Reply to Vice-Chancellor’s proposal, Monday 18th September 2023

After negotiations on the 13th September, followed by a proposal from the VC and an EGM on the 15th September, the branch executive sent the following response to the Vice-Chancellor on the 18th September 2023.

Dear Vice Chancellor,

Thank you for your message of last Friday in which you offered that the University will not make any deductions for Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) participation taken after 1 August 2023, subject to staff members fully re-engaging in and prioritising marking duties, with all marking completed and in SIMS by 6 October 2023 at the latest. Your proposal was also subject to UCU Cardiff withdrawing all further Strike Days under the current mandate with immediate effect.

At a General Meeting of members on Friday, members voted to accept your offer and at today’s meeting of the branch Executive Committee, we have therefore decided to withdraw all further Strike Days under the current mandate with immediate effect. 

We expect the vast majority of members with remaining marking duties to be able to complete all marking by the deadline you set, but we are aware that a number of members have such large marking loads that despite prioritising, they are unlikely to be able to meet the 6 October deadline. When our negotiators met with you, you expressed concern for such members, and we request that individual extensions to this deadline will therefore be arranged for those members that are consistent with the employer’s duty of care and duty to operate in a non-discriminatory manner. It would be helpful if you can remind Schools of this duty. We will be monitoring the situation carefully and resolutely support any member who is put under undue pressure to work to unrealistic and unsafe deadlines, especially as our Action Short of Strike, which includes working contracted hours, remains in force until the end of the current mandate.

At the General Meeting of members on Friday, members were also clear that they remain profoundly unhappy with how salary deductions in relation to the MAB took place, and that your offer is insufficient to close the overall disagreement. In particular, members have continued to raise the disproportionate effect of the MAB deductions on postgraduates who effectively lost 100% of their pay for their participation. Consequently, the branch will continue to press the University Executive Board to return any and all punitive elements of deductions. 

Yours sincerely,

Cardiff UCU

Proposal from Vice-Chancellor regarding deductions, Friday 15th September 2023

Here is the message branch negotiators, Joey Whitfield, Lucy Riglin and Sandy Gould received from Wendy Larner, Vice-Chancellor, after a negotiation meeting on the 13th September 2023. We responded to this letter on the 18th September 2023.

Dear Joey, Lucy and Sandy,

Thank you for our meeting yesterday which I appreciated and found helpful. I look forward to working together in the future.  As discussed, we have a lot in common, including our commitment to, and ambition for our University. I hope that we can continue to engage in this same way with respect, honesty and integrity.  

Having reflected on the matters raised, I would like to offer the following proposal which I hope you will find agreeable. 

For those staff who remained on MAB until its cessation, the University will not make any deductions for MAB participation taken after 1 August 2023, subject to staff members fully re-engaging in and prioritising marking duties, with all marking completed and in Sims by 6 October 2023 at the latest. This proposal is also subject to UCU Cardiff withdrawing all further Strike Days under the current mandate with immediate effect.  

I hope you will agree that this offer is a constructive and balanced approach. 

If Cardiff UCU agree to this proposal, relevant staff will be contacted via their Heads of Schools to confirm arrangements and our Payroll team will be advised to cease deductions. 

I recognise that this has been a difficult period for us all and I know that feelings on MAB run very deep, however I very much hope that this offer will enable us to focus on our local positive relations.

I know that you have a meeting scheduled for this afternoon and would be most grateful if you could confirm your decision by midday, Monday 18th September.

Kind regards,

Professor Wendy Larner

Message from Branch Treasurer regarding Local Fighting Fund

Dear member, 

I am writing to you to appeal for a donation to the Cardiff UCU Fighting Fund. Many of you participated in the ballot for action over pay and conditions and USS with 90% of respondents voting for action short of strike (ASOS). Staff who are taking part in ASOS in the form of the marking and assessment boycott are losing 50% of their pay every month because of their action. In real terms this means they are losing from £1,300 -£2,100 every month. 

Cardiff UCU are supporting members taking part in MAB – paying £30 per day of pay deducted. We have paid out over £17,000 already, but to support those staff who have taken action throughout July we need more funding – at least £15,000. 

If you are not taking ASOS / MAB action please support your colleagues who are by making a minimum of 10% salary donation to the Cardiff UCU Fighting Fund. 

