Tag Archives: UCU

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:

https://cpb-eu-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.bristol.ac.uk/dist/4/295/files/2018/10/Bristol-UCU-Anti-Casualisation-Claim-5th-October-2018-tspeee.pdf

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

https://thebristolcable.org/2018/11/fighting-the-gig-economy-of-academics/

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

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/university-bristol-lecturers-in-precarious-2225173

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

https://epigram.org.uk/2018/11/14/new-ucu-campaign-to-end-casual-contracts-for-university-staff/

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

https://bristolucu.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/tackling-precarious-contracts-at-the-university-of-bristol-bristol-ucu-update-on-our-anti-casualisation-claim/

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 – https://www.ucu.org.uk/Congress2019 – 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.

USS

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.

Equality

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.

Solidarity

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.

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.

#WeAreStillTheUniversity,

Tracey

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:

http://tinyurl.com/ReplacementBallot2019

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

Thank you

Latest Update – Gender Pay Claim Negotiations

We are hopeful that a Joint Statement of Intent agreed by UCU and the University of Bristol Management Team (UMT) will be formally signed off by UMT at their meeting on 24th September.

Assuming that statement is formally signed off, UCU obviously welcomes this. We will clearly be looking for actions that match the words.

We had very much hoped to be able to publish the Joint Statement of Intent ahead of our first negotiating meeting ‘proper’ on 11th September but, in part, due to a significant delay in receiving an initial response to UCU’s suggested wording, this has unfortunately not been possible.

UCU had made clear at preliminary meetings that we expected UMT representatives to engage with us in discussing the elements of the claim, as the University is claiming it is committed, at the very highest level, to addressing the issue of the Gender Pay Gap. We understood that this had been agreed. Deputy VC, Guy Orpen, and Director of HR, Claire Buchanan, were both scheduled to attend the negotiating meeting on 11th September, but both pulled out at a very late stage. This was disappointing.

The meeting went ahead, but without senior decision makers in the room, progress was limited. Discussion focussed mainly on the issues of Pathway 2, opportunities for progression, and support for movement between the pathways, and we pushed the point that a commitment of resources is needed to make an impact. The next negotiating meeting is on 3rd October, and we have been assured that the Director of HR will attend this time. We very much hope that the Deputy VC will also be able to attend future meetings, as he had initially indicated he would, as UCU considers that his involvement in this process is vital.

UCU notes Guy Orpen’s message to all staff on Gender Employment and Pay, and welcome the fact that it picks up on a number of the key aspects of UCU’s Gender Pay Gap Claim. We therefore look forward to agreeing targets and timescales on a range of the proposed actions he included in his message, for example:

  • Reviewing how we recognise achievements in research, teaching, leadership and citizenship for academic progression and promotion.
  • Continuing our work to update the promotions and progression process, including the movement up and between pathways and the criteria for promotion

An important date for your diaries

The 1st of November is a very significant date; it’s the date on which the University effectively stops paying women, as a result of the 16.2% gender pay gap across the institution as a whole. We will be marking the occasion with an evening event celebrating women working at the University. Watch out for further details.

‘Power needs to move..’: University of Bristol Governance, Decision-Making and Legitimacy

The recent industrial action has highlighted and exacerbated longstanding concerns amongst staff about university governance.

This was one of strands of our Bristol UCU branch conference in early June. The central problems are a lack of democratic legitimacy in decision-making compounded by a lack of transparency about the information, especially financial information, that underpins decision-making. We need a more democratic mode of governance that better reflects our values as a university community.

Decision-making is currently too centralised. Power needs to move away from the centre, and towards staff. A more devolved approach to governance is needed., This will require both structural and cultural change. If ,however, we are to learn the lessons of the dispute, and to move on as a university, such change is essential. It will not be accomplished overnight, but we outline below some concrete steps designed to initiate the process of discussing and achieving better governance at Bristol.

Potential Ways Forward

  • Review of governance by group of staff and students, including representatives of trade unions and early career academics, to report end of 2018

The group could consider (along with submissions from staff) the following set of proposals Board of Trustees

  • Elected element needs to be restored incorporating provision for gender balance
    taff presence should include some designated representation from union officers

 

  • Greater diversity in lay membership: certain kinds of private sector experience, especially financial services, are currently over-represented

 

  • Mayoral/City nominee to Board of Trustees: despite presence of various local bodies in make up of Court, this does not necessarily create a strong link between the university and the city within the Board of Trustees

 

  • Staff and Student representation on the Remuneration Committee – the recent Halpin Review at Bath proposes this, and it would be best practice.

