Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 15th November 2017

1) Finance Services and Professional Services Restructurings

Campus trade unions have found themselves faced with a large number of restructurings within Professional Services. These include, among others, Timetabling and Examinations, Finance Services, Student Wellbeing Service and IT Services.

The restructurings in Timetabling and Exams, and in Finance Services have now finalised their internal selection of staff for their new structures. Both have led to the redundancy or downgrading of staff.

In the case of Finance Services, there has been the redundancy or resignation of at least 15 senior staff from Grades M to Grade J, including the Chief Financial Officer’s two immediate deputies. UCU reps are deeply saddened to see the loss of so many knowledgeable and experienced staff. Unfortunately, our membership is low in Finance Services. This has meant that we could not be as effective in challenging procedures as we would have liked.

The human cost of these Professional Services restructurings, the stress and strain, is something that UCU is acutely aware of.

2) USS Update

A big thank you to our Pension Working Group and their Powerpoint presentation [ppt] at last week’s branch General Meeting. The presentation emphasised to members the rude health of the USS scheme, the 86.6% of members voting in the UCU consultative ballot who support industrial action to defend USS pensions and the local UoB view.

We have urged the Chief Financial Officer and University management to share their institutional position with UoB USS members.

Last week UCU also held a Conference of pre-92 USS branches ‘to determine a response to proposals in respect of USS’. Bristol UCU reps attended.

To recap, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt wrote to Universities UK — the body representing USS institutional management — at the beginning of November, stating that if UUK did not signal their commitment, by Monday, 13th November, to a joint agreement with UCU over changes to USS then ‘we will consider a trade dispute to exist between you and your employees’.

As of now, there has been no news of a positive UUK answer.

In summary, the Pre-92 USS branches conference agreed to a) to make clear publicly the rude health of the scheme — a £8.3bn surplus (!) not the £5bn deficit pushed by USS hawks –, b) not accept detrimental changes to USS members’ benefits, and c) to launch a timely industrial ballot in the event of unfruitful negotiations with UUK reps in the final USS Joint Negotiation Committees of this calendar year.

UCU will also launch a national USS campaign, targeted at politicians and press, in order to undermine the highly political deficit pretext for the proposed detrimental changes to staff pensions.

3) Progression and Promotion

At the branch meeting last week, we also discussed the proposals from the University’s Review of Progression and Promotion

These proposals, initial responses and other details were ably summed up in a presentation [ppt] to the branch meeting.

Crucially, from a UCU perspective, we note that there is a shared understanding between all University parties that changes to progression and promotion at the University of Bristol are a matter of trade union consultation and joint agreement. The negotiation period is also noteworthy — around two years.

4) PGRs Go Free

Reminder: UCU membership is now free for postgrads who teach. Bristol UCU is already seeing a welcome spike in membership.

Members emailing postgrads in their School or Department, publicising the free membership, has made a big difference to uptake. Please do so, if you have not done so already.

NB: if you were a postgrad who teaches member before the free membership offer, please make sure to change your UCU details to get your free membership:

5) NEC Elections

Ever voted in a UCU National Executive Committee (NEC) election?

UCU NEC is the most important decision-making body in UCU, outside our annual Congress.

Who sits on it, who votes which way, determines NEC policy.

On issues such as Brexit and UCU’s response, the NEC’s role is pivotal. The HE component of the NEC needs to reflect the policy priorities of university staff.

NEC elections are now open. Please don’t ignore the envelope. Vote ASAP.