Bristol UCU Newsflash, 21st June: Crucial Phase of Our Marking and Assessment Boycott – Exam Boards, Internal/External Examiners, and the ‘10 Days at 50% Pay Cap’

1) Crucial Phase of Our Marking and Assessment Boycott: Exam Boards, Internal/External Examiners, and the ‘10 Days at 50% Pay Cap’

This week, week 10 of our Marking and Assessment Boycott, we have entered a crucial phase in our pay and conditions dispute. Exam Boards are upon us, proxy marks are in the process of being made up, and the prospect of unclassified awarded degrees moves ever closer. Managers and Education Directors are marking to break the strike; assessment is being assessed by those with no direct experience of the units that they are marking. A crisis is brewing.

You would have seen the Internal Examiners Guidance [link] in Monday’s Newsflash. ‘[T]he University of Bristol UCU branch suggests academic staff may wish to attend their School/Department/Subject exam boards…to prevent progression, award and classification decisions if allowing them would contravene Exam Board regulations’. For External Examiners, see our ‘Guidance/Template Response to University of Bristol External Examiners, MAB 2023’ [link].  

Members will likely now be aware of a 10-day cap at 50% of pay (pro rata for part-time staff) for staff participating in the Boycott before and up to the 3rd of July.  

The University has made a welcome change to MAB pay deductions policy.  

If staff are reported to payroll by their line manager as participating in the MAB (because, for example, of missing marks), or choose to report their participation via the online reporting form, the maximum amount of pay deducted will be 5 days/10 days x 0.5 between 20th April-19th June, plus the 10-day ‘firebreak’ between 20th and 30th June. This would come out of July’s pay: no deductions have been made as of yet in May’s and June’s.  

In short, the total number of days on which pay would have been withheld has been cut by 50 to 10.

From 3rd July, if you are deemed to be participating in the MAB, reported as participating by a line manager, or if self-reported, the threat and policy of 50% of pay for every day participating returns.  

We note three other salient points:

  • The University has asked that this positive change in policy, this goodwill gesture, be considered as grounds to rule out any further targeted strike action in our local branch dispute over pay docking, before the end of our current mandate
  • The University has asked the branch to encourage members to complete the online reporting form 
  • Withheld pay will be put into ringfenced School pots that can be used to support staff development.

There is the outstanding issue of what this means for TSR/HPT members participating in the MAB. Branch reps have sought urgent clarification: the pro-rata calculation of the 10-day cap for part-time staff presumably refers to salaried part-time staff.

Although a welcome step, the question for branch members vis-à-vis our local dispute over punitive pay docking is whether this positive change in policy is sufficient to suspend our local dispute and call off further strike action before September. Reps and the Branch Executive Committee meet Tuesday next week to discuss. Any final decision will be a decision of branch members.  

It is important to reiterate that what has changed, in essence, is that there is now a 10-day cap*0.5 for MAB participation from the start of the MAB to July 3rd. Our prosecution of the Boycott, in our UK-wide dispute, continues for the time being.