Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) – working to contract

6 December 2019


In the ballot for industrial action UCU members voted for action short of a strike. As part of the action short of strike (ASOS) the union is asking members to work to contract. Working to contract means abiding by the terms of your contract (including your obligation to perform your duties in an efficient manner), but to do no more than that.

In particular, members are asked to:

  • not reschedule any teaching or other work lost due to strike action. Remember, your pay will be deducted for work lost due to the strike;
  • work no more than your contracted hours where those hours are expressly stated, and in any event not to exceed the maximum number of hours per week stipulated in the Working Time Regulations (48) unless you have signed an opt-out;
  • perform no additional voluntary duties, such as out of hours cover, or covering for colleagues (unless such cover is contractually required);
  • set and mark no work beyond that work which you are contractually obliged to set and/or mark;
  • attend no meetings where such attendance is voluntary on the part of the member.

This is not straightforward, particularly for academic staff. Academic contracts are highly flexible and often vague. Local agreements covering workload vary markedly. However, UCU has provided comprehensive guidance  which gives as much detail as possible, as well as links to local contracts, agreements and policies via the link. The union’s ‘work to contract’ advice has been drawn up following legal advice.

Voluntary duties:

If you are asked to undertake a voluntary duty we suggest using the following standard worded reply (copying in your campus rep) to decline:

“Thank you for your email. As a member of UCU I am currently working to contract as part of action short of a strike (ASOS), and following UCU advice. As xxxxx is an additional voluntary activity that is not part of my usual contractual duties I will not be performing it. Please be advised that in line with UCU’s action short of a strike, I am continuing to undertake my normal contractual duties.”

Additionally, you may want to add a short text to your Outlook ‘out of office’ which explains your action to those contacting you, such as:

“Thank you for your email. As a member of UCU I am currently working to contract as part of action short of a strike (ASOS) and following guidance from my union. As such, my response to your email may be delayed. I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as I can”.

If you are unsure of how to implement ASOS, or if you have any particular questions that are not covered by this guidance and UCU online resources, please contact us we and will endeavour to get the relevant guidance for you.