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Closing The Gap – Bristol UCU Gender Pay Claim Update

Dear Colleagues

UoB and UCU had agreed in the Joint Statement of Intent that the negotiations on the UCU Gender Pay Claim would be ‘time-limited’, with the aim of concluding in December 2018. We agreed that negotiations would be conducted with ‘a view to agreeing actions, including setting appropriate targets, to significantly reduce the gender pay gap among academic staff within three years … their agreed outcomes will form part of the University-wide Action Plan of the Gender Pay Gap Working Group.’ The University also agreed to ‘commit resources, support and guidance to achieve this objective…[and to] ensure that the University’s strategic objectives include appropriate key performance indicators.’

As things stand, there is no jointly agreed action plan despite the University having committed to this in the Joint Statement of Intent.

We are committed to continuing our efforts over the summer to see whether an agreement can be reached on the key claim points, and hope that the University will do likewise. We very much hope, therefore, that our next communication is one on which we are able to update you on meaningful progress, but must be clear that if progress can’t be made over the summer, we will be calling an Emergency General Meeting at the start of the next academic year to explain fully where we have landed, and, if we still do not have a draft agreement, to ask for your endorsement of a “failure to agree”.

We do not doubt that the representatives of UoB are committed to greater gender equality in the institution. However, Bristol UCU Executive remains concerned that the University is reluctant to address the structural issues that relate to the Gender Pay Gap (the Joint Statement of Intent recognises that there are ‘structural’ issues, in addition to cultural issues, that affect women academic staff in particular). For example, women are overrepresented on Pathways 2 & 3 and underrepresented on Pathway 1. We wish to see this tackled through progression and transfer opportunities for all pathways. It is our belief that a failure to tackle structural issues will seriously undermine the University’s ability to ‘significantly reduce the gender pay gap among academic staff within three years’ as set out in the Joint UCU/UoB Statement of Intent.

A brief summary of where we consider the branch is re. the Gender Pay Claim negotiations is set out here:

1. The areas of progress are as follows :

  • The university has agreed to a review of the Returning Carers’ scheme. This will take place within the next 12 months, and UCU will have an opportunity to make suggestions in respect of that review
  • The new promotions framework promises to recognise administrative work and citizenship in a more systematic and effective way
  • Progression will now be available to many more staff on PW3 though not generally for PW2

2. In other areas, we have found there may be potential for agreement on the need to gather and analyse data, but progress has been slower and we have had to repeatedly make the argument for why such data is important:

  • It has not yet been possible to begin a joint review of flexible and part-time working due to apparent difficulties in accessing and sharing the relevant data. ERP is proving an obstacle to progress. However, we do not believe that this alone is a barrier to doing this essential work, and we are disappointed that the University have not currently been able to find a workaround.

3. On other issues, which we understand are important to women UCU members at Bristol, it has been impossible to make meaningful progress. We are seeking a renewed commitment from the University to negotiating with us in earnest on these issues, which, despite a direct request to the Deputy Vice Chancellor, we have yet to secure:

  • Despite the University announcing that all jobs would be open to job-share in October 2018, which has been repeated in UCU meetings with UoB representatives, this has not yet been implemented
  • UCU’s proposals for targeted development programmes with the specific goal of potentially getting women academics promoted/transferred onto PW1 have been rejected in favour of more generic mentoring schemes of the kind UoB have run in the past
  • The proposed new guidelines for pathway transfer make it even more difficult to transfer from PW2 to PW1. We understand that the University is seeking to run a pilot which could address this, but have no details as yet, and Bristol UCU Executive have serious doubts about whether this represents real transformative change

Thank you, as ever, for all your comments, contributions and queries in relation to progress on the negotiations on the Gender Pay Claim.

Tracey Hooper
Branch President
On behalf of the Bristol UCU Executive

Humans. Not Resources.

Bristol UCU launched its Humans. Not Resources campaign with a launch event IN November last year, a campaign in support of Bristol UCU’s current 20-point Anti-Casualisation Claim.

Around 40 people attended, sharing and discussing their experiences of working on casual, precarious contracts. They came from across the University, representing many of its Schools, Departments and Divisions.

The event kicked off with some mingling, some drinks and a few nibbles, as well as some anti-casualisation ‘jenga’, designed and ably administered by Paul Hurley, UWE and University of Bristol Artist-in-Residence.

Vicky Blake, UCU’s Vice President for Higher Education, opened the session with a vibrant and empowering talk. She reminded us that staff solidarity is the key point, a solidarity which is vertical as well as horizontal:

The power of communal actions and speaking out about casualisation is that it can articulate our demands for the cause of anti-casualisation while reducing the fear of doing so. It makes it easier for us to speak out about what is really happening and to name it as being unfair

Nick Varney, UCU’s South West Regional UCU official, pointed out that Bristol UCU is one of the first few union branches to make a local institutional claim. As the sixth biggest UCU branch (in terms of membership), Bristol UCU now has the power to negotiate with our employer to effect serious change. Nick also congratulated the Gender Pay Gap Claim negotiating team, currently negotiating Bristol UCU’s second institutional claim:

Thanks for educating our employer that we negotiate now, we just don’t sit and listen. We fight for this, we put a claim, this is our claim and we expect a positive outcome for these negotiations

Steve Parfitt, a casualised member of staff at the University of Nottingham and author of the International Labor and Working-Class History article ‘Academic Casualization in the UK’, shared his own experience as an HPT and fixed-term, 9-month teaching staff member. He hoped that Bristol’s local claim would be springboard for other local branch claims.

