As trailed last week, here is further branch guidance on our upcoming 14 days of industrial action, starting this Thursday, 20th February.
Our days of strike action are:
- week one: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February
- week two: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February
- week three: Monday 2, Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 March
- week four: Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 March.
This email a) covers planned events/dates for the diary, b) gives local advice and guidance and c) answers some key strike-related questions.
Please note: on strike days where there are no planned events, please stay at home. And don’t work. This is subject to change as events are proposed and planned.
- Tomorrow – Wednesday, 19th February – Placard Making, 13:00-16:00, UCU Office, 1D Priory Road. All members welcome.
- Thursday, 20th February – Pickets and Rally, from 08:30, Picketing will start at 8.30 am – UCU Office will be open from 8.00 for collection of placards and materials.
For picket line information:
Colleagues are asked to congregate for a rally at the Victoria Rooms at 10.30 am, followed by a march to College Green.
Please note: Thursday is also a Graduation Day. Colleagues are encouraged to focus on informing students and parents the reasons as to why we are taking this course of industrial action.
- Friday, 21 February – Pickets, 08:30 to 10:30
Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 February – Stay at home. And don’t work.
Wednesday 26th February – Pickets and Rally with UCU General Secretary. Picketing will start at 8.30 am – UCU Office will be open from 8.00 for collection of placards and materials.
The General Secretary Jo Grady (tbc) will also be our main speaker at Wednesday’s Rally.
General Picket Line Information
- Branch officers will be acting as official picket supervisors, resplendent in their high-vis jackets and pink UCU beanies.
- Local picket contacts at each location will be also be clad in yellow tabards.
- If you are unsure where to picket, get in touch with your local rep or email@example.com
The main picket for Professional Services staff will be at the Victoria Rooms, and anyone is welcome to join that picket.
b) Advice and Guidance
Please make use of UCU national resources [link].
This includes information about why we are striking, FAQs, guidance on working to contract, leaflets, posters and much else.
For a list of FAQs:
There is, for instance, an answer to the FAQ ‘I am a head of department, line manager or in another senior academic/related role. How can I best support the action?’, along with further carefully lawyered advice.
Claiming Strike Pay – National Fighting Fund & Local Hardship Fund
Members may claim strike pay from both our national Fighting Fund and Bristol UCU branch Local Hardship Fund.
- For details on the national Fighting Fund:
- For details on the branch Local Hardship Fund
Guidance note – claiming from the Bristol Hardship Fund
- UCU HQ have confirmed that – as this action continues from the November action – the national hardship fund will be available to members from their first day of action, if they have struck for one or two days in the 2019 wave.
- The cap on payments has been increased.
- The local hardship fund will cover the strike deductions of hourly-paid teachers in full and the first day for any first-time strikers on grade J or below, and those on higher grades in part-time roles who earn £30,000 per annum or less.
Donations to the local hardship fund will be gratefully received.
Bristol UCU has requested that any strike deductions from salary are spread out over four months. We expect the university to notify staff of its decision on this shortly.
Can staff join and take action?
Yes, our membership is growing every day and heading towards 1800 members.
Please encourage your colleagues to join. Postgrads who teach can join for free and can take part in the action. As soon as someone’s application has been submitted on our website, they are eligible to take part in the action.
I’m not going to strike because …
UCU’s position is that union members – in all roles – have voted strongly in favour of striking, and so we encourage everyone to strike on every day of industrial action. To do otherwise weakens our position. Through national and local hardship funds, there is more financial support than ever before for those taking industrial action.
Notifying HR of Strike Action Taken
DO NOT notify HR in advance of striking that you will be taking strike action or Action Short of a Strike (ASOS).
The University has agreed to pay employer pension contributions for days struck but you must let HR know when notifying that you wish to maintain your employee contributions. We will remind you about this closer to the time.
Deductions will be made at total salary x 1/365 and a full day’s pay (or pro-rata) will be deducted even if the member returns to work that day.
Part-timers should make sure they specify exactly how many hours they have taken as strike action each week and specify your total hours to ensure you’re only deducted for the hours struck. We will provide examples again closer to the time.
What do Hourly Paid Tutors do about their fee claims? How will HPTs strike deductions work?
HR have made the following statement:
We encourage hourly-paid teachers to reschedule their teaching. The University will pay in full for all teaching that is delivered (contact hours, preparation and assessment). If staff are unable to reschedule teaching for reasons beyond their control then they will nonetheless be paid for preparation (and assessment if applicable), but they will not be paid for contact hours.
HPTs should submit ERP claims as per the above HR statement. All lost contact hours can be claimed from the local hardship fund [link].
Out of Office Message
We encourage staff to use an email out-of-office once the action begins, for example:
I am a UCU member and taking industrial action in defence of a fair pension, pay and conditions. Please follow this link to find out more about our dispute.
When to notify of Action short of a strike (ASOS)
The university has said that in their view two of the strands of ASOS do not constitute partial performance and cannot attract pay deductions – these are working to contract and not undertaking voluntary duties.
These do not need to be notified, though we recommend that you create out-of-office and signature files to say that you are working to contract and that emails will take longer to be answered.
The university has advised us that two areas of ASOS can be deemed partial performance, these are not covering for absent colleagues and not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action.
The university has advised us that, as in 2018, its policy is that colleagues cannot be required to reschedule teaching cancelled due to strike action.
If you are advised that you are going to face a deduction for participation in the ASOS, please let your departmental or divisional rep know.
There is guidance on ASOS [link] for members in professional services.
What to tell students
Please start “trailing” the action with your students and encourage them to support us by writing to the VC and joining us at our rallies. Make sure that students understand that we are losing pay for every day that we strike.
Note: you are under no obligation to inform students in advance that you are taking strike action.
There is a range of material produced by UCU to help you explain the issues to students:
Putting Materials on Blackboard
As far as we are aware the requirement to put materials up on Blackboard 48 hours before a lecture is a DDA requirement, so only applies if you have students with disability adjustments in the class. We believe that you can meet that requirement by emailing those specific students the materials in advance.
I’m due to be on leave – what do I do?
If your leave is already booked and essential, consider taking your leave and donating to the strike fund. If you are able please cancel your leave and join the strike! Even if you are away, you can still be counted in the ‘absentee’ numbers which helps our position.
The branch is happy to help facilitate these.
We can provide information on possible venues, pay for venue hire, and help publicize events.
For example, ‘The Harms of the Neoliberal University, Thursday, 20th February, 1-2.30pm, Folk House, Park Street,
Please get in touch with your branch officer team: firstname.lastname@example.org
c) Key Strike-Related Questions
Tier 2 Visa Staff
Bristol UCU members on Tier 2 visas are understandably concerned about the impact of taking strike action. UCU’s advice is clear: taking strike action if you on a Tier 2 visa will not count as an unauthorized absence, and the University of Bristol as sponsor employer will not be reporting Tier 2 staff.
We will ask the University to reiterate this point.
Protection from Dismissal after 12-Week Period
Colleagues may be aware:
- some of the legal protections available to workers who are on strike expire 12 weeks after the first day that strike action is taken (the 12-week period would commence from 25th November).
- After this period, if the employer decides to dismiss any employee for taking strike action, this would not be considered “automatically unfair” for the purposes for bringing an unfair dismissal claim.
- There would still be some protection from selective dismissals. The employer would need to dismiss all striking employees.
UCU is clear that ‘this kind of dismissal has never happened in higher education’. It would constitute a major unprecedented breach in industrial relations. We will again seek assurances from the University, but stress that this is something we simply do not envisage occurring.
Thank you all so much for your support.With best wishes
James and the Branch Officer team