On Monday 5th March, St Andrews Principal Sally Mapstone announced the university will not punish staff who fail to make up for missed lectures.
In a university-wide email, Professor Mapstone said, “Having considered all matters in the round, I believe that our current policy to deduct pay at 100% for failure to reschedule classes cancelled due to strike action is inconsistent with this University’s values.”
Staff and supporters welcomed the news of the change that was issued with immediate effect.
Dr Catharine Cross, lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, tweeted, “Thank you so much to all the alumni who wrote in. You have won a big win here.”
In the wake of this positive breakthrough, a statement was released by UUK on Monday evening showing that the day’s negotiations with UCU had not progressed.
UUK said, “Employers are committed to exploring affordable and viable options to resolve this dispute. UCU should call off the strikes to focus all their efforts on joining us for meaningful discussions over the future of USS.”
“Today’s talks were constructive & will continue over the coming days. We restated again that we are willing to meet with UCU at any time or place to resolve this dispute. It is clear to us the proposal put forward by UCU last week hasn’t been properly costed with USS.”
In response, UCU released the following statement, “At today’s ACAS talks UCU said we would stay day and night if that is what it takes to reach an agreement.
“’Another two days wasted when what the sector needs is for the employers to be focused on what is becoming an urgent problem.
“UCU has made positive proposals aimed at resolving the dispute but we cannot negotiate with a row of empty chairs.”
On February 27 both sides had agreed to further talks to try and end the strike action currently taking place across 61 universities.
This news and the change in St Andrews’ policy comes as lecturers and university staff walk out for another four days of planned industrial action.
The initial revelation of the harsh policy had been met with outrage online with many staff, students and alumni criticising the university for punishing staff so strongly.
One twitter page, SadStAndrewsAlumn, was set up in response to calls for Alumni and visiting speakers to boycott and call out the university. Their info reads, “ A place for members of St Andrews Alumni who are upset about the university’s shameful treatment of staff striking over USS pensions.”
St Andrews had previously told staff it would deduct 100% of pay should they refuse to reschedule lectures and classes lost because of strike action.
The stance was seen by many as severe and one could have a negative impact on ongoing negotiations between the UCU and UUK.
On March 1 UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, “Universities that wish to exploit the law and punish their staff as much as possible are storing up problems for the future and risk prolonging the dispute.”