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Advice to pharmacy students as lecturers take strike action

The PDA has issued advice to pharmacy students who may face pickets lines and find that their lecturers and other course staff are not at work due to industrial action by members of the University & College Union (UCU).

Mon 14th February 2022 PDA Union

Staff at 44 universities walked out today after university employers refused to withdraw cuts to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) or accept UCU’s compromise proposals which would have seen staff and employers pay slightly more to protect benefits and resolve the pension dispute. Last week the pension scheme trustee USS, which runs the scheme, confirmed UCU’s proposals are viable and implementable. UUK’s proposals, which will see 35% cut from the guaranteed retirement income of members, are set to be formalised on Tuesday 22 February.

Next Monday strike action over pay and working conditions will also start with 24 further universities joining the action, bringing the overall total to 68 universities. This dispute is over a 20% real terms pay cut over the past 12 years, unmanageable workloads, pay inequality and the use of exploitative and insecure contracts, which are rife across the sector. Altogether, more than 50,000 staff are expected to walk out, with well over a million students set to be impacted.

The PDA support the rights of UCU members to stand up for their rights at work through this dispute and respect their choice to take this action.  We believe that university employers need to work to end this dispute ASAP to minimise the effect on students’ learning.  There is more information about the dispute on the UCU website.

In the meantime, the PDA is issuing this advice to students and any PDA Union members employed by a university about what to do when faced with a picket line:

What to do when faced with a picket line –  If you are a student

Any university staff undertaking industrial action have a dispute with their employer, the university. However, you could find there are “picket lines” at your university and want to know what you should do.

Picket lines are a boundary established by workers on strike, especially at the entrance to their place of work, which others are asked not to cross so that the industrial action has the most impact on the employer’s activities, and to help put pressure on the employer to talk to the employees and resolve the dispute.

These demonstrations can only officially consist of individuals employed by the University, or those who lost their job for a reason connected to the dispute (and has not since started a new job with a new employer); or a union official picketing with the members they personally represent.

Therefore, as students, you cannot officially join a picket but you may wish to show your support by not crossing a picket line. You may also want to express your support for striking staff in person or online. You should take great care what you say or do on social media or elsewhere does not inappropriately criticise the university or any particular senior members of university staff.  Doing so could lead to your conduct being questioned, so please keep things positive.  If you plan to support the action at your university then please advise your lecturer/s in advance if you will not be attending lectures on that day.

What to do when faced with a picket line –  If you are employed by the university

If you are a post-graduate student and therefore also an employee of the university, or if you have other employment at the university, then where another union undertaking industrial action establishes an official picket line, refusal to cross it would render a non-striking pharmacist liable to be disciplined, including the deduction of salary as it would be considered as participating in un-balloted industrial action.

The single exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line would put the person concerned at risk of injury.  In such circumstances, members should contact their senior/department manager/employer for guidance. In all other circumstances, members should cross the picket line if they are due to work.

Those picketing should be assured that PDAU members who cross the picket line will not undertake work that those on strike would normally have carried out, unless this is unavoidable due to patient safety and care which will always be the priority for pharmacists.  Pharmacists will always place patient safety first in accordance with their professional duties, the NHS terms of service and their employment contracts, however patient safety is unlikely to be a factor in a university setting.

Learn More

Ten days of strike action begins at UK universities

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