Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 24th October 2018

1) Pay & Equality Ballot Result

The results of the pay and equality ballot are in. Bristol UCU members voted by 72% to 28% in favour of taking industrial action, and 81.7%/18.3% in favour of action short of a strike up to and including a marking and assessment boycott. Unfortunately, we did not meet the legal minimum, a turnout threshold of 50% of eligible Bristol members voting, for the ballot to be trigger strike action.

Our result was replicated at other universities. While ballots showed big majorities for strike action, in excellent turnouts, most branches did not get the required 50%. For the record, this is the highest vote that UCU has achieved in a UK pay and equality ballot.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Get The Vote Out campaign, reps and members who encouraged their colleagues to vote and spread the UCU ‘Vote Yes, Vote Now’ word.

While the result is disappointing, it demonstrates that UCU members are willing to take action on not just falling pay but also on the gender pay gap, unmanageable workloads and the widespread use of precarious contracts. Things have clearly changed post the Great University Strike, with Bristol UCU now a much stronger, dynamic branch than a year ago. Plus, with the USS pension dispute still very much ongoing, the result may indicate that members in Bristol and other USS-participating institutions are ‘keeping their powder dry’.

To casualised colleagues, those colleagues put on precarious, fixed-term and/or hourly-paid contracts, please note Bristol UCU’s Anti-Casualisation Claim:

With your and Bristol UCU members’ support, we can address the Sports Direct model of academic and Professional Services casualisation here at Bristol.

2) In Celebration of Women, On The Day They Stop Getting Paid, Thursday 1 November, 19:00-21:00, Mott Lecture Theatre, Physics

On 1st November, the University of Bristol effectively stops paying women for the rest of the year, as a consequence of the 16.2% gender pay gap.

To mark this day, building on the huge success of our International Women’s Day event (which coincided with the submission of our Gender Pay Claim [link] earlier this year), UCU invites you to an evening of poetry and ideas, in celebration of women in our community.

Please register at Eventbrite if you are planning to attend:

Local writers will be sharing their work, and we’ll discuss some of the structural barriers that women face within the University and beyond. Everyone welcome. Please join us for a drink afterwards!

Speakers include:

  • Vicky Knight (President of UCU)
  • Lizzy Turner (Poet)
  • Caragh Wells (Senior Lecturer at Bristol University)
  • Nicola Heaney (Poet)
  • Sumita Mukherjee (Senior Lecturer at Bristol University)
  • Rebecca Pert (Writer, and winner of the Cheltenham Literature Festival First Novel competition)
  • Samantha Walton (Poet, and Reader in Modern Literature at Bath Spa University)

3) USS

Last week UCU national negotiator Sam Marsh exposed ‘pertinent information’ which, in his analysis ‘showed the scheme had a “substantial” long-term surplus which did not support USS’s conclusion that more cash was needed to maintain its pension commitments’.

Sam’s finding, which represent a year plus of dogged financial scrutiny, suggests that if USS ‘maintains its current investment strategy and contribution rate, it is projected to have enough money to cover the benefit payments which members are expected to accrue in the future…USS failed to recognise it because its controversial ‘Test 1’, a key part of its valuation, was based on incomplete calculations of asset performance and contributions into the Scheme’.

Members who have not replied the current USS consultation over planned contribution hikes may wish to use this USS Briefs-produced ‘USS consultation response template’:

It notes ‘the Scheme does not have a basis for its claim that the proposed 10.6% contribution increase is necessary. By insisting on it, and by failing to resile from its flawed valuation, USS is damaging members’ trust in the Scheme and compromising the Scheme’s long-term health’