Brighton Rocks: Bristol UCU Congress Report 2017

What were the headlines emerging from UCU’s Annual Congress last week? What were the issues that vexed University of Bristol UCU delegation in sunny Brighton? Your Bristol UCU Newsflash respondent reports.

From a HE perspective, the big decision was whether to accept the national negotiators’ recommendation to run a consultative national ballot of members on the pay offer: should UCU accept or reject the final pay offer made by our employers?

If the outcome of the vote is to accept, then UCU will formally agree with the offer; if it is to reject, UCU will trigger a dispute, with a formal industrial action ballot to follow.

Congress voted in favour of the national negotiators’ recommendation with the exception of its suggestion to hold the ballot this week – instead, a new, non-General Election clashing time, will be proposed.

The other news as regards UCU efforts to boost pay, reduce workloads and the casualisation of contracts is the creation of a new UCU Commission to discuss our future industrial strategy. This was proposed by Sally Hunt in her General Secretary speech, following her re-election as General Secretary this year. The Commission will ‘look at the pros and cons of all different forms of industrial action’

As for other issues, members may remember the Bristol UCU consultative ballot we ran before Congress, asking for members’ take on Congress motions.

On the proposal to hold a special sector HE conference in the Autumn – a chance for all HE branch delegates to discuss UCU pay policy – HE Conference voted to hold one. Amendments to dilute the motion fell.

On the proposal to look into a merger with other educational trade unions, Congress voted to explore a merger – 143 votes to 129. Bristol UCU delegates voted against this motion.

On the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, Congress instructed UCU to carry out a range of measures. These include requesting Sally Hunt to write to VCs urging them to protect staff from malicious accusations and circulating a detailed press statement on UCU’s criticism of the IHRA definition to members.

As for the issue of REF and portability, HE Conference decided to remit, or refer the matter for further consultation. While there were concerns that the removal of portability would hurt early career staff, many spoke up for the end of institutional game playing at the senior end of the research scale. Conference did vote to protect intellectual property and early-career positive discrimination.

On the issue of subscriptions, the outcome was to accept a review of subscription bands as a matter of urgency. Bristol UCU delegates were minded to vote against amendments which diluted the motions, but following the carrying of the previous motion to endorse subscription rates for 2017/18, delegates were left with little choice but to vote for the amendments.

For more information, please consult the full report of Congress business:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/Congress2017

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