Breaking: Bristol UCU calls off strike action for first week back

‘We are really pleased that Bristol UCU has decided not to take part in the national industrial action planned for later this month’

Bristol UCU has called off the industrial action planned to hit the first week of teaching.

Members voted to postpone the local strikes due to take place from the 25th to the 29th September.

Bristol follows the likes of York University and King’s College London in rejecting the national UCU strike mandate.

Two weeks ago the UCU announced an end to the marking and assessment boycott which had been ongoing since the 20th April, leaving some students unable to graduate.

Despite the national UCU renewing the strike mandate for the start of the new academic year, Bristol UCU branch agreed ‘to minimize any disruption during any period of targeted strike action, as per local agreements on pay structure negotiation and a forthcoming joint statement, and to engage in constructive dialogue with the University to further good relations and partnership working in the months ahead’.

This meant the prior planned action for the first week back would not have involved organised disruptive events like campus picket lines.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We are really pleased that Bristol UCU has decided not to take part in the national industrial action planned for later this month. We remain committed to continuing conversations and discussions with our union colleagues on issues that are of concern to them.”

The joint statement shared with staff today said: “The University of Bristol and local branch of the University and College Union (Bristol UCU) have been meeting to discuss the national dispute and opportunities to improve relations at a local level to benefit the whole university community.

“The ongoing nature of the national dispute is a cause of great concern to the University and all its staff and students. The University and Bristol UCU both strongly support efforts to find common ground in national negotiations between the Universities and Colleges Employer Association (UCEA) and UCU. We welcome the recent agreement by both sides to carry out a financial review of the sector, which will enable a joint dialogue with government over the future of the sector.

“We now need to find a longer-term resolution and ask both UCEA and UCU to agree to the negotiation of multi-year pay deals that are acceptable to all parties and provide a framework that avoids uncertainty and enables good relations between universities and their trade unions. This will only be possible through continued meetings by all parties at the national level. We urge both sides to maintain a constructive dialogue in the current dispute and to find a resolution as soon as possible.

“Moving forward locally, The University of Bristol and Bristol UCU agree that:

  • The real-terms decline in staff pay at Bristol and across the sector is a cause of real concern, particularly in the face of the current inflationary pressures. We also know that government funding for universities continues to decrease, and that there is an uneven distribution of that funding across the sector.
  • We share a strong commitment to the principles of national pay bargaining and the benefits of commonality that this brings to our sector by limiting competition on pay between institutions.
  • We acknowledge and seek to promote that the University of Bristol is leading the sector in several key areas such as the greater use of open-ended contracts and its work to eliminate the gender pay gap.
  • We must continue to meet regularly in the months ahead and share the views and perspectives of both sides in the interests of our staff and students. An open and trusting dialogue between the University and its trade unions is of paramount importance.

“To help support staff during the cost-of-living crisis and minimise the impact of further industrial action on students, it has also been agreed that:

  • The University will enter into negotiations, scheduled to conclude in December 2023, with its recognised trade unions on the structure of salaries and grading at Bristol within the specific limits set by the national framework. Bristol UCU fully supports these negotiations and will participate in them fully.
  • Up to and including the negotiations, Bristol UCU undertake to call no further locally-called industrial action so that discussions can continue openly and constructively.

“The University respects the right of staff to take industrial action in the context of the national dispute.”

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Featured image credit via @Bristol_UCU on Twitter