The University and College Union boycott is due to start on 28 April and is part of an on-going dispute over pay, although talks between universities and unions, which could avert such action, are scheduled to take place on 15 April.
Ahead of these talks, a number of universities have issued warnings to staff that if they participate in the marking boycott they could see 100 per cent of their pay docked, and that any services provided during the action would be considered voluntary and not paid.
At the time of writing, the UCU said it knew of 14 universities that had written to staff threatening to withhold pay, and that such threats amounted to “little more than bullying”, and could lead to lectures being cancelled.
“You cannot claim to have students’ best interests at heart and then escalate the situation by effectively locking staff out of their place of work,” said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU.
“Universities that deduct 100 per cent of pay from staff participating in our marking boycott will be showing a clear disregard for their students. This threat is little more than an attempt to bully staff from taking part in industrial action as part of a legitimate grievance against efforts to drive down their pay,” she added.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said that all higher education institutions would have “heavy hearts” when deciding how to respond to the proposed boycott, which would see staff refuse to mark students’ work and potentially impact on students’ ability to graduate.
“The [universities’] responses are unsurprising because higher education institutions have long had clear policies not to accept the partial performance of duties and would be deducting pay from any staff who chose to take part, precisely in order to limit the impact on students’ education,” he said. “All parties do of course hope that this potential action will be averted.”