Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 21st September 2016

1) Workload and Wellbeing Report

Our Workload and Wellbeing Report is now available to peruse [PDF]. The Report will inform our key branch priority – workloads!

James Thompson, our new branch Vice President, is now branch lead on workloads. If you have points you wish to raise, please let him know:

2) Pay Dispute – Branch Emergency General Meeting Last Week

By a large majority (around 84%) of members present at the EGM on Wednesday last week, the branch now believes that UCU should reballot members nationally as regards the current pay dispute.

This position will be echoed by branch reps at the UCU Higher Education Briefing on 27th September in Birmingham.

The briefing, one of a number of regional briefings, has been called in order to feedback as regards the autumn phase of the dispute. Bristol UCU has already submitted their response to the 4 questions that will frame the debate [PDF].

Please note the position of the other campus unions Unite and Unison: they are currently balloting their members for strike action, with a proposed strike day of the 11th October. Both Unite and Unison recommend rejecting the offer and taking action. The results will be known shortly. Unison locally voted to reject the offer in a consultative ballot.

The next key decision-making meeting for UCU is the Higher Education Committee (HEC) of Friday, 14th October. HEC will decide how our stated policy – an autumn setting, marking and assessment boycott if the dispute is unresolved – is to be practically implemented. Given the timeframe, branch officers have asked the HEC Secretary to move HEC forward as a matter of urgency, to immediately follow the briefings.

3) Proposed Change to Termination of Contract/Notice Period

At our ‘UCU Informal’ meeting with Human Resources (HR) on 8th September, Bristol UCU reps stressed they did not accept proposed changes to the notice period in the terms and conditions of lecturers, research/teaching senior associates and higher grades.

The current clause states:

5.1 Members of staff are required to give the University 3 months’ notice of termination of their employment. Staff who have teaching responsibilities are required to give 3 months’ notice in writing, expiring on 31 December, 31 March, 30 June or 30 September unless varied by agreement with the manager.

Proposed clause reads:

5.1 Members of staff are required to give the University 3 months’ notice of termination of their employment. Staff with teaching responsibilities are required to give three months’ notice to expire at a date outside of recognised teaching blocks and their associated assessment periods, unless varied by agreement with their Head of School.

The vast majority of the feedback from reps and members was not supportive of this change. In short, members felt that the proposed change would potentially lead to a substantial extension of the notice period in a number of cases from the 3-month principle of the current terms and conditions.

Moreover, we are surprised that the new clause does not contain dates (unlike other universities), instead making reference to the more nebulous notion of ‘…associated assessment periods’, thus leaving far too much scope for interpretation.

The proposed change is being revisited.

4) London Met and Coventry Universities

As the Government’s HE Bill rumbles on, two post-92, teaching-intensive institutions are at the sharp end of Higher Education ‘reform’ in the UK.

London Met UCU has voted by 63% for strike action and for the UCU to begin “grey-listing” of the institution in response to mass redundancies and the victimisation of UCU reps Mark Campbell and David Hardman.

Rush messages of support to

For further details:

At Coventry University, better news: a successful vote for UCU recognition!

On 2 September, staff teaching at CU Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary company of Coventry University, delivered a stunning 100% majority for union recognition on a 73% turnout in a ballot held by the Central Arbitration Committee to decide whether UCU could negotiate for teaching staff.

If nothing else this sends out the message that UCU represents this emerging and highly casualised workforce, a message that chimes in with the comments about casualisation at the recent Bristol UCU EGM, about the need to put anti-casualisation at the front and centre of our campaigning and negotiating.

5) Harriet Bradley, ‘Managing and Mismanaging in the Academy’

In solidarity with our former Branch President, we share her insightful comments made a few years back on the cult of academic managerialism, with Bristol as her prime case study: