Bristol UCU Newsflash, 6th May 2020

1) Branch Negotiators’ Update

At our Joint Consultative and Negotiating Committee (JCNC) last week, the University’s senior team signalled that they wished to discuss pay at the University of Bristol, as part of the institutional response to the COVID-19 emergency.

Campus union negotiators – UCU, Unite, Unison – have not agreed to any proposals on pay – either a freeze or a cut – or to changes to contracted terms and conditions. As of yet, no proposals have been put to campus unions.

Formally, Joint Union negotiators have requested a ‘data pack’ spelling out the rationale for any proposals. We anticipate having sight of the University’s emergency budget for 2020/21, with its assumptions and proposals, next week at Tuesday’s JCNC. UCU negotiators will report back at the General Meeting on 20th May. Our branch Executive Committee met yesterday to discuss anticipated proposals and a range of possible branch responses.

Bristol UCU negotiators have been keen to establish the financial rationale for current policy and future proposals. Precarious contract staff are already currently facing the cost of the institutional approach to risk. Any discussion about their future and the future of all staff must take into active account alternatives to contracts not being extended and workload simply being added to the already excessive workloads of substantive staff.

Our main priority has been to look to secure members’ jobs, their existing terms and conditions and question the grounds for profound institutional decisions made before the true institutional balance sheet of COVID-19 is known.

As negotiators and a branch, we are faced with choices. Do we enter further ‘scoping’ discussions now before any firm proposals are made? Do we rule out all potential detrimental changes? Do we now look for certain guarantees as a condition of entering further talks? These questions will and should be determined by members. It is imperative (if unfair given current workload) members start discussing among themselves the policy and position of the branch, and feed this back to negotiators and Branch Reps.

Pathway 2 and 3 colleagues have already begun to do so, proposing a branch ‘Motion from Academic Staff on Fixed-Term Contracts from Pathways 2 and 3 regarding the University of Bristol’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic’, demanding ‘the University adopts a ‘jobs first’ response to the current crisis. Securing ongoing employment of existing University staff should be the institutional priority, and the priority of Universities UK (UUK)’ [link].

2) AGM Postponed; 20th May, 13:00-14:00, now Branch Online Meeting

Our planned Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 20 May, 13:00 –14:00 will now become an online general meeting on the issues that we currently face.

There will be no motions or votes taken. Details of the online platform to be used will be in next week’s Flash.

Why delay the AGM? We recently received advice from UCU HQ regarding ‘democratic continuity’.

The UCU advice states that in general, formal decision-making, such as branch elections, should be postponed until ‘normal’ business resumes, and role holders stay in post, until an AGM can be held under ‘normal’ conditions.  The concerns are around ensuring only members are present, registration, quoracy, effective participation and online voting in addition to online platforms and technical support.

Our Branch Executive agreed yesterday that the AGM should be postponed to a date in July, but that if the same obstacles remained at that time it should be moved further into the Autumn. Branch Officer and Executive roles run from 1 August each year.

If we do not manage to meet in July, assuming no contested roles, we would look to co-opt any new Executive members/Branch Officers from 1 August until they can be duly elected. Once we have a date in July, we will provide due notice to members along with a new deadline for any additional nominations. Current nominations for Branch Officers and the Executive Committee 2020-21 roles will be carried over.