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:
- Our branch Anti-Casualisation Claim
- Our branch Gender Pay Claim
- Our branch Workload Allocation Principles
- Making academic roles more progressable and secure
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.