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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I am a lecturer employed on a part-time basis in two different

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I am a lecturer employed on a part-time basis in two different institutions. I work Tuesday and Wednesday in one job (Job 1), Thursday and Friday in the other (Job 2).

Yesterday I joined the UCU and today am supporting the nationwide industrial action which involves that union, EIS-ULA and Unison.

Yesterday evening I emailed my line manager and head of department at Job 2 informing them that as a member of the UCU I was supporting the industrial action. My head of department replied telling me that there was 'no strike' in that institution, so he assumed I would 'be in as normal'. In my reply I drew his attention to the nationwide, joint-union action and sent a link to the EIS homepage, as I know most of my colleagues at the institution are in that union (which was why I was surprised at his telling me there was 'no strike').

As these emails exchanges were taking place outside of office hours, and it was getting late (11.00pm) and I was due to start work at 9.00am I sent him text to let him know I had replied to his email. He replied by text at 11.19pm telling me that the strike was by EIS-ULA and not EIS-FELA, the latter being the union my colleagues belong to. I replied that as a member of the UCU I would still be on strike. This was the end of the conversation.

The two institutions I work for are quite different: Job 1 is in an Art School where the majority of my colleagues are in the UCU; Job 2 is in a college where, it appears, most lecturers are in EIS-FELA. Job 2 is both a Further Education (FE) and a Higher Education (HE)college, but I teach only on the degree courses, which are HE. Job 1 is entirely HE. I joined the UCU because I felt that it gave me the best representation, and also because I consider the EIS to be rather ineffectual. As far as I am aware, I am the only lecturer in Job 2 who works in two institutions; my managers in both jobs are aware of my situation.

My concern now is that I will be disciplined, perhaps even dismissed, at Job 2 for observing the strike action because 1. no-one else is on strike and 2. I am such a recent member of the UCU. That said, I feel it would be a violation of my principles to break the strike today, and have no intention of doing so.

Could you please advise on the situation.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Generally when an employee goes on strike they will be acting in breach of contract because there is no legal right to go on strike, rather it is classified as a privilege in law. Saying that, the law does provide certain protection against dismissal of employees who have taken part in industrial action, as long as the industrial action concerned is official or protected.


To be legally protected, the industrial action must have been properly organised by the union(s) involved, which means it must have held a proper ballot, provided official notice of the proposed industrial action to the employers likely to be affected, etc.


The issue you face here is that you are a member of a union which has called for industrial action and you have every right to participate in it, but at the same time you must ensure that you are participating in the right places. It does not mean that as a member of a union that is striking you can go on strike in any job that you work and you will only be protected if you were striking in relation to an officially organised strike, which addresses specific workplace issues, where a formal ballot has been carried out and where the employer has been officially notified.


A union strike is not a blanket right to strike anywhere, it has to be directed at the issues that are under protest. If your union has raised certain issues that they want to strike for, they may not necessarily be aimed at the job you are striking from (Job 2). This may not be on their agenda and they may not have notified the employer of their proposal to strike and hence the strike you are yourself going on with that job may be unlawful because it has not been officially organised by the union. As such by going on an unofficial strike you may be breaching your contract of employment and be liable to be disciplined and even dismissed. Therefore, with hindsight, it is important to ensure that any strike action you are going to participate in is official, because otherwise you will not get the statutory protection against detrimental treatment for participating. I fully understand your principles for goi9ng on strike, but at the same time you have to consider whether your actions are actually lawful.


Thank you Ben. The reasons for the union going on strike in Job 1 also effect Job 2.


Sorry, I replied prematurely there. It does appear I may have acted hastily in striking today. What do you suggest I do now.

Ben Jones :

The reasons for the strike may affect the job but it still needs to be an officially organised strike with that employer. It is really something the union should have confirmed with you if you had asked them. Assuming you did hastily go on strike then as it is still very soon after your start time you may be able to salvage this situation by going in and saying you are there and prepared to work and that this was a misunderstanding. The sooner you try and resolve this the better


Thanks Ben. It will take around two hours for me to get there. Should I email my head of department first?

Ben Jones :

yes certainly, or even call him - the sooner he is aware of your intentions the better, it may also save you an unnecessary trip if they wish to stop you from working at this stage and for example suspend you whilst they consider what to do next


Okay. I've done that by email, stating my intention to come in and asking if that is acceptable.

Ben Jones :

ok let's see what happens



Ben Jones :

No problem

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