate to the local hardship fund.
- Will I be deducted pay for participating in this action?
Currently, the University of Essex is not making deductions for participating in forms of ASOS other than the marking and assessment boycott. They are threatening pay deductions for participating in the marking boycott (of 80% and 50% for boycotting marking and assessment, with the lower rate deducted if you notify the University of your intention to boycott marking by 27 May).
As earlier notification could mitigate the impact of the boycott and the deduction rate is still very punitive, we are advising members not to notify the University of their intention to boycott.
- Will I have access to financial support through the marking boycott?
There are two funds set up to support workers should they lose pay as a result of participating in this industrial action: the local Essex UCU hardship fund, available here, and the national UCU Fighting Fund, available here. The national fighting fund is only open to strike pay deductions and 100% ASOS deductions, which is not the case at Essex. Essex UCU will consider applications to the local hardship fund from members in financial hardship as a result of ASOS deductions.
Also, if you haven’t yet claimed from the national Fighting Fund for strike action taken over 2021-22, please consider making a claim for financial support to sustain your participation in the marking boycott. Alternatively, please consider making a claim from the Fighting Fund and donating all or some of money to the local Essex hardship fund.
- Are there other things I should do (or not do) as part of this action?
In addition to the marking and assessment boycott, the following are part of our ASOS:
- Resignation from/non-participation in all voluntary committees
- Not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action
- Removing uploaded materials related to, and/or not sharing materials related to, lectures or classes that will be or have been cancelled as a result of strike action
- Refusing to cover for absent colleagues
- Refusing to undertake voluntary activities or to attend non-contractual meetings
- Working to contract
- Working within contractual hours
- Refusal of goodwill
Members should continue to participate in the action short of a strike.
- Donation and wage sharing scheme
We can make this an inclusive action if members who don’t face deductions donate to Essex UCU’s hardship fund in solidarity with those who are on the front line.
If you are not directly participating in the marking boycott (because you are not marking), we are recommending that you set aside a proportion of your salary depending on their income level.
While no one in financial distress should make a donation to the strike fund, and we are grateful for any donations received, Essex UCU recommends the following contribution levels:
Those earning under £30,000 p.a. – one day’s salary per week to the hardship/strike fund.
Those earning over £30,000 p.a. – one and a half day’s salary per week to the hardship/strike fund.
You can also donate to us at the click of a button on our GoFundMe page here (though bank transfers are preferred).
Email us here for more details of how to contribute – and how to claim.