Further legal guidance from UCU: action short of a strike (ASOS), “voluntary duties”, and how to refuse them

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady this week released the following guidance:
“Following our strike action in higher education branches last year, UCU members have been taking ASOS. A number of you have asked me how you can use ASOS to help the union achieve its objectives, and specifically which ‘voluntary duties’ we are asking you not to perform. UCU has now produced detailed, updated guidance based on legal advice about the range of activities you may be able to refuse to undertake.
Industrial disputes are about more than picket lines and there are plenty of other ways you can join in and increase our leverage. This guidance should allow you to take a more expansive approach to ASOS and increase the pressure on employers to address the issues which we are in dispute over.

In particular, we are asking you to withdraw, where possible, from activities relating to the REF, TEF, the new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), and the National Student Survey (NSS). 

These activities are important to employers but they damage our sector. They rely on inappropriate metrics of ‘quality’ that create perverse incentives and prevent us from doing the front line teaching, research and professional services work that really matters. Exercises like the REF tend to increase our workloads, waste money that could be invested in staff, and exacerbate our anxiety and insecurity by subjecting us to unfair, unhelpful performance management procedures. Often our involvement in these activities is voluntary. It’s time to challenge the unsustainable ‘goodwill economy’ which our employers depend on to make them work.

Please talk to your colleagues and fellow members about the activities you are withdrawing from and publicise what you are doing as much as possible via social media, using the #UCUASOS hashtag.”