Advice to Members of EIS-FELA and EIS-FELA Representatives at Forth Valley College
This guidance is to assist members when taking part in the ‘working to rule’ in the context of action short of a strike at FVC from November 10th.
Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) is a form of industrial action and may involve breaching your contract of employment; your statutory ballot gave a mandate for the following ASOS action in an escalatory manner:
‘Working to rule’, involving members doing no more than the minimum required by their contract;
refusal to take an accurate student register, involving members refusing to enter or accurately record student absence in the employer’s registration system;
a marking boycott, involving members refusing to mark students’ ongoing work;
not covering for absent colleagues, including not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to colleagues’ absence.
Action Short of Strike Action will begin on 10th November 2020 with Action 1 above (Working to Rule). Until further notice, members are advised to ensure that they abide by working to rule in the context of action short of a strike.
If there is no resolution forthcoming from management, members will be advised to escalate to action numbers 2, 3 and 4 (above) in the near future and are likely to be advised to carrying out all the actions by the start of 2021.
It is expected that action will continue until 29th January 2021, or end earlier if a resolution is found. If no resolution is obtained by that point, an additional statutory ballot for strike action may be carried out.
What does ‘working to rule’ mean?
Working to rule means abiding by the terms of your contract, but to do no more than that. ‘Your contract’ includes your written statement of employment plus any implied terms or ‘custom and practice’. For example, if your contract states your workplace location as Alloa campus but you consistently work elsewhere then you will be expected to continue working elsewhere.
Members should perform no additional voluntary duties beyond what is covered in their contracts (express or implied). The ‘action’ which members are advised not to carry out in ‘working to contract’ might include a selection of the actions below, if the action is not set out in the locally agreed Terms and Conditions of employment:
Regularly working beyond contracted hours;
Reading and responding to emails outwith working time;
Undertaking additional development work on behalf of the college;
Undertaking voluntary tasks or meetings;
working over a lunch break (members should be aware that a break is a statutory entitlement);
undertaking marking or assessment activities outwith working hours and
preparation for classes or meetings outwith working hours.
You may be able to identify other actions you currently carry out (in addition to or instead of the above examples) that are not contractually required at Forth Valley College.
What are my contractual hours?
Members who are lecturers should work no more than their 35 hours per week. This figure is stated in NJNC Circular 03/19 which implements the NWPA and it takes precedent over any FVC Lecturers’ contractual clause.
Members who are instructors should work their normal working hours of 35 hours per week.
Weekly Class Contact:
Lecturer members should teach no more than the maximum class contact hours per week as stated by the NJNC (Circular 01/18): 21 hours if appointed before 31 December 2017 and 23+1 hours if appointed after 1 January 2018. (See Appendix 1)
Instructor Assessor have no contractual maximum class contact hours per week.
1. What should I do if, in any one week, I have not completed my normal contractual duties within my contractual hours?
If your line manager asks why other duties were not completed you should inform them that you have been unable to complete the remainder of your normal duties within the limits of your contractual hours and that you will resume them in the following week.
It is important that all the tasks and functions you normally carry out are discharged during the ‘working to rule’ only part of the ASOS. The work to rule does not mean that duties should not be done - it is simply a question of when you do them, and not exceeding the maximum hours stipulated in your contract or in workload agreements or established practice
If you believe you are being asked to work too many hours, that is to say if you find that you cannot fulfil all your contractual duties within the 35 hours limit in your contract, you should also make reference to your institution's occupational stress or workload policies which will set out various duties upon the employer to address heavy workloads.
2. Should I work ‘after hours’ or at weekends?
The standard NJNC and FVC contractual terms do not require you to work in the evenings or at weekends and you should refuse to work at those times unless you already have an agreement to work at these times.
3. Will students be impacted by us taking ASOS?
The EIS-FELA Branch has made it clear to the student union that management’s proposals will have more of an impact on students’ learning in the long term than this ASOS will have.
4. Do I need to tell management that I am taking part in ASOS?
You do not have to inform management in advance of the ASOS beginning on November 10th. The EIS has already given the notice required in law. If you are asked during the ASOS period if you are carrying out the ASOS then you should respond Yes, i.e. be accurate. There is no need to give the employer notice that you will be carrying out the ASOS or that you intend to carry out ASOS. All EIS-FELA members are expected to take part in this action to protect their colleagues and professional status.
5. Can I refuse to cover for absent colleagues from Nov 10th?
No, you should continue to cover for absent colleagues until you are advised that the ASOS has been escalated to include not covering absent colleagues.
6. I am a head of department, line manager or in another senior academic role. How can I best support the action?
Many of our union's strongest members are in senior roles. Senior staff can play an active role in the dispute by working to their contract just like everyone else.
7. Should I take lunch breaks and breaks from working at my computer?
Staff should always take lunch or alternative breaks and breaks from working at your computer. This is especially important whilst working from your home.
8. What should I do if management insist that I perform a task I believe to be outside my contract?
If college management insist that you comply with a written instruction, you must be careful not lay yourself open to disciplinary action. Comply under duress- stating your position in writing – whilst you seek advice from your Branch Secretary or Area Officer. The EIS is likely to advise you to raise a formal grievance. It is totally legitimate to raise a grievance against a decision that you disagree with. Most importantly, if you have any doubts regarding the consequences of a course of action, contact a branch official for advice.
9. What about the other 3 types of ASOS listed in the ballot – when will I get the guidance for these?
The EIS will issue guidance on the other three types of ASOS in the ballot paper and listed in section 1 of this guidance nearer to the point of time when the ASOS will escalate to include these actions.
10. Can FVC deem me for carrying out ASOS Action 1 ‘Working to Rule’?
The EIS does not expect FVC to deem members for Action 1: Working to Rule, but notes that the College has stated that it will deem for the escalated actions. The standard trade union response to deeming is to move to a statutory ballot for industrial action. The EIS will also take legal advice around any deeming the college implements.