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Five strike days confirmed to hit first week of teaching at Bristol University

Bristol UCU will be conducting industrial action from the 25th to the 29th September

The University and College Union (UCU) announced today that staff at 136 universities will be conducting five consecutive days of industrial action to hit the start of the new academic year.

Spanning from Monday 25th until Friday 29th September, this latest industrial action falls on Fresher’s Week for most universities. However, Bristol’s term begins slightly earlier on the 25th September, meaning the first week of teaching will be hit instead.

Members are striking over pay and working conditions which they say have fallen in real terms since 2009. The body which represents universities, UCEA, offered a pay award of around 5 per cent for most UCU members for the 23/24 academic year.

The UCU is also demanding a change to gig-economy employment practises and high workloads.

Despite announcing fresh strike action, the marking and assessment boycott (MAB) ended today after 60 per cent voted in favour of suspension. The MAB was ongoing since the 20th April and left 64 Bristol students with insufficient marks to award them a degree, whilst many are still yet to receive confirmed marks for their summer exams.

With regards to this latest action, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We are left with no option but to strike during the start of term because our members refuse to stand by while pay is eroded and staff are shunted onto gig-economy contracts.

“It is shameful that vice-chancellors still refuse to settle the dispute despite a year of unprecedented disruption, and have instead imposed a pay award that staff overwhelmingly rejected. Universities are richer than ever, generating tens of billions of pounds in income and hoarding billions more in cash deposits. But they won’t give staff their fair share, a pay award of 5 per cent is a huge real-terms pay cut and is substantially lower than school teachers received.

“We have sought to settle this dispute at every opportunity, including agreeing to a joint review of sector finances, but we are faced with employers that want to see staff and students suffer. We desperately hope vice-chancellors realise we are going nowhere without a fair settlement and make us a realistic offer. If they do not, campuses will be marred by picket lines during Fresher’s Week, and we will launch a new strike ballot allowing us to take action well into 2024.”

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “The Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB) has now concluded after University College Union (UCU) members voted for suspension. We recognise that the boycott has been difficult and unsettling for all parties involved, and we will be updating staff in relation to completing outstanding marking and communicating with our students about when they can expect to hear about their results.

“Disappointingly, further industrial action has also been announced at UK universities, including here at Bristol, from Monday 25 until Friday 29 September. This falls on the first week of teaching and we are now working closely with schools and faculties to minimise disruption as we acknowledge this first week is a very important time for all our returning and new students who use this period to make friendships and connections with others on their courses.”

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Featured image via @Bristol_UCU on Twitter