A number of speakers from the University of Bristol shared their experiences. A professor from the Social Sciences and Law Faculty acknowledged and apologised for his initial obliviousness to the issue. Until he started talking with casualised staff of his own School during the 2018 USS strike, he was unaware of the scale of the issue. He encouraged fellow members of staff to show solidarity with colleagues in precarious positions, by listening, learning and taking action at their own intra-school level.

Post-docs on short-term research contracts shared their experience of being casualised: the daily burden of financial insecurity, depression, anxiety, insomnia, self-depreciation, loneliness, hoping from country to country, from Universities to University, a general sense of managerial coercion:

The universities, and not only Bristol, keeps the bottleneck of employment artificially narrow, and I say artificially because they have a financial interest at doing so. And the cost is paid by us. Materially and non-materially, with high mental health issues and so on

When I look at post doc and fellows in my department, I think we all have the same experience across all schools. I think casualisation has a catastrophic effect on mental health of people. A recent study that came out last year found that 44% of academics have a major or minor mental health issue, which is just over twice the average percentage in the global population, and over four times what it was 45 years ago. Insomnia, depression, anxiety… It doesn’t make our department any different than anywhere else, and no one wants to say they have a problem, and everyone thinks they are alone. Casualisation means that there is a lack of support

Another contributor talked about the difficulties involved in teaching on a casualised contract:

There is also an impact on the implication you want to have on building courses, as you don’t know for how long you will be there. At the end of the year, you have ideas of what you would do differently next year, but obviously you are not sure you will be there, and you don’t have any structural support to put that in place. In the same way, as people get employed at the beginning of September, they have only one or two weeks to prepare all their teaching before the students arrives, and there is no time to changes, improve, get a better quality over the year. And this is not because of we are not good at our job, but because of the structural uncertainty of the contracts

The contributor embraced Vicky Blake’s call for vertical solidarity, from staff and on the part of students:

One of the other big things about this, is the vertically solidarity that should run along the students too. They are in a context where they brought a lot of money to the university for their studies, and they are not aware of how much of their teaching and face to face time is done by people on casual contracts…Making the students aware of these issues, can be a powerful part of the campaign, we need this vertical solidarity also coming from them

Many of the casualised workers present were, candidly, afraid to talk. Speaking about their working conditions was for PhD students and part-time staff a risky business:

I don’t want to look ungrateful

I feel insecure not being in a stable position. So much, at least for PhD students, futures reside on references, network etc, that you don’t want to be blacklisted

The treatment of casualised staff as shared by contributors is an all too familiar one: unpaid hours, late payments, unpaid training, going to conferences on your own money and time, an ever-expanding workload, the expectation that unfair working conditions are ‘expected’ of junior staff.

Other testimonies drew attention to the cost of casualisation. One speaker attested to a career based on casual contracts, leading to serious mental and physical health issues. Another speaker spoke of ‘surfing the ride of uncertainty’ for nearly 10 years, unable to build a career from what scant opportunities existed.

If Humans. Not Resources. showed anything, it showed that ‘we’ are not alone. This is not an individual’s problem; it is a problem of casualisation, of the system we are caught up in.

One speaker brought up Naomi Klein’s argument in No Logo:

Companies see themselves as organisers of collections of contractors as opposed as employment organisations

Coming out of the meeting, it was clear that we needed to ensure that our University does not become a place of (further) social injustice and despair. So said the collective voices of PhD students, fellows, post-docs, temporary staff, hourly paid teachers, fixed-term workers represented at our event. Voices of highly educated people, smart, generous, dedicated to their jobs, proud of their research, passionate. People who love their jobs and want to do it well. Who need security and fairness. Who need solidarity from colleagues and students.

And who need change:

Everything I am building my life around is temporary and disposable. And that’s how the university views you. And the job feels great; but not knowing what’s going to happen is hard, relationships, mortgage, house, family, it affects everything

For more information:

  • The Bristol UCU Anti-Casualisation Claim:

  •  ‘Fighting the gig economy – of academics not students’, The Bristol Cable, 27th November 2018:

  • ‘University of Bristol lecturers ‘in precarious employment’ call time on hourly contracts’, Bristol Post, 16th November 2018:

  • ‘New UCU campaign to reduce casual contracts for University staff’, Epigram, 14th November 2018:

  • ‘Tackling Precarious Contracts at the University of Bristol: Bristol UCU Update on Our Anti-Casualisation Claim’, bristolucu blog, 13th June 2019:

Tackling Precarious Contracts at the University of Bristol: Bristol UCU Update on Our Anti-Casualisation Claim

Where do we stand with Bristol UCU’s Anti-Casualisation Claim? What next and what needs to be done? How far (or not) have we come? Claim negotiators recap recent Claim negotiating, detail what needs to be done and outline future actions.