 

  • Improved communication from Board of Trustees to university community

 

  • Senate should be strengthened, and better supported to do its essential work

 

  • An elected chair of Senate

 

  • A return to Senate determining the order of business, and which items are to be prioritised for discussion

 

  • Greater transparency in financial data provided to Senate

 

Representation for professional services staff. Professional services staff have experienced a wave of restructurings in recent years yet lack any form of representation akin to Senate for academic staff. We note that the Halpin Review of Bath floats the possibility of a Senate-like body for professional services staff. There is certainly a deeply felt need to address the lack of voice and representation for professional service staff across the University.

Workload Principles for a Common Approach

This Bristol UCU paper/blog post provides 11 principles to guide academic workload modelling across the University of Bristol.

With very few exceptions, academic Schools now use an explicit, formal workload model. There are commonalities across these, but also differences. It is rare that there is one model in a Faculty. Yet important workforce planning occurs at the Faculty level, without any real sense of how workload varies between Schools. At university level, decisions are similarly made about the allocation of posts without a real sense of comparative workload between Faculties and Schools.

While Bristol UCU welcomes increased attention to Staff Student Ratios (SSRs) in recent years, these do not provide an adequate proxy, given that different subjects have differing requirements. It is hard to understand how the Establishment Review Group can proceed, other than by induction from past patterns, given the lack of robust data on workload. Attention to Russell Group median SSRs is positive in that it has brought resource to hard-pressed departments, but better modelling of workload remains essential.

From a university perspective, closing the gaps in workload model provision, and establishing common principles for workload modelling can inform good workforce planning. From a Bristol UCU perspective, a common approach is equally required. All Pathway 1 staff need time to produce research; all pathway 3 staff need time to do scholarship. Staff are assessed against a common set of university criteria for promotion and progression. Natural justice and the ambitions of the university’s Vision and Strategy likewise point to common standards (eg 40:40:20) that should apply across all six Faculties. Common principles in workload modelling will enable the university to identify areas where workloads preclude staff spending appropriate amounts of time on research and/or scholarship. If done realistically, it will also enable an informed critique of existing structures and processes based on a serious reckoning of the time spent on various managerial and administrative tasks.

These points are not new. What has hampered discussion in the past, however, is framing the issue in terms of a ‘single workload model’. This terminology is unhelpfully ambiguous, and immediately creates understandable concerns about the implementation of a ‘one size fits all’ solution. We need to distinguish between a common platform, common principles, and a common model. If common model refers to a single set of items with precisely the same weighting applied across all subjects, there are good reasons to reject this. There are real differences between PhD supervision in the Arts and PhD supervision within a research group in the hard sciences, not least in terms of the relationship between the PhD supervisor’s own research and that of the PhD student. This is why workload models in the Arts tend to weigh PhD supervising more heavily than those in the Sciences. A common platform, such as the software Simitive provide, allows considerable flexibility in modelling. Currently, our luxurious variety of workload models largely sit on a common platform, namely Microsoft Excel. A common platform has no necessary implications for how modelling works.

Objections to a common model do not, however, hold for common principles of modelling. There are, for instance, very good reasons to use hours (or hours translated into credits as a means of turning 4 digit into 3 digit numbers) rather than to use a % model, as the latter says nothing about the actual or relative volume of work. This paper sets out a set of common principles that should inform workload modelling across the University of Bristol. The paper is informed by hundreds of conversations with academics across the University about workload and workload modelling, by a review of (anonymised) data from several of the workload models currently in use, and by UCU’s national work on best practice in workload modelling.

Common Principles

1. Workload models should measure time.

Time is what a workload model measures, not money. The weighting attached to tasks should be solely derived from the time taken to accomplish them. A good model does not ‘incentivise’ behaviours by weighing some tasks more heavily than others, regardless of the relative time required to complete them, on the grounds that some tasks are more profitable than others. We should not, for instance, weigh research less heavily within a model as it is less lucrative than teaching overseas students. This principle needs to be consistently upheld in modelling.

2. The currency of the model should be hours not percentages.

As noted above, models based on percentages simply fail to deliver key requirements of a workload model.

3. The hours assigned to tasks should be realistic.

Some workload models currently in use at Bristol do not adequately reflect the realities of work. This is evident, for example, in the time allocated for marking, which often does not align with pressures to provide better feedback for students. It is, of course, the case that individual academics even in the same subject area will vary in the time needed to perform certain tasks. Hours allocated should reflect the time needed for a competent member of staff do the task properly. This is best determined through discussion with staff. This approach is both rooted in the reality of how long work takes while also providing a useful yardstick to staff: if the marking is taking much less time than the model suggests (not in practice a common experience!) you are probably not doing it properly; if it is taking far longer, you may be providing more feedback than is actually useful to a student.

4. The aim is to capture the full workload.

A model that undercounts workload is not a good workload model. As well as realistically modelling time required to perform a given duty, the model should seek to capture the full range of duties, including research and scholarship. This does not mean that a model should seek or claim to be exhaustive: some important aspects of academic life, such as a student coming to see a member of staff outside consultation hours, cannot be predicted in advance, and the costs of monitoring this activity would be both prohibitive and undesirable. The workload model should include an allowance for this unscheduled activity of at least 160 hours per annum.

5. The workload model should be developed to the highest standards of EDI.

Staff often note the tendency of WLMs to undercount the time involved in certain activities: teaching; teaching management; personal tutoring. By contrast some work is rarely undercounted – consultation with staff suggests research management roles are usually appropriately weighted. There is here a gendered pattern: roles that are under-counted are those disproportionately undertaken by women. In building a WLM, robust scrutiny of both the categories adopted and the tariffs included from an EDI perspective is essential. This is itself an argument in favour of more comprehensive approach rather than heavily trading off comprehensiveness in favour of simplicity: adopting the latter strategy is more likely to undercount women’s work, and hence to perpetuate inequality and injustice.

6. The workload model should be transparent and shared amongst those whose workload it captures.

There is already some good practice at the University of workload data being shared at School level and made available to all those whose workload is included in the model. Where this has happened, the experience has been positive: the capacity to see the workloads of others in the School has driven up the quality of information in the model, made for greater equity in workloads, and reduced (at least somewhat!) ill-informed comment upon the workloads of others.

7. The details of costings (eg how many hours does it take to supervise a PhD student in Chemistry?) should be built from ‘the bottom up’ through discussion amongst staff in the relevant unit.

8. There should be a single model at an appropriate level of unit, which will be at least that of the School, but would better be that of the Faculty.

There should be a single model in a School, rather than multiple models. It is, though, both possible and preferable to have a single model across a Faculty. This does not mean, for instance, that there is no scope for acknowledging particular unit types that require additional teaching; this already happens where there is a Faculty-wide model (eg Arts). Given the role that Faculties play in determining staffing levels, a single model per Faculty would be the ideal. The fact that at least one Faculty (Arts), and a very diverse Faculty at that (consider the differences between Spanish, Philosophy, and Film) has implemented a single model gives the lie to claims that this is impossible. It might be that the model, even within a single School, weighs the same task differently: it might, for instance, be the case that within the School of Geographical Sciences some PhD supervision conforms to an ‘Arts’ mode, some a ‘Science’ mode; the model should recognise that difference. Any such Faculty-wide model would be derived through principle 7.

9. Models should explicitly include time for research (P1 and P2) and for scholarship/pedagogy (P3) in accordance with contractual expectations.

All P1 staff regardless of Faculty are expected to conduct research. Workload models across all Faculties and Schools for P1 staff should include hours for research that reflect these contractual demands. This is likely to be of the order of 40% (ie c. 600 hours), given the ambitions of the University’s strategy for research, and should be similar regardless of School/Faculty. All P3 staff are expected to pursue scholarship/pedagogy, and hours in WLMs should reflect this. This is likely to be in the order of 30% (ie c. 450 hour), given the contractual demands on such staff, and the ambitions of the University’s strategy for educational innovation.

10. Core research time should be treated as a single block of time.

Some existing models (eg Arts) largely treat core research time for staff as a single block. Others (eg SPS) build up core research time from specific tasks (eg writing a grant proposal; writing a paper for a journal). While the latter approach is appropriate to understanding the time involved in teaching and management work, the former better reflects the autonomy, and flexibility, inherent in academic research. It also reduces the set up and maintenance costs of running a WLM.

11. Buy out for research should not be secured by reducing research time for others.

Many of the most difficult conversations around workload modelling concern buy out, usually for research, of staff time, and how this should be accounted for in the model. External grants are only one source of money for research and are not a meaningful proxy for the quality or quantity of research undertaken by either an individual or a group. There is wide variance in the significance of research grants as a funding stream across different disciplines within the university. Core research time should not be restricted to those with active grants. It may, however, be appropriate to award grant holders additional research time beyond core time, as long as this does not drive up the workload of others to levels where ‘real’ research time is reduced below the level set out by the ‘core’ research tariff.