Bristol UCU Newsflash, 26th March 2020

1) Message From The Branch President

Dear Colleagues,
It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for the branch (!). Like many others, I’m in the second week of family isolation with two small children after our three-year old developed a cough (he’s now on the mend, and seriously noisy). In recent days, branch officers have been working closely with our fantastic colleagues in UNISON and UNITE to safeguard members. We’ve been discussing a range of issues with the university from building access to the transition to online teaching.
As always, the solidarity of colleagues has been very apparent, as has a deep concern for the most vulnerable members of our community.
All best,

2) Branch Priorities – COVID-19 Institutional Response

The main points of branch negotiating currently are
  • Strike Pay Deductions. We have formally asked the University to cancel strike pay deductions. The University could also consider postponing future deductions, or adopt other mitigating measures. Other universities – Kings College London, Southampton, St Andrews and Sheffield – have adopted such measures in response to the current exceptional demands placed on their staff.
  • Dependent’s Leave. Branch reps are currently waiting for the University’s latest proposal.
  • Restructurings. UCU and Unison reps are in talks with HR to discuss whether a ‘pause’ on restructurings, particularly if in the very early stages, is feasible.
  • Online Transition and Workload. We are discussing with the University the demands of transitioning to online teaching provision and the changes to assessment and quality assurance.
  • Lecture Recordings. We are in communication with the University on the use of lecture recordings. Fundamentally, any use of recordings should continue to require the lecturer’s explicit consent.
  • Securing Jobs.  The recruitment freeze has meant fixed-term UCU members are concerned about their future reemployment. Branch reps are continuing to press for, in the case of research staff, the use of grant monies saved during this period to extend the grant period.  In the case of fixed-term teaching staff, these colleagues are integral to the institution’s teaching provision, and are needed more than ever.

3) Going Forward

Bristol UCU branch reps have been at pains to stress the exceptional nature of the current situation, and to note the hard work being carried out across the University by all staff.

There have also been some excellent steps taken, for example, the decision by the University to pay a merit payment, starting at £250, to frontline essential member of staff such as cleaners and estates staff. This was unanimously agreed by joint trade union reps – Unite, Unison and UCU. UCU reps welcomed this step as recognizing the work of staff who do not have the option of remote working.

UCU nationally and locally welcomes the putting on hold of REF2021. We trust that this allows Bristol and other institutions to introduce and enforce the necessary workload adjustment to prioritise the provision of teaching. Staff with teaching and research responsibilities, pathway 1 lecturers, should see a different tone and approach to research performance management and internal audit deadlines in this respect.

The University has also guaranteed Hourly-Paid Teachers payment for the hours they are scheduled to deliver this year.
UCU branch reps are keen to work closely with the University to address the local issues highlighted above.

4) Claiming From Local Hardship Fund

HPT? Fixed-Term? Grade J and below? Don’t forget: you can still claim from our Hardship Fund, if you haven’t already done so.