Bristol UCU Newsflash, 1st July 2020

1) *Emergency Online Branch Meeting*, Tomorrow, 13:00-14:00, via Microsoft Teams

On the agenda: the University of Bristol Pay & Reward Proposals for 2020

Motion for discussion:

2) UCU Levy

Bristol UCU Officers and Executive Committee agreed yesterday in principle to cover the levy for lower paid members of the branch from branch funds in the event of the levy going ahead in August.

Following the General Secretary’s latest email [link], it is clear that UCU UK Officers are looking to avoid the levy as originally presented late last week – a £15 (one £10 instalment in August; £5, September) direct debit from all HE and FE members’ bank accounts to support UCU’s national Fighting Fund. They also wish to avoid the levy being paid by or paid in full by casualised members as well as members in Further Education. Note that Standard Free, Retired and Attached Members are exempt.  

This, though, is conditional on donations to the Fighting Fund from individuals and branches being sufficient to support the liabilities and ongoing health of the Fund being in place by 28th July.

Bristol Executive Committee agreed yesterday, too, to make a donation to the Fighting Fund, if that avoided levy deductions from individual members.

At the UK UCU levy briefing tomorrow, branch reps will emphasise that UCU has to have a branch donations plan in place to cover the Fighting Fund. This plan needs to ensure a fair system of contributions from striking HE branches, as well as avoiding a scenario in which despite branches (and individuals) making sizeable donations to the Fighting Fund, the levy still goes ahead as planned.

3) ‘Stretchy Campus’ Proposals – Extending the Teaching Week

At our Joint Consultative and Negotiating Committee (JCNC) last week, extending the teaching week (holding lectures and classes on Wednesday afternoon, after 7pm in the evening and on weekends) was mentioned as a future subject of discussion for JCNC by University management.

Crucially, no firm proposals were put to unions; the idea was being socialised with ‘a number of parameters…being explored of which the length of the teaching day was one’. Campus unions – UCU, Unite and UCU – reiterated that members and staff would be deeply concerned if the University formally moved to extend the teaching day or week.

All unions would be concerned if these proposals were being presented as somehow agreed or in train.

4) Early Retirement, Voluntary Severance and Performance Management (Capabilities)

We now know of multiple cases of colleagues in the Faculties of Health Sciences and Science who are being asked to leave the University at very short notice under what is known as Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme (MARS), and that these potential resignations are being linked to poor grant performance primarily.

We would urge any member who has been contacted under this scheme to get in touch with the branch office urgently via as members have the right to representation and support from their trade union in ALL circumstances, as detailed in our Recognition Agreement. Please do not feel that you need to navigate these potentially life-changing events on your own.

Branch officers are adamant that capability performance management [link] should not be presented as the direct result of members not agreeing to early retirement, *voluntary* severance offers.

Declining a voluntary offer in isolation cannot be a reason to trigger a capability performance management process, potentially leading to dismissal.

5) Fixed-Term Contracts & the University of Bristol’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

For a pdf of the letter: