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. The university staff are in dispute with university employers over pensions, pay, equality, casualisation of contracts and workloads.

Thu 20th February 2020 The PDA

Members of the University & College Union (UCU) have planned fourteen days of industrial action in an effort to resolve disputes with universities.  The action will start on Thursday 20 February and escalate each week, culminating with a week-long walkout from Monday 9 to Friday 13 March. This will effect 74 universities including several with pharmacy schools, so this could involve some pharmacy lecturers or other staff involved with pharmacy schools.

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 anyone 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 an employee of the university, or 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, if this is at all avoidable.  However, patient safety and care will always be the priority for pharmacists, in accordance with their professional duties, the NHS terms of service and their employment contracts.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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