Bristol UCU Newsflash, 3rd April 2020

This is an uncertain and stressful period for us all. Branch reps are currently engaged with and negotiating on a range of pressing issues (see below) with managers, members and UCU Regional/UK officials. Members are encouraged to contact and/or speak to their School/Department/Divisional reps with any concerns they have. For more on strike pay deductionsfixed-term staff meetingfurloughinglecture recordings and hardship claims, read on.

1) Staff ‘Furloughing’

Bristol UCU reps along with Unite and Unison reps continue to negotiate over the University’s response to and use of the new Job Retention Scheme which ‘provides a grant to reimburse employers for 80 per cent of an employee’s wage of up to £2,500 per month for those designated as “furloughed”’.

As a priority, we continue to push for the Scheme to cover Temporary Service Staff out of work from 9th April, and to call for an update on whether this Scheme will cover fixed-term contract research and teaching staff.

From the University’s point of view, there is a good deal of uncertainty around the scheme, not least because of the public element of universities funding: ‘where employers receive public funding for staff costs and that funding is continuing, they expect employers to use that money in the normal way to meet staffing costs’. Universities UK and UCU are lobbying the government to clarify the Scheme for Higher Education employers

One thing is clear: the introduction of any University of Bristol Job Retention ‘furloughing’ Scheme is a matter of collective bargaining at the University, and requires the active involvement of UCU, Unison and Unite negotiators, and the formal consent of their respective branches.  Staff cannot be furloughed without their agreement.


2) Strike Pay Deductions

KCL, Southampton, St Andrews, Ulster, Newcastle, Birkbeck have changed their position, and either postponed or cancelled these deductions in this period of financial hardship – why hasn’t the University of Bristol?

Bristol UCU continue to call on University leaders and trustees to discuss and negotiate possible mitigating measures before the next pay day.

Bristol’s current hardline position is out of step with others in HE and with supporting their staff through these challenging times.

We have been contacted by many members who noticed that their pension deductions were reduced this month, despite asking for them to be maintained whilst taking strike action. Members will have also seen the email concerning these incorrect March 2020 deductions:

UCU & several staff members have flagged an issue regarding strike pay deductions and the associated pension contributions and asked that we check we had processed this correctly.  We have now investigated and can confirm we have indeed got this wrong this month.

Finance will ensure that this is corrected in your April pay packet. They will also contact USS to confirm that this will have no impact on individuals’ pension position.

Finance have emailed all employees affected and are happy to help with any queries members may have.

3) Fixed-Term PW2/3 Online Meeting, Wednesday, 8th April, 13:00 – 14:00

Pathways 2 and 3 staff on fixed-term contracts are invited to an online meeting next week to discuss the possible impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on current job security and future employment prospects.

The meeting is next week, Wednesday at 13:00 – 14:00.

It will take place on Zoom. Click here to register and you will receive the link you need to join the meeting:

4) Lecture Recordings

As the University of Bristol transitions to online learning, the concern among lecturing UCU members is that their Re/Play lecture recordings, currently being used and adapted as material in alternative teaching provision for 2019/20, will be used as an institutional online archive from which material can be drawn to substitute for future lectures.

For Bristol UCU and the University, the policy is that lecturers should

a) be asked before any use of their lecturer recordings i.e. Re/Play lectures

b) should give their explicit consent to that use
c) make sure that the use of their lecture recording is time-limited e.g. for this extended academic year by making that clear in the permission communication (e.g. email)
d) In the case of using lecture recordings to replace lectures that were not given in the strike, the lecturer can and should refuse permission if asked

Members are, as always, highly committed to supporting students. Fundamentally, it should simply be a matter of courtesy for lecturers to be asked if their lecture recordings can be used in these extraordinary circumstances.

5) Hardship Fund Claims

Please note that local branch hardship claims will not be processed over the extended University closure period 9th-20th April.

Thanks to Mercedes Villalba, Membership/Recruitment Officer, for her hard work processing 100s of claims.