Tackling precarious contracts, ending insecurity of employment is a key Bristol UCU branch priority, hence our Bristol UCU Anti-Casualisation Claim. There have already been some positive developments as regards the Claim, not least the commitment by the University and some Heads of School to address insecure employment, but there are also key demands that Claim negotiators are keen to press for. These include:

  • parity of treatment for staff technically employed as cover for, for example, staff on research leave and as maternity cover
  • issuing of fixed term, fractional contracts rather than hourly paid contracts
  • bridging fund support for fixed-term research staff
  • offering open-ended part-time contracts to long-serving hourly-paid staff with low contract hours
  • ending use of 9- and 10-month teaching contracts

Where We Are

In October last year, this branch submitted an Anti-Casualisation Claim to the University. This was part of UCU’s existing strategy of encouraging and supporting branches to submit local claims: a concrete list of demands requiring a formal public agreement between individual universities and their UCU branches. See also our Gender Pay Gap Claim in this regard.

Following our highly successful USS industrial action, UCU, at a branch, regional and UK level, saw an opportunity to take our picket line grievances concerning insecure terms of employment and to effect meaningful reform at our institutions. As the strike showed, and arguably last year’s University of Bristol Staff Survey corroborated, the use of short-term, precarious contracts, and the inequitable treatment of casualised staff, was an issue front and centre of Bristol’s ‘staff experience’, requiring urgent remedy.

The Bristol UCU Claim has 20 demands: please click on the link to read the Claim [link]. In summary, these look to reduce the use of unnecessary short, temporary contracts, to see that staff are paid fairly for all work that they do and to ensure parity of workplace treatment for fixed-term and hourly-paid teaching staff.

Following the Claim’s submission, the University of Bristol and Bristol UCU committed to work together to reduce the precarious employment of academic and professional services staff on fixed-term contracts of employment. This commitment was expressed in the joint statement issued by the University and Bristol UCU in January. The statement made it clear that security of work and excellent staff experience are aims to which both the University and UCU are committed.

This was a positive first step on the part of the University, which Bristol UCU Claim negotiators are quick to acknowledge. As well as the joint statement, UCU and University reps established a Special Interest Group to negotiate the Claim, and as a vehicle for ongoing Claim negotiations, we have established a Precarious Contracts Review Group. This Review Group is populated by two HR Project Officers working directly for the project, as well as University and UCU representatives.

This example of constructive partnership working was recently cited in Liz Morrish’s acclaimed report Pressure Vessels: The epidemic of poor mental health among higher education staff as an example of universities rightly taking responsibility for the consequences of precarious working.

What Needs To Be Done?

As members may have noted, timescales in the Claim have not been stuck to, for example, a conclusive agreement was to be reached by January 2019. The ongoing, open nature of negotiations is something that your branch negotiators have largely accepted as many of the Claim’s points are being addressed. Branch negotiators are happy to continue with open negotiations but would be concerned if more concrete agreement on our priorities did not look likely to be achieved in the autumn.

Branch negotiators are keen to campaign on those points of the claim that we feel the University needs to address as a matter of urgency.

We are pushing for:

parity of treatment for staff technically employed as cover. For example, staff with the same length of service, one on a fixed-term contract and one employed on a cover ‘some other substantial reason’ contract, should be treated equally as regards rights accruing from length of their service. Currently, staff on cover contracts do not get access to the University’s redeployment pool or redundancy pay. We have had a recent instance of a member of staff with over 10 years’ service, whose last contract was a cover role, being denied access to redeployment and to redundancy pay. This requires an urgent change to University ordinances, in place by the autumn, to remove reference to contracts for reasons of cover being grounds for a ‘some other substantial reason’ contract.

issuing of fixed term rather than hourly paid contracts. This could potentially end the administrative burden of submitting fee claims when contracted hours have already been established in advance, as well as encouraging contract standardization, making it easier to establish parity of remuneration for staff with the same workload and on the same grade.

bridging fund support for fixed-term research staff. Our research Pathway 2 staff live from project to project, from grant to grant. We believe the modest step of the explicit ring-fencing of bridging funds at, for example, a Faculty level, will support staff in making funding applications, demonstrating a commitment to develop staff’s careers and potentially bringing in important research funding for this institution.

offering open-ended part-time contracts to long-serving hourly-paid staff with low contract hours. We would like to see a progressive revision to the existing policy to recognise those teaching staff that have been employed at Bristol for a substantive period of time, and currently do not have the minimum number of hours needed to be converted to more secure fractional ‘permanent’ contracts.

ending use of 9- and 10-month teaching contracts. Giving fixed-term teaching staff the necessary paid time to prepare and develop their teaching, or to carry out their scholarship duties, is a duty of the University. Stopping the issuing of contracts that do not take workload and career development into account is a principle that the University should support. Durham University has done it; why not Bristol?

What Next?

