Making the MAB work at Keele

Dear colleagues, 

As you know, UCU has called a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) and our employer, along with some other institutions, has announced a policy of 50% salary deductions for staff taking part in this action

The branch has already challenged the 50% rate as punitive and unethical and will continue to do so. But this policy from our employer has left some Keele UCU members concerned that the MAB might be unworkable and unwinnable before it even begins. 

This email sets out a local Keele UCU strategy for a MAB that is achievable, winnable, and minimises financial harm to all members. 

But to make this strategy work, we need you

There are four ways to take part in the MAB action at Keele, and in order for our action to have a fighting chance all members should plan to participate in at least one of these four ways.

4Ms – four ways to get involved in the MAB

  1. Marking: Boycott marking and assessment duties (when and if it will have an impact)
  2. Money: Practice financial solidarity through wage sharing: pledge your willingness to donate approx. 10% of your take home salary which will be used to support others taking deductions.
  3. Morale: Support and defend colleagues who are boycotting marking and assessment duties (including by not covering their marking)
  4. Mapping: Become a MAB rep for your school/department – act as point of contact and help organise strategic action in your section

Each type of action is explained in more detail below. 

You will note that this strategy does not involve all members with marking and assessment duties boycotting those duties. Instead, some members whose action will impact the university will boycott at the most impactful time, while other members will support that action by organising and practicing active solidarity including through wage sharing. This means that those who are boycotting marking will be supported and able to keep this action up as long as needed for us to resolve the dispute. 

The wage sharing strategy represents the official position of Keele UCU branch following an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote at last week’s quorate EGM. 

Keele UCU have set up a dedicated MAB organising committee who you can contact with any questions via this email:


Some members will take part in action through boycotting their marking and assessment duties

We want to support members who are in the best strategic position to boycott marking. Being in the best strategic position may mean that: you have a relatively large semester two marking load across one or more modules; your boycott will impact progression and graduation processes and so impact the university; your marking is less likely to be covered by colleagues. Or there may be other factors that make your action impactful.

If you feel you are in a good strategic position to participate to boycott marking and assessment, you should take the following steps:

Complete this Google form for mapping modules and members


And contact your local MAB rep in your school/department (if you know who this is – we’ll share the details separately soon) and/or contact Keele UCU MAB committee. 

If you are considering boycotting marking and assessment, you will also need to consider when it will be most strategic to start doing so, as deductions will apply from when members start to declare their participation. It is not advisable to start the boycott until your action will have the most impact, and you should discuss when this will be with your local rep and/or the MAB committee. 

Our aim is that all members who boycott marking and assessment will be supported through wage sharing (unless members feel they are in a financial position to not require this). However, financial support cannot be guaranteed until sufficient members pledge to wage share (see below). Once you have agreed with your local MAB rep that it will be strategic for you to take action, we will share with you information about how to pre-emptively apply to the branch hardship fund for financial support that you will receive if and when deductions begin. 


We need some members to take part in the MAB by pledging that they will be willing to donate a portion of their salary. The amount you pledge should be equivalent to half a day per week or 10% of one month’s take home salary for each month that MAB deductions are taken.

For every ONE member who actively boycotts marking and assessment duties, we will need four colleagues to be ready and willing to donate 10% of salary. The matching of boycotters with wage sharers will be anonymous. 10% of salary is the pledge we need, but members in challenging financial circumstances can pledge less. Every pledge counts. 

Please make your wage sharing PLEDGE NOW, using this form:


Note we say ‘be ready and willing to’ donate. In previous MAB action, agreements to stop action between UCU and employers have required that no deductions are made, so there is every chance that no members will need to make any financial sacrifice if we organise impactful action. 

IMPORTANT: we still need you to PLEDGE NOW so we know how many members are ready and willing to wage share. Some members who pledge may end up boycotting marking instead, in which case they would not be asked to follow through on their pledge.

All pledges will be processed via the local Keele UCU hardship fund ( Any colleagues facing deductions for the MAB will be eligible to apply for support to the fund.

We need to be realistic: we can ONLY proceed with this action if pledges are made, so that the colleagues at the sharp end of the action feel supported/protected by colleagues in the event of these deductions going ahead. We already have the equivalent of THIRTY wage sharing pledges in place, but we will need many more to make this strategy a success. 

Please anticipate communications from UCU members about the need to pledge wage sharing. 


All members should take part in the action by practicing active solidarity towards colleagues. An important aspect of this is not covering marking and assessment duties that a colleague is boycotting as part of the MAB. Note that refusing to cover a colleague’s marking does not mean that you are participating in the MAB (and will therefore need to declare action and be subject to deductions). It falls under working to contract under ASOS which includes not covering for colleagues. This form of solidarity is essential for an impactful MAB. 

We anticipate that those members who will be boycotting marking and assessment duties may experience pressures and challenges, and will need active support to keep their morale up from other members. We will be organising regular MAB drop-in meetings via Zoom, starting from next week. These will provide a forum for support and advice.

You can also pledge additional types of support/morale building activity via the form above, and/or email the MAB committee with suggestions on


MAB reps are helping the MAB UCU committee to organise strategic action in their area. They are doing this by speaking to colleagues about the Keele UCU MAB strategy and mapping where action will be most impactful. We already have MAB reps in place for some schools/departments, but not all. Please contact us, using the MAB email below, to offer your help as a MAB rep. 

There are four ways to take part in this action: boycott marking, pledge money, boost morale, and support mapping. All members must be willing and ready to participate in one or more of these ways for the MAB to win. We can win this fight, but not without all members taking part. 

In solidarity, 

Keele MAB committee