1) USS and Four Fights
UCU’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) met on Monday to agree the next steps in our current USS and 4 Fights disputes.
The timetable for action on both USS + 4 Fights is:
- Monday 18 October – ballots open
- Thursday 4 November – ballots close
- Monday 8 November – HEC meets to consider results
This follows UCU’s recent Special Higher Education Conference [link] which agreed to ballot members for industrial action in both disputes, to organise a Get The Vote Out campaign for both disputes, and to take any industrial action during this current term (before Christmas).
Bristol UCU’s Pension Working Group has replied to a recent University email concerning the proposed detrimental changes to the scheme [link].
The reply set out why a Grade J lecturer could lose between 14 and 54% of the value of their USS pension, the route out of this crisis by immediately revoking these employer-driven proposals, and why a new valuation of the scheme is urgently required.
2) ‘Return’ to Campus
Last week, Bristol UCU reps argued that the decision to hold large welcome lectures for over 250 students was a ‘reckless’ decision, contrary to University Risk Reduction Principles which suggested a 132 limit for rooms with a capacity of 200+.
Individual room risk assessments, information concerning reductions in room capacity and those rooms removed from timetabling, and individual room ventilation data have not been shared with students and staff.
While the University has clearly invested in COVID-19 secure measures, including improved ventilation, the absence of information for staff and students on these matters is telling. Bristol UCU does not believe that it should be the duty of individual staff or students to chase down this information: it should be on, for example, SharePoint.
The University Teaching Guide was only shared on Tuesday when many colleagues had already started to use teaching spaces. While we have received welcome reassurance regarding signage expecting face coverings/masks, we also need more guidance as to what we should do in an emergency where, for example, ventilation and/or CO2 monitors are matters for concern. There should be a clear line of reporting.
The University is regularly consulting with Public Heath England in Bristol and the South West to update risk assessments, which are also scrutinised by the University’s own Scientific Advisory Group. As levels of infection and risk of severe illness in the community decline, so the advice shifts, for example, regarding numbers permitted in rooms.
Note that if COVID rates do ramp up again, caps on numbers and other measures will shift back. The University’s contingency plans for an outbreak, which Bristol UCU has requested sight of, are currently with the Department for Education and will only be released to us when approved. But then we have been told they will be made available on University webpages.
3) New Website
4) Wellbeing Spotlight Series:
During this autumn term, the University will be hosting a number of Wellbeing events or ‘Spotlights’ for all University of Bristol staff:
‘We want to refresh memories, signpost to new starters, and ensure that all staff have a full understanding of our wellbeing provision at the University and how to access it’