Account Name: UCU Cardiff LA12 Fighting Fund 
Sort code: 60-83-01
Account no: 20341260

Or through the branch GoFundMe (3.15% of your donation is kept by GoFundMe). 

Thank you for your support. 

Yours in solidarity,

Phil Parkes
Cardiff UCU Branch Treasurer 

Letter to UEB regarding MAB, 4th July 2023

This letter was sent to UEB on the 4th July June 2023 and continued a chain of prior correspondence.

The original letter, sent as a PDF is also available.

Dear Cardiff University Executive Board,

Thank you for your letter of the 4th July regarding the status of the marking and assessment boycott (MAB). 

You have said that you “remain willing to engage in further discussions on how we can work together”. It is clear from our conversations and your letters that you want the MAB to be called off and for staff to get work marked. 

You have been less forthcoming about what you can do to address the concerns of staff who are taking action and those other staff and students who support them in doing so. Agreeing a joint letter to UCEA and UCU would be a quick, simple, and easy way to move this national dispute closer to resolution and would be a timely reminder to members that you are taking their concerns seriously. You have repeatedly declined to do this. Please could you explain your reservations about doing so? 

It is not obvious what else you can do to address the concerns of staff who are taking action beyond agreeing to such a joint letter. If you have constructive ideas for other ways of moving the dispute closer to resolution that you would like to communicate to us, then we are available to meet with you. 


Cardiff UCU

Letter from Cardiff University UEB regarding MAB and deductions 4th July 2023

This letter was received from UEB on the 4th July 2023 and continued a chain of prior correspondence.

The PDF version of the letter as originally sent to the branch is available.

4 July 2023

Dear Cardiff UCU Executive

Thank you for your letter of 29 June 2023 in response to our letter of 28 June 2023 regarding a joint statement.

We recognise that the current Marking and Assessment boycott (MAB) is nationally mandated and that you are constrained by many matters outside of your control. As explained during our recent discussions, we too are subject to similar constraints. Our policy in response to the MAB therefore remains unchanged.

However, given the serious impact the MAB is having on our students and staff, we remain willing to engage in further discussions on how we can work together to call off the MAB at Cardiff or at least reduce its impact.

We also remain committed to the work on the issues that we are able to progress and take forward locally and look forward to continuing to engage in the constructive discussions which have shaped this work to date.

Yours sincerely
University Executive Board

Letter to UEB regarding MAB deductions 29th June

This letter was sent to UEB on the 29th June 2023 and continued a chain of prior correspondence. We received a reply to this message on the 4th July.

The original letter, sent as a PDF is also available.

Dear Cardiff University Executive Board,
Thank you for your letter in response to our proposal to make a joint statement.

The Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) last year was mandated locally and individual branches were therefore able to reach local agreements to end the Boycott.

The current MAB is nationally mandated and we are therefore unable to settle this as a single branch. We can collectively contribute to ending the MAB by making a joint statement for UCEA and UCU to negotiate.

The upcoming strike action is a local issue. We are striking in response to your punitive deductions over the MAB, and your reluctance to release a joint statement with us.

If you agree to a joint statement with us, we could cancel some of the strike days. Will you agree to proceed on reaching an agreement on a joint statement?

We will call off all the proposed strike days if an agreement is also made on reducing the deductions you are imposing for participation in the MAB. Will you agree to negotiate with an aim to reduce these deductions?

Sincerely, Cardiff UCU

Reply from University Executive Board regarding deductions (23rd June 2023)

This reply was received in response to our email sent on the 22nd June 2023 and followed a meeting with members of the University Executive Board.

The original PDF sent by UEB is also available to read.

Dear Joey, Sandy, Paul and Cardiff UCU Executive

Thank you for your email following yesterday’s constructive discussions regarding our policy
on withholding pay in response to the Marking and Assessment boycott (MAB). Thank you
also for the opportunity to explore actions which could resolve the situation we find
ourselves in, although we all recognised that we are severely constrained by many matters
outside our control. As you rightly note, there are many points of agreement between us,
especially around the current and future challenges for HE funding and also the positive
work we are jointly progressing here at Cardiff in order to support staff.

As indicated yesterday, we recognise your concerns regarding the varying impact of the
MAB action on individual staff members, but we do not agree that this is the result of
inconsistency in the application of our policy. Rather, it lies in the nature of the action. As
agreed, the impact on our students is also variable and has the potential to have significant
impact on future careers and progression. It is for this reason we are unable to amend our

Our policy for the MAB therefore remains as outlined in our previous correspondence. We
do not accept partial performance, which is a breach of contract. Where a breach does
occur we reserve the right to withhold 100% of pay, however, in the first instance we are
withholding 50% of pay from the date on which the staff member begins to take part in this
form of action and making a discretionary payment of 50% of salary, but reserving our legal
right to withhold pay in full. And as discussed any work that a staff member decides to
carry out will be done on a voluntary basis with no legal entitlement to pay for that work.
In relation to the changes you have mentioned that may benefit staff, we can confirm the

  • Staff receiving deduction in June, where there has been timely notification of their
    action, have already received email communications from their local HR contact
    regarding the start date of deductions, and offered the opportunity to
    confirm their intentions regarding pension contributions. All individuals will be
    able to view their pay slips via the HR portal on Wednesday 28 June 2023 for
    details on their individual circumstances. As confirmed at the meeting,
    deductions taken in June will be for April and May, with June’s deduction taken in
  • Attendance at Exam Boards. The example raised by you at the meeting yesterday
    was specific to a Professional Services colleague whose only partial performance
    was their refusal to attend an exam board. As clarified this partial performance
    related to one day only as there were no other broader MAB activities. We can
    also confirm that having checked our records we have not been notified of any
    Professional Services colleagues’ participating in the MAB at this time, however
    we will add this example to our FAQs.

Regarding the six points you have listed as areas for change in order for you to
recommend to members to call off local strike action, we confirm the following:

  1. Deductions reflect our position on rejection of partial performance and the serious
    impact this action is having on our students.
  2. Deductions start from the point when marking is allocated and will continue until a
    member of staff resumes full normal working duties. This may also result from when
    marking is completed by another individual or when suitable mitigation is agreed by the
    relevant exam board which provides students with a complete and final transcript for
    the academic year.
  3. See above.
  4. Deductions already fall over a number of months as a result of the payroll deadlines.
  5. The approach to pay deductions, i.e. 1/365, is as agreed with UCU previously.
  6. We have endeavoured wherever possible to limit the impact of MAB on colleagues who
    are not directly participating in the MAB action and will continue to do so wherever

Finally, we can confirm that we will be writing to staff shortly with further information
on deductions and dates.

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet and for the constructive nature of our

Yours sincerely
University Executive Board

Email to Sue Midha, Colin Riordan and UEB regarding MAB deductions policies

This email was sent on the 22nd of June. We received a reply on the 23rd.

Dear Sue, Colin, and UEB,

We appreciate the time you took to meet with us this morning. It was good to hear that we do agree on many things, and share many concerns about the future of the sector. 

We are disappointed that Cardiff University does not seem prepared to follow the example of a growing number of institutions in making a joint statement calling on UCEA to restart negotiations with UCU. Restarting negotiations is the best way to end the Marking and Assessment Boycott.

We acknowledge that Cardiff is refusing partial performance with 100% deductions reduced to 50% for voluntary work carried out. Thank you for clarifying that deductions for April and May will come out the June pay packet. We would appreciate if you could send clear communication to staff on this as a matter of urgency. 

We understand that you are currently focused on the single task of getting papers marked and that you see any changes to pay deductions as contrary to that single goal as it would potentially encourage our members to continue with the boycott. We would encourage you to think more holistically about the institution and also to take the future of staff, industrial relations, goodwill, academic standards, and reputation into account.  

We understood that at the present time you are not prepared to move on the policy of deductions. This means we cannot recommend to our members that we call off the upcoming strike days. 

We do believe that some minor changes to your approach could, however, benefit staff and demonstrate goodwill: 

  • Staff with salary being deducted should be informed of the dates for which their salary is being deducted on an individual basis as soon as possible.  
  • Clarity around Exam Board attendance for all staff. The questions in the FAQ around vivasindicate that prep and attendance is the only point affected. You indicated that for staff not attending Exam Boards, that one day of pay would be at 50% deduction. Please add this the FAQ (it currently appears only in the ‘question’ and not the answer).

