Bristol UCU Newsflash, 13th September: End of the MAB & Bristol UCU September Strike Action MAB Arrangement

1) End of the MAB & Bristol UCU September Strike Action MAB Arrangement

Welcome to the first Newsflash of the new 23-24 academic year.

Last week we, UCU, withdrew our national marking and assessment boycott, announced 5 further days of strike action, and this week on Monday, we launched our ‘Get The Vote Out’ strike ballot ‘from Tuesday 19 September’. ‘The ballot will run until Friday 3 November and is aggregated. A successful ballot will renew the union’s existing strike mandate and allow staff at every university being balloted to take industrial action well into 2024’.

As regards the MAB, it is now officially over, following the result of a member-wide consultation requesting its suspension, with colleagues returning to any outstanding marking.  

Unfortunately, that return to marking for members who mark, a return that was always going to be the case, is not accompanied by an improved offer on the part of employers over and above the 5% (for most UCU members) April-August split pay uplift and the terms of reference on precarity, workload and pay gaps.

That our national strike action has not sufficiently shifted our employers is the case. This does not reflect the dutiful efforts of MAB-ing colleagues from April until now, nor make futile the support that this union has had in its campaign until now. As a branch, we have managed to secure, at least, the MAB Arrangement option for MAB-ing members to mitigate the extent of pay docking here at Bristol (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).

To support ‘until August’ MAB-ing colleagues, if you are not a MAB-ing colleague, and you haven’t done so already, please do donate part of your monthly salary to support colleagues in MAB-ing workplaces:

As regards the further 5 days of strike action, as part of securing the MAB Arrangement, Bristol UCU branch has agreed ‘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 embeds and secures the local progress to date, as to be evidenced in the forthcoming joint statement and local pay structure negotiations with our fellow campus unions. Note that University of Bristol UNISON stood down from their local action to agree the local pay structure negotiations  

As discussed at the branch meeting last week, minimizing disruption will mean, in discussion with local management, not organising campus picket lines or similar ‘disruptive’ events to the extent to which we have in previous tranches of strike action.  

As underlined at the branch meeting and in previous comms, as a branch we cannot call off nationally-sanctioned strike action, legally or otherwise. Strike materials (placards, picket line supervisor letters, etc.) will be available for colleagues who wish to picket, for example.  

Branches across the country are currently weighing up the nationally-called strike action, similarly to Bristol UCU, noting how the 5 days impact upon branch-level negotiating gains and bargaining power, as well as questioning their impact from a leverage point of view, given that they are highly unlikely to see employers move with the end of the existing mandate so close and us having just formally ended our ‘nuclear option’ marking boycott.

As regards the ballot, our autumn Get The Vote Out campaign, the next few weeks will see UCU remind members to vote to renew our mandate to take industrial action. Vote now, vote early. Ballot arriving in your post from Wednesday 20 September.

Much more could be said – on the joint statement; on the pay structure negotiations; on the case for (or against) a renewed ballot; on union strategy and future plans; on one’s duty as a union member to act collectively; the union as first-person ‘we’, not a third-party service provider – but this email is already long enough and the longer the email, the more the engagement is by no means a rule of thumb.

Please look for future branch Newsflash with more details or these and many other pressing issues of branch negotiating, bargaining and representation.