Bristol UCU escalates industrial action by announcing strike to target next week’s open day

Bristol lecturers will strike on Friday 16th June

Bristol UCU has announced its members will be striking on Friday 16th June as part of the continued dispute over pay and working conditions.

The date coincides with Bristol University’s first summer open day and follows a similar move announced by Durham UCU earlier this week.

Bristol UCU criticised the 50 per cent pay cut levied on staff participating in the marking and assessment boycott and the university’s decision to graduate students with missing marks – which the UCU has labelled the “dodgy degree scandal”.

The union argued Bristol University has an income of £858 million and “£374 million in the bank”, figures which it says should be used to “[try] to resolve the boycott instead of impoverishing staff”.

In response, the university has told The Bristol Tab that: “The financial figures presented by UCU don’t take into account the cost of delivering teaching and research. Staff costs alone account for £440.9m. This figure will increase substantially as we’ve committed to a pay rise of between five and eight percent for all staff.

“Like many organisations, our income isn’t going up in line with inflation, largely because the value of tuition fees has been frozen for so long. This means we’re having to manage our finances carefully by investing in initiatives which will allow the University to grow sustainably”.

This escalation comes as the university has been condemned for handing out “pretend degrees” as part of their mitigation plan for the marking and assessment boycott, allowing students to progress without having all of their work marked.

Students have heavily criticised the university’s plan to allow work to go ungraded, with hundreds signing an open letter calling on the uni to pressure UCEA to re-open negotiations with the UCU so the dispute can be resolved.

The issue has been compounded by the allegations made by two senior lecturers who told The Bristol Tab today that non-striking staff are marking twice as many dissertations as normal, raising fears about the quality of marking.

The University of Bristol UCU branch president Jamie Melrose said: “Strikes on open days, arbitrary pay cuts, dodgy degrees: instead of raising the temperature of an already hot summer on campus, University of Bristol management should spend their time settling this long-running dispute.

“The vice-chancellor needs to halt the pay docking and call for national negotiations to reopen. Students and staff demand nothing less.”

A spokesperson for University of Bristol said: “We fully respect the rights of our staff to act where they feel strongly about issues which affect them.

“Despite the disappointing decision by UCU and Unison to hold industrial action on Friday to coincide with the first of this week’s open days, we will still be going ahead as planned, although we have had to regrettably cancel a small number of sessions. We’re not expecting Saturday’s open day to be affected.

“We have introduced robust measures to mitigate against the impact of the Marking and Assessment Boycott as we know this is causing considerable anxiety for students. These plans will help examination boards make sound and robust decisions that will maintain the quality and high standards associated with a Bristol degree.

“While we are working with our local unions here at Bristol, the sector needs to find affordable solutions and better ways of resolving these ongoing disputes nationally.”

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