Here are further changes to the implementation of your policy of deductions that we would like to see. These would result in us recommending to our members that the branch call off our upcoming strike action and media campaign: 

  1. Move towards a more proportional approach to deductions. We were happy to hear about the proportionality in deductions applied to attendance at meetings and PhD vivas. 
  2. Clarity around when deductions will end and a more realistic, consistent approach to the duration of the deductions. We would suggest they be limited to 10 working days (in line with policies at KCL, Lincoln, Bristol). 
  3. Start deductions from the marking deadline rather than date of marking assignment email (in line with Swansea, LSE, Goldsmiths) – the current start date is student submission deadline, which is not when marking is usually done.  
  4. Spread future deductions over a longer period such as 6 months. 
  5. Exclude weekends from deductions. ASOS deductions on non-working days are not appropriate or reflective of contracted working hours. 
  6. Not deduct payment from staff who refuse to mark work from colleagues. They will already have full workloads and the request undermines collegiality. Colleagues who did not have marking assigned as part of their workload are not in breach of contact for not doing it. 

We are willing to call a members’ vote on calling off strike days in response to any changes to the current deductions policy that move towards the proposals above. 

In the absence of written confirmation of material changes to your approach to implementing the deductions, we will continue to prepare for the upcoming strike days.


Cardiff UCU

Reply from UEB regarding marking and assessment boycott of 19th June

This is part of a series of exchanges with the University Executive Board (UEB) on marking and assessment boycott (MAB) deductions. Our previous message was sent on the 8th June, and after eight days we’ve had the following response.

The original PDF received by the branch is also available to read.

Dear Cardiff UCU Executive Committee

We write in response to your further letter of 8 June 2023 regarding the University’s policy in response to the Marking and Assessment Boycott which has resulted in the local dispute and your formal notification in respect of strike days.

As you rightly note, this matter was discussed at the recent JCNF, and our response remains that whilst we respect the right to take industrial action and appreciate how difficult this situation is for our staff, we reject the suggestion that we have acted ‘punitively’ and ‘disproportionately’ in respect of UCU’s action. The assessment and marking boycott called by UCU goes to the heart of the contract of employment for academic staff involved in student learning and teaching and affects the fundamental duties of academic staff. The potential consequences for students are extremely serious. We are withholding pay for not fulfilling the contract. We can legally deduct 100% but have chosen, without prejudice to that right, to withhold a smaller proportion of pay at this stage while we monitor the impact on our students.

Our current focus is on ensuring that our students can graduate and progress appropriately and as such discussions need to be within this context and not limited to our approach on withholding pay. Should Cardiff UCU feel able to contribute to that outcome, we would be supportive of a meeting to explore this further.

Yours sincerely
University Executive Board

Further response to UEB regarding MAB deductions

We sent our first letter to UEB about deductions and strike action at the end of May. We received a response early in June.

The response once again raises the issue of the national nature of the dispute, despite the strike days being called in response to local decisions.

There is a PDF version of this letter.

8th June 2023

Dear UEB,

Thank you for your reply to our letter dated 25th May 2023 regarding the upcoming local industrial action on our dispute related to pay deductions for members participating in the marking and assessment boycott.

In line with what we discussed at the JCNF yesterday, it is clear to us that these deductions are punitive in nature, not least in terms of the timings at which deductions start, and we would appreciate if UEB were prepared to negotiate with us a solution that feels more in line with the good relations between management and the unions and also with staff as a whole that you claim to foster.

As we pointed out, the dispute on pay and working conditions is a national one on which our Vice-Chancellor has a say. Therefore, we urge him to follow the examples of Vice-Chancellors at a growing number of other institutions and call on UCEA to re- enter negotiations with UCU on working conditions and pay, so that we can settle the national dispute.

More relevant to this communication, we would like to clarify that the negotiation we are requesting relates to local decisions on pay deductions and to avoid strike action planned locally, including during graduation, in response to these deductions. We are prepared to call off the local strikes if a fairer and more proportionate approach is taken regarding our salary deductions and we are also prepared to escalate them if the current is maintained.

As such, we request again for UEB to meet with Cardiff UCU to avoid further disruption to our students, namely during graduation and clearing, which are key events for the institution.

Yours sincerely,
Cardiff UCU Executive Committee