Bristol UCU Newsflash, 23rd August 2023: University of Bristol/Bristol UCU MAB Arrangement

1) University of Bristol/Bristol UCU MAB Arrangement

As shared on Monday with UCU members, University of Bristol and University of Bristol UCU branch have reached an arrangement on the operation of the marking and assessment boycott at Bristol and the treatment of staff currently participating in the boycott.

What does this statement mean for staff participating in the MAB as of now? What is the arrangement in its simplest terms?

The arrangement:

  • secures a return of a proportion of pay withheld after the 5th July 2023 for members still participating in the boycott after August 1st. The University would return the full amount of any deduction that would otherwise be taken for participation in the boycott during August (equivalent to 7 days pay/14 working days*0.5 up to and including 18 August). Nb annual leave is taken into account in the eligible working days calculation in July.
  • acknowledges that, if possible, any outstanding assessments should be returned by 1st September in readiness for September Exam Boards
  • asks Bristol UCU to work with their members to minimize any disruption during any period of targeted strike action, as per local agreements on pay structure negotiation and a forthcoming joint statement, and to engage in constructive dialogue with the University to further good relations and partnership working in the months ahead.

This arrangement on withheld pay is conditional on staff declaring the date of the end of their participation in the boycott via the online reporting form, the same form to inform the University if they choose to recommence participation in the boycott.

In short, no deductions from 1st August for those who were participating in August and who now report and engage in returning marks by 1 September where possible.

Please note:

  • for members coming off this boycott, this means that managers will expect unmarked marking to be marked.
  • it is important that members enter into a conversation with their line managers as to the reasonable return of marking before 1st September.  
  • it is not the case that the MAB net 9.5 July days cap is conditional on returning marks by a certain date before September 1st; rather, on reporting via the online reporting form. Given members may have annual leave scheduled, or would have to, for example, rearrange their work if on Research Leave, line managers must discuss colleagues’ work patterns as regards the return of unassessed work by September.
  • Bristol UCU or UCU members do not agree with the punitive pay deductions or the rationale by which UCU members have had pay withheld.

This arrangement does not call off the boycott at Bristol locally or nationally (…neither the University or the local branch of UCU can action its cessation …the mandate to take part in the boycott and planned strike action is still live). Instead, this arrangement secures the moderation and mitigation of pay withheld for MAB participation, an arrangement to the benefit of Bristol MAB-ers given current circumstances.

Members in prioritized workplaces who have been participating in the MAB up to now, in August, will still have access to the branch Salary Share Scheme Crowdfunder. They and all members who have suffered deductions for participation in the MAB and/or strike action have access to the Local Hardship Fund and national Fighting Fund [link].

What are those current circumstances? At the University of Bristol, and those branches at which the withholding of marking and assessment is still evident, members face pay deductions in August and September, with their boycotted and reassigned marking to complete in early October, following the end of our mandate at the end of September, and with no prospect of employers returning to the table let alone an improved offer before the mandate’s end.  

Action in pursuit of our pay and conditions dispute is now dependent effectively on the result of the new ballot of HE members to be called shortly.  

With what leverage we had locally — University management are well aware of the impact of the MAB at Bristol and the numbers participating — our branch negotiators have arranged a cut in the extent of pay withheld.  

A branch members’ meeting will be called on Wednesday, 6th September. This meeting will also be an opportunity to discuss our local pay structure autumn negotiations (a new pay structure for our A-L grades), as well as discuss our, by-then-released joint statement with the University on the pay and conditions dispute.

We will also have an opportunity to consider the ‘Bristol UCU will work with their members to minimize any disruption during any period of targeted strike action’ clause part of the joint statement.  

Reaching the end of a round of industrial action is never straightforward. To repeat, given circumstances on the ground, this arrangement secures a mitigation in the extent of pay withheld in return for staff declaring the end of their MAB participation, returning, if possible, their marking by 1st September, and as regards the prosecution of our pay and conditions dispute, turning to the ballot to renew or not our mandate in the autumn.