In the context of its  fight against the end of guaranteed pension benefits in the British higher education sector, the University and College Union had written to the Home Office to seek clarity on the exclusion of legal strike action from the annual 20-day limit for unpaid absence from work applying to migrant workers on Tier 2 visas.

At the time, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes simply responded that "full regard will be given to the circumstances" when making decisions about immigration status.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt and shadow chancellor John McDonnell wrote a piece, stressing that migrant workers needed absolute certainty about their rights and calling for an "unequivocal, written guarantee" that days spent taking legitimate strike action would not put migrant workers' immigration status at risk.

Last week, the current Home Secretary Sajid Javid responded positively to the union’s request, saying that he “will be making changes to the guidance and Immigration Rules for migrant workers (under the Tier 2 and 5 immigration routes) and their sponsors. The specific change will add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers”.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'International staff make a vital contribution to our country and we are delighted that they can now play a full role at work without fear of reprisal. All workers should be able to join their colleagues in defending their employment rights.

'Strike action is never taken lightly, but the previous lack of clarity meant migrant workers who needed to take unpaid leave for other reasons could not risk taking part for fear of risking their right to remain in the country.'

Source: “Home secretary changes rules to ensure migrant workers can take strike action”, UCU, 12 July 2017.