In advance of the start of the new academic year, the Humans. Not Resources campaign is planning to issue a leaflet highlighting our Claim and its demands. Publicizing the claim, versing the university community in its terms of debate is a vital branch task.

Bristol UCU recognises the positive partnership work that has been so far in this ‘project’. Work is ongoing – the Precarious Contract Working Group has an action grid and timeline, for instance. Branch negotiators are keen, though, to push for those parts of the Claim that we have not seen any movement on, and look to members’ support in doing so.

Bristol UCU’s anti-casualisation work, and UCU’s anti-casualisation work in general, is long-standing, and the progress of this branch Anti-Casualisation Claim is the fruit of these labours.

Bristol UCU Congress Report 2019

UCU Congress 2019 – a collection of delegates from UCU branches, regional committees and UK-level committees – came to debate and decide UCU policy at Harrogate Convention Centre. University of Bristol UCU had 4 delegates this year, a testimony to our large post-USS strike membership. Our branch delegates were Suzy Cheeke, Jamie Melrose, Paul Ayres and Celine Petitjean. Our incoming branch Membership and Recruitment Secretary Mercedes Villalba also attended Congress as a UCU South West Regional delegate.

Congress got off to a good start from a Bristol point of view when we saw that a photo from our ‘Post Your Vote’ event in February was the Congress agenda front cover.

The year’s Congress took some important decisions on USS and industrial action, on the representation of migrant members, on UCU membership fees and on the union’s position regarding gender identity and academic freedom. Congress also welcomed UCU’s new General Secretary Jo Grady. Jo addressed Congress on the opening day, noting how UCU was ‘one union…from professional services staff to prison educators, from the regions and nations to Carlow Street’ and pointing out ‘it’s time to restore our sense of self-worth and remember how much power and authority we have’ as university and college staff.

The motions that Congress votes on are submitted by UCU branches and regional committees across the UK. They are discussed at full Congress and at the sectorial conferences – the Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) and the Further Education Sector Conference – which make up the second day of business.

It is incredibly difficult to summarise every decision taken at Congress. With over 150 motions, many with amendments, plus several late or emergency motions, Congress packs in a great deal. Suffice to say, UCU is not short of policy or position on a great many important issues for members, whether they be professional service staff, casualised, or on a research or teaching contract. UCU has a list of all the motions on its website – – and Bristol UCU Congress delegates are happy to discuss further any questions/points members may have. It is also worth noting that a number of motions were not discussed because of lack of time, and also that a number of motions that were discussed are existing policy, that is, already on the UCU statute book.


The headline regarding pensions coming out of Congress is the decision to ballot members over strike action in the event that USS employers, represented by Universities UK (UUK), do not agree to pay 100% of the scheduled October contribution rises. If UUK does not pick up the tab by Saturday, 1st June, UCU plans to initiate ‘an immediate campaign for industrial action, highlighting USS’s destructive role, with a ballot commencing 1st September 2019 which will give UCU negotiators the necessary leverage to save the USS defined benefit pension with no detriment to members’.

In addition, delegates voted to confirm UCU’s general position as regards a lack of confidence in USS leadership, our support for UCU trustee Jane Hutton and our opposition to Trinity College’s decision to exit the scheme. Congress also decided to run an industrial action ballot on equality, casualistion, workload and pay in the autumn, around the same time as the USS ballot.

Rule Changes

A dry topic perhaps, but incredibly important. For example, following Congress, UCU’s governing National Executive Committee (NEC) will now have two reserved seats for migrant members, a new standing committee and conference for migrant UCU members.

Members are reminded of the UCU Democracy Commission set up last year and whose interim report formed a good many of the proposed rule changes.

A majority of the rule change motions were remitted (not discussed but handed onto UCU’s NEC to decide, or to the planned Democracy Commission-themed Congress in November) because Congress 2019 ran out of the time: there was a good deal of contentious debate about one motion which endeavoured to make UCU UK-level representation fairer and more proportionate to branch membership. In doing so, though, it controversially halved Further Education delegate representation at Congress.

Those motions that were not remitted included proposals to transfer decision-making powers away from existing NEC committee such as UCU’s Higher Education Committee and Further Education Committee during industrial action, and to branch delegate dispute committees: no decision on any aspect of the conduct of the dispute could be taken without the approval of the dispute committee constituted for that dispute. The last proposal was not carried, having failed to secure the ⅔ Congress majority needed for any rule changes.

Workloads, Casualisation and Gender Pay Gap

On these important issues, UCU confirmed its general position: securing better terms and conditions for members on precarious contracts, closing the gender pay gap and fighting the exploitation norm of current HE workload.

For example, HESC committed to call on research funders to support 12-month minimum research staff contracts. UCU is also committed to push for collective agreements regarding the use of casualised contracts. Congress also voted to reduce subscription fees for those earning between £10K and £14,999 – £10.92 to 4.41 per month, and to slightly cut subs for members earning between £15K and £29,999. Congress also encouraged branches to follow in the footsteps of Bristol UCU and submit a ‘Close the Gap’ gender pay claim with UCU regional and national support. Congress reaffirmed UCU’s commitment to ‘reasonable workload allocation’ for all university staff – academic and academic-related. Mental health services were also debated with UCU committed to ‘campaign for better resourced counselling services’.

