Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 7th December 2016

Your Newsflash team are taking a well-earned Christmas and New Year break, so this is the final ‘Flash of term and indeed the year.

As way of a Christmas ‘treat’, we thought we’d review the University of Bristol UCU year, trawling the Newsflash archives for the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs of the Bristol UCU year that has been 2016.

In January we had our first GM of the year. We talked about, among other things, the result of our Workload and Well-Being Survey, in which 56% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘my work responsibilities allow for a healthy work-life balance’. We also hosted From REF to TEF to discuss and organise against the government’s HE Green Paper. Alas, Green became White and White became Bill and now only the House of Lords stands between us and Trump University, although there are other options…

As February rolled along, quite a few things were going on: the South West UCU Black Members’ Network Inaugural Meeting, UCU launched their excellent ‘Rate Your Job’ online tool and Bristol UCU held its ‘Meet UCU for Lunch’ recruitment event. March played temporal host to the start of our national Pay Campaign in earnest, to our letter to the Board of Trustees asking them to reconsider the incorporation of the Prevent Duty at Bristol, and to the publicising of the stark fact: women in UK higher education are paid 12.6% less than men.

In April we were living in interesting times in UCU world. We balloted for industrial action over pay, casualisation and the gender pay gap following our employer’s derisory offer. UCU branch officers also debated, noted but did not approve changes to University of Bristol academic role profiles – local negotiation at time of national unrest. The month of May was come and 79.6% of respondents to our survey said yes, yes to keeping the lecture capture opt out for 2016-17.

June saw our first day of strike action, as documented in a ‘Strike Special’ Newsflash. We had one of the best turnouts in the South West region, if not the country. The month also witnessed a slew of University restructurings (or ‘re-engineerings’) coming into stark relief. These included…deep breath…the International Office, the Graduate School of Education, Archaeology and Anthropology, Communications and Marketing, Institute for Advanced Study, Careers Service, and Student Visa Office. July saw Bristol UCU hit the 1,000 member mark (many of whom were staff on casualised contracts), UCU begin to comprehend the shock of the EU Referendum result. Locally, we issued a letter outlining our concerns about the University’s Brexit response.

In August an EGM was called to vote on the motion ‘this branch believes that UCU should reballot members nationally as regards the current pay dispute’. A change to notice periods in the terms and conditions of grade J and above (profile level b in the Academic Staff Career Pathways) was first mooted by HR, which we were pleased to report last week has been withdrawn. September saw said EGM and nationally, a big win for UCU with staff teaching for a wholly owned subsidiary company of Coventry University, delivered a stunning 100% majority in a ballot for union recognition on a 73% turnout.

In October Newsflash promoted a much under-utilised document, the University of Bristol/Joint Trade Unions Workload Agreement, Bristol UCU shared its views on the Stern Review and noted its disappointment with the new process of advertising all senior academic appointments externally, including Heads of School. In November UCU and NUS held their United for Education demonstration in London, Bristol said TEF Off and campus unions – Unite, Unison and UCU – organised ‘Let’s make Equality Work

As the year draws to a close, and the December nights get darker, perhaps time to reflect on Bristol UCU vis-à-vis the University of Bristol Strategy and its implementation. Branch officers have been focused on our 3 priorities: workloads, progression and promotion and gender equality.

Suffice it to say, the above only skims the surface. When it comes to representing members individually or as a group in the course of a restructuring, a lot of work has gone on, which for reasons of confidentiality cannot be shared in its entirety. Thanks to all the reps and members making a difference in this regard.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Your Newsflash Team