Also in HESC, we just about had enough time to emphasise UCU’s ‘campaign for employing institutions, possibly through UCEA, to agree not to return submission of compulsorily redundant staff’ in REF2021.


One of the most discussed motions at Congress was HE23 ‘Academic Freedom to Discuss Gender’. Brought to ‘re-affirm our commitment to academic freedom…and to the right of academics to participate in political debates’, the motion was opposed on the basis that it sanctioned trans-exclusionary or transphobic viewpoints and discriminatory practice. The motion fell.

Over the 3 days, Congress committed itself:

  • to campaign against the ethnic pay gap
  • organise and facilitate LGBT+ awareness raising actions within HE
  • to develop anti-racist materials aimed at exposing the far right to staff and students
  • to develop a campaign countering use of non-disclosure agreements involving accusations of sexual harassment

The proposal to expel UCU members ‘found guilty of sexual harassment’ was remitted for further consideration, the reason being that ‘by whom?’ needed to be more clearly specified.


UCU Congress called for a boycott of the University of London following the call by outsourced workers at Senate House. UCU also showed its support for the schoolchildren’s climate change strike, for a National Education Service and for victimised members of staff Tony Brown at UCL and Lee Humber at Ruskin College.

Bristol UCU Response – University of Bristol REF2021 Code of Practice

As part of our JCNC response, Bristol UCU would like to raise several points regarding the current Code of Practice (CoP) draft.

1) Submitting Redundant Staff Outputs & Selection of ‘Self-Directed’ Researchers

The proposal by UK funding bodies that universities will be allowed to take credit for the work of academics who they have made redundant has been probably the most controversial REF2021-related announcement. The University has incorporated this principle in the CoP. To quote ‘[o]utputs from former members of staff, including staff who have been made redundant, will be included in our submissions only where their predicted quality exceeds that of outputs from current members of staff’ (p.6).

UCU has called on REF institutions ‘to make it clear publicly that your institution will not be submitting the outputs of former staff who have since been made redundant and that this commitment is explicitly included in your 2021 REF Code of Practice’. UCU does not consider the submission of redundant staff’s work appropriate. This encourages the type of REF ‘gaming’ around staffing decisions that REF2021 was meant to address, and it is also highly unfair to those staff whose reward for contributing to our institutional REF submission is a loss of employment.

The University may argue that it is following the rules and guidance as laid out in the REF Guidance on Submissions, and that this applies to a small number of possibly very senior staff, but it is Bristol UCU’s understanding that other institutions have taken a different approach. Birkbeck, University of London, for example, has committed to submitting former researchers’ work only if they have left for reasons of retirement, voluntary redundancy or moving onto new jobs. Bristol UCU would ask the University to adopt a position similar to that of Birkbeck.

We would also like to question the definition of self-directed research, and the cut-off
point for a self-directed researcher being between Research Fellow (profile c) and Senior Research Fellow (profile d). A Research Associate (RA) would not be submitted unless they are a principal investigator, manage staff or have significant input into the design, conduct and interpretation of research. How does this apply to those RAs who are employed to undertake others’ research but who also produce their own independent self-directed research? For example, the Arts and Humanities Research Council suggests that Principle Investigators allocate time to RAs for them to work on their own publications – are they then not REF-able?

2) EDI & Staff Circumstances

Broadly speaking, Bristol UCU welcomes the EDI focus of the CoP. The Equality Impact Assessment proofing outlined is also to be commended. We would also welcome a recognition, alongside the discussion of a lack of female representation, of similar issues concerning academics of colour, lgbt+, with disabilities and who are first generation academics.

Given the career implications, Bristol UCU asks that there is UCU representation during any appeal or Staff Circumstances Panel process for UCU members. In practice this means any appellant or researcher putting a case to the staff circumstance panel is entitled to be accompanied by a union, most likely UCU, representative.

Bristol UCU welcomes the Staff Circumstances Panel to determine when an individual’s circumstances have had an exceptional effect on their ability to produce an eligible output, and where adjustment or removal from the process is appropriate. We also broadly welcome the stipulated grounds for adjusting or removing expectations, such as equality-related circumstances that, in isolation or taken together, may have affected research productivity during the assessment period

As things stand, the CoP lays no positive duty on Unit of Assessment (UoA) coordinators to take an active role in identifying and supporting research-active individuals who potentially may wish to apply for the exceptional status of not being required to have 1 output ‘tied to them’, or indeed research-active staff who wish to make a case to be considered as Category A staff.

We believe that UoA co-ordinators could be given guidance to encourage staff when
appropriate so that the onus was not solely on the individual concerned to make such
a request or appeal.

3) Performance Management

Bristol UCU has repeatedly raised concerns about REF as regards its application as a form of capability management for those staff deemed to be not contributing to the REF ‘project’.

The CoP is largely silent on what will happen to research staff who are not able to be treated exceptionally because of a Staff Circumstances appeal. With the REF2021 goalposts now shifting away from the consequences of one’s research outputs not being submitted to the consequences of not having one’s research output excepted, we would like some clarity as to what would happen to the staff member concerned.

We welcome the acknowledgement on page 7, as regards one’s overall output, ‘that there may be reasons why individuals publish at different rates and there is no expectation that all eligible staff will contribute equally to the volume of outputs submitted’, and are keen to see this as directive that no staff member is treated detrimentally because of their output volume.

We would also welcome a statement by the University, on behalf perhaps of the University Research Committee and accompanying REF2021-related communication, along the lines of a 2013 email from then DVC Guy Orpen on the University’s REF2014 Policy.

This noted:

[t]he REF is an exercise with important financial and reputational consequences for the University and it is vital that we maximise our potential outcome through an appropriate Submission Policy. However, the Policy does not set our research expectations for staff nor does it of itself act as an indicator of individual performance.

This is an excellent statement and we like to see its reiteration in the current REF2021 cycle. Research, to quote again from the 2013 email, should ‘not be judged through the prism of the REF alone’.

One Year On From The USS Dispute – Message from the Branch President, February 2019

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you for several reasons. Firstly I would like to celebrate with you the first anniversary of our transformative, successful USS strike action last year. That extraordinary experience saw a wave of unprecedented joint staff and student activity that secured our USS pension scheme, keeping its current defined benefit component. Our branch is renewed, bigger and bolder, giving us successes, for example, with the timing of Easter holiday this academic year. Our case for change, forcefully made this time last year, has been reinforced by the findings of the recent Staff Survey. As I noted in a previous message to members, ‘[o]ur branch has gone from strength to strength, and will continue to do so with your help’.

To celebrate this USS strike anniversary, I and other Branch Officers have organised ‘We Are Still The University! One year on from the USS strike’ next week, Thursday, 7th March, starting at 5pm at Celia’s bench in Royal Fort Gardens moving on for a drink at the Highbury Vaults (we’ll be there by 6pm latest for those who want to meet us there).

I am also writing a few days after we learnt the result of the recent Pay and Equality industrial action ballot. Once again, as in the previous ballot, members who participated voted to take strike action over workload, casualisation, gender pay and our ever decreasing pay, but the government’s 50% turnout threshold needed to take action was not reached.

Although we will not be taking action as a result, the vote in the ballot demonstrated a strength of feeling among members that cannot be easily dismissed.

I would like to highlight once again our branch negotiating priorities and objectives, recently confirmed at our January General Meeting. These priorities include:

With your support and with your backing, Bristol UCU can secure our objectives. As branch reps have reported, significant progress has been made on each of these points, for example, the incorporation of 11 Workload Principles into current University policy drafts, a manifest University ‘commitment to reducing casualisation’, and a review of Grade J and above staff with a view to making these roles progressible, to name but three. Taken with the open recognition by senior University management of the importance of engaging with staff, this represents a step in the right direction that UCU branch officers applaud.

However, as in all negotiations, there have been a number of challenges, sticking points and points of disagreement. If we are to resolve these in our members’ favour, to push for more than our negotiators are able to secure on their own, we need a frank and open discussion with members on what is required to secure our further objectives. To this end, we invite Bristol UCU members to attend our branch General Meeting, on Wednesday 13th March at 1pm to discuss further.

It is also important to note that there are a whole host of pressing issues for members: the threat of Brexit, draconian REF performance management, University belt-tightening, the ongoing, very much still live USS pension dispute, the threat to jobs and wellbeing generated by constant change management churn in Professional Services. If we are to begin to tackle these, we need to not only recall the spirit of USS ‘18, #WeAreTheUniversity, but to put it into practical action, mobilising our resources, be that branch officer, rep or member. Our success during the USS strike was based on a branch working as one, able to come together, discuss and decide upon concrete actions.

I would also take this opportunity to note the news of the resignation of our General Secretary Sally Hunt due to ill health. I hope that I speak for all when I wish her all the best and thank her for her service and dedication to UCU and the trade union movement over many years, not least her work in securing our USS strike success.



United, We Can Win – Vote Yes Yes in the Ballot

Please vote in the current UCU Pay and Equality Ballot. Your vote is vital.

UCU is currently balloting its members on whether to take industrial action and action short of a strike. As things stand, University managements, our employers are not prepared to take action on excessive workloads, insecure jobs, a manifest gender pay gap and falling pay.

This matches the picture at Bristol. At this University, just under half of all academic staff are on insecure contracts, restructure after restructure means a state of perpetuity insecurity for professional service staff and 70% of women academics at Bristol are on the most insecure career ‘pathways’ 2 and 3. Workloads continue to go up and up.

And, while we hear whispers of coming cuts and further belt tightening, it still seems far easier to splash the cash on another Senior Managerial position or VC-sponsored capital project than it is to invest in front-line staff.

UCU wants all Universities to take action. Without a vote in favour of taking action, UCU will be unable to make Universities take action on workloads, casualisation, the gender pay gap and fair pay. Our recent successful strike to defend and secure our USS pensions showed that united, we can win.

If you want us to achieve similar results, Vote Yes Yes in the ballot, for strike action and action short of a strike.

It is vital that you vote. A strong union is a union that turnouts to vote. Supporting members through difficult times, changing bad policy, protecting our members’ interests: all of this depends on us being a strong, engaged branch that deserves the respect and recognition of our employers.

The ballot closes on Friday, 22nd February. Your ballot must be posted by Wednesday, 20th February at the latest. Haven’t got a ballot? Go to:

You will need to order a replacement before Monday, 18th February.

Thank you

‘Progress to Report But Also Areas of Disappointment’: Bristol UCU Promotion and Progression Update

Bristol UCU Branch Officers continue to meet with Human Resources to discuss the ongoing Review of Academic Progression and Promotion, on which UCU has had representation from the start.

There is considerable progress to report but also areas of disappointment from a UCU perspective.

Change of Pathway Three Job Titles

As trailed in last week’s staff bulletin, the Review has proposed harmonising the job titles of staff on Pathway Three with their equivalents on Pathway One. This would mean that current Senior Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows would be given the title of Lecturer; and Senior Teaching Fellows would become Senior Lecturer. The titles are already harmonised on all pathways at Reader and Professorial level. The role of Teaching Associate would remain unchanged as there is no equivalent on Pathway One.

Your branch officers consider this a positive move, but would welcome your comments.

Reader vs Associate Professor

The other job title change in the original recommendations was the change of Reader to Associate Professor. Current feedback suggest that some Readers wish to retain their current title. Is is now proposed that new appointments and promotions take on the new title but existing Readers can choose if they want to update their title.

What are members’ thoughts on this compromise?

Progressability of Pathway Three Roles 

All Pathway Three roles should be reviewed during 2018/19 as part of the current Integrated Planning Process (IPP).

There is an expectation that the majority of Pathway 3 staff on profile b (grade J) upwards will become progressable. Discussions should be starting to happen now with affected Pathway Three staff, so that they are clear about what progressability means and ensuring they are given as much time as needed to progress successfully.

If you’re in this situation and no one has talked to you yet do speak to your Head of School (and obviously get in touch if you think you need our support).

Sadly, we consider that this review will have no benefit for Teaching Associates on profile a (Grade I) or language staff at all levels in the School for Modern Languages (SML) and the Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies (CELFS) as their roles are deemed ‘transactional’. We will continue to press for opportunities for this disenfranchised group of staff who are very often the face of University of Bristol to our students.

Pathway Two Roles

Pathway Two roles are also being reviewed as part of the IPP process but it is expected that only a tiny number would become progressable as a result. We have been told that more effort is being put into staff development activities for this group of staff. I’m sure this will be little comfort for our research colleagues.

Movement Between Pathways

A recommendation was to make the process of movement between pathways clearer and on the basis of excellence not underperformance. Draft guidance states “Whilst there is no right to move between Pathways, in any direction, such moves are not exceptional and should be considered as a normal part of an academic career”. However .. “the contractual and funding arrangements in each pathway must be equivalent. This means progression requirements of the position must be the same”. We believe that this will enable and movement between pathways 1 and newly-progressible staff on pathway 3 but no opportunities for externally-funded pathway 2 staff.

Reader Remuneration

It has been agreed that, from 1 August 2019, the 3 discretionary points at the top of Grade L will be used for a Reader scale. Readers, on promotion, will move to spine point 50. Increments thereafter will be awarded every two years following consideration of an evidence based cases. Increments will be consolidated and pensionable..

Note, though, that academic staff will no longer be eligible for consideration within these increments via the Discretionary pay policy (any discretionary points already awarded will remain in place).

New Promotions Criteria

A new promotions framework has been developed based on the Boyer’s model of four types of scholarship: Discovery (research), integration (Multi/interdisciplinary), application (in service of others) and teaching. A local, fifth, category for leadership and citizenship has been added. This promotions framework is now ready for wider consultation which will commence in the Spring.

As soon as the draft framework is cleared for publication we will also seek your views.

So Far Yet So Much To Do – Message from Tracey Hooper, Bristol UCU President

Dear Colleagues,

It is nearly a year since the start of the USS strike and our resulting #WearetheUniversity campaign, so I thought I would update members on where we are, our current branch priorities, celebrate some of the progress we have made, but also sound a note of caution. We still have a long way to go.

I think it is fair to say that without the transformative nature of our four weeks of strike action this time last year, we would not be in the strong position we are today. Thanks to everyone who participated – it made a real difference. A huge rise in membership, a Staff Survey that coincided with the strike, a sense that our strike was about more than just pensions: together these factors created a perfect storm and has meant our Bristol UCU branch is even more an influential voice on campus. Note, for example, the University has recognised in its Staff Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy for the first time that ‘issues such as the gender pay gap, casualisation in the workforce and workload can impact on overall wellbeing in the workplace’. These are three of our key branch priorities.

You will be aware that we have lodged formal claims with the University on both Anti-Casualisation and Gender Pay and have agreed joint statements of intent for both – see here and here. Whilst other UCU branches are submitting similar claims, I think that there are very few who have seen as much progress as Bristol. We are now involved in negotiations with the University leadership team to agree action plans, with Human Resources staff allocated to project manage these. I am hopeful that there are some quick wins within the Anti-Casualisation Claim.

I am not suggesting that all is rosy in these negotiations. We do have real concerns at the pace of progress particularly with our Gender Pay claim. For example, our current University strategy states ‘we will also eliminate the gender pay gap within the professoriate within the lifetime [2020] of the plan’ – more likely to be 2050 unless hard actions and resource are put in place.

Workload is another key branch priority. After many years of deflection and circular discussion, Bristol UCU Branch Officers feel workload concerns are finally being taken seriously with regard to workload modelling and allocation. Our 11 ‘Workload Principles for a Common Approach’ have been taken up by the leadership team and we are now in detailed discussions to agree a University-wide policy around the ‘fair, reasonable and equitable allocation of work’. This should be accompanied by a common workload allocation platform to allow data to be captured in a consistent way.

On the review of academic Promotion and Progression, there are many positive proposals for some (but little comfort for others). Positives in discussion include:

  • the planned harmonisation of job titles across pathways one and three for staff on profile b upwards (see last week’s staff bulletin)
  • the progressability of the majority of pathway three roles (profile b upwards)
  • staff movement across pathways to become a norm rather than an exception as well as making the process for movement between pathways clearer, consistent and on the basis of excellence in the future pathway (pathways one and three only)
  • the use of the three discretionary points at the top of L as a Reader scale

Coming shortly will be a University consultation on a new promotions framework – an aim is that it “will provide more flexible and inclusive career progression”. We will welcome your thoughts when we consult with you on this ourselves in the coming months.

Sadly, we consider that these proposals will have no benefit for Teaching Associates on profile a (Grade I) or language staff at all levels in the School for Modern Languages (SML) and the Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies (CELFS), as their roles are deemed fixed or ‘transactional’. We will continue to press for opportunities for this disenfranchised group of staff who are often on 10 month and/or part-time contracts but are the face of University of Bristol to many of our students.

There is also little for our research Pathway 2 colleagues who, despite having open-ended contracts, continue to live the precarious life of fixed-term funding and redundancies alongside scant hope of promotion or progression.

Finally, it is important for colleagues to know that we continue to see restructure after restructure within Professional Services. Throughout these often unpublicised processes, Branch Reps fight for the best interests of our members, supporting them through this stressful and demoralising experience. It is here that your Branch Reps do so much for members, preventing redundancies and detrimental changes.

So, in summary, we have taken great forward strides as a branch, made significant progress on USS and beyond, but there is still much to do and still much noise to be made, and I hope that we will have your support should we need to make noise this coming year.

One suggestion: if members have any suggestions regarding celebrating the anniversary of the transformative #WearetheUniversity strike, please let myself or ucu-office@bristol know.

With best wishes


BSSG Letter of Support – Current Industrial Action Ballot

Dear Staff Member,

We, as concerned students and participants to the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group wholeheartedly invite you to vote ‘Yes and Yes’ in the current ballot and commit to supporting you every step of the way in this chapter of our new collective struggle.

After last year experience, we are aware that you are understandably worried about the impact any industrial action may have on the studies of current students. However, we also believe that last year strike has provided each of us, students and staff alike, with opportunities, feelings of belonging, friendships and a new sense of community that we thought was not part of our University. Moreover, it is clear to us that this strike – which aims at tackling the abominable growth in casualised labour and the anachronistic pay difference between male and female members of staff – is absolutely necessary in improving Higher Education for everyone, including students.

This ballot was unsuccessful once. It was not for lack of interest but because of the incredible growth in membership. More people voted than the previous ballot, but was not enough. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that every member votes in this ballot so that the 50% threshold is crossed in every institution where the ballot is organized. We do not think that we exaggerate when we say that this strike is essential in the defence of Higher Education from increased managerialism, marketisation and elitism. Not only this, but it offers the opportunity to create an impetus for a revitalisation in the Union movement for the liberation of the whole sector precarity and exploitation.

Hugh Brady takes a £20,000 pay increase whilst the lowest paid workers in our community work over 50 hours a week for a below minimum wage salary. We must fight hard against this injustice to create free, accessible and liberated education for all before it is entirely taken away from us.

Voting in support of strike action is the first step of a longer journey of engagement and empowerment. As we did before and during the last strike, we commit to organise student support and to be at your side. During the ballot and in case a new strike was launched. We learned the importance of students-staff solidarity last year and we want to do even better than the past in terms of engagement, participation and solidarity. We will work hard to provide alternative education spaces for students. We will stand in firm solidarity with you on picket lines and between them.

We are sure this will be an opportunity to build upon the spectacular sense of community we developed together during the momentous strikes last year and organise further to create the University that we and not the managers and the market want. It is clear that the Senior Management Team’s efforts are not in your interests despite Hugh’s infamous ‘Lightning Rod’ speech last year, and that this struggle will be long and difficult but absolutely necessary.

Solidarity forever,

Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group