Here’s everything you need to know about next week’s Bristol Uni strikes

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Staff at the University of Bristol will be going on strike next week.

It has been confirmed that staff who are members of the UCU union will be striking from Monday 25th of November until Wednesday 4th of December inclusive.

This is as a result of a ballot taken in the autumn term by UCU nationwide, with 79% of voting members backing industrial action over changes to pensions, and 74% of voting members backing industrial action over pay, conditions, and casualisation of work.

This comes after staggered industrial action that disrupted teaching over 4 weeks in February and March 2018.

Staff also voted for “action short of a strike” which begins on the 5th of December 2019, and that will continue until the 29th of April 2020 at the latest. This means not rescheduling cancelled classes, and working strictly to contract.

Why are they striking?

Staff at UoB are striking over pay and conditions, and changes to the USS pension scheme.

One of the big issues being raised is the gender pay gap, with one staff member who plans to strike telling The Tab, “I don’t find it normal that women are paid less than men.”

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The strikes in February/March 2018 received strong support

Another point of contention is pay, with staff saying that they are not receiving pay rises in line with inflation, and that their workloads are increasing but their compensation is not.

However, the university says that most staff will receive pay rises this year of between 1.8% and 3.65%.

According to the Bristol Post, staff are asking for a 3% pay rise in line with inflation, or a £3,349 pay rise, whichever is more. They also say that the university’s latest offer was a 1.8% pay rise, which was rejected by the union.

In terms of the USS pension scheme, staff are seeking to ensure that their own contributions to the scheme do not go up.

How will this affect my classes and assessments?

Not all staff will go on strike, but they do not have to inform either the university or students if they plan to strike, and therefore you may not know in advance whether or not your classes will be going ahead.

It is just UCU members who have voted to strike, of which not all staff are members, however non-union staff are permitted to strike if they choose to.

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Staff will likely be showing their creative sides once again…

Any assessments taking place during the strike period may not go ahead, and Bristol SU have said that they are working with the university to ensure that fair adjustments are made, such as arranging extensions for coursework due in that time, and ensuring that content not taught due to strikes is not included in exam papers.

Bristol SU and the University advise that you contact your individual school with any questions related to assessments.

Can I support the strikes?

Students can support the strikes. The Bristol Staff Student Solidarity Group (BSSSG) is a student-led organisation formed to support UoB staff on strike, and they have suggested many ways students can support the strike, such as not crossing picket lines, joining in the rallies, and vocally supporting staff in their efforts.

Bristol SU and UoB have said that it is up to students whether or not to cross picket lines, however students will have to “take personal responsibility for the teaching and learning that they will be missing”, should they choose not to attend a class that is going ahead.

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We all know the feeling

Another idea suggested by the BSSSG was “Lie In For Your Lecturers”, encouraging students to sleep in rather than crossing the picket lines.

What is the SU’s position?

Bristol SU is supporting the industrial action, as per a motion passed at the Annual Members Meeting in 2018. A statement released by the SU on behalf of the officer team says,

“We believe that any action will be in the long term interests of all students to ensure we retain the best quality teaching staff at the university. Therefore we stand in solidarity with our UCU colleagues to support the strike, and will be working closely with UCU colleagues during this time.”

They mentioned postgraduate students specifically, saying, “In particular, our members who are PGR students may be taking part in the strike, and we will support them for the benefit of their future academic careers.”

You can see the latest update from Bristol SU on the strikes here.

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Huge crowds gathered for rallies in 2018

Can I get a refund for missed lectures?

The short answer is, no.

As per the Student Agreement, agreed by students before term starts, the university “will not be liable to you for events outside of our control”, which in the list provided includes “industrial action”.

On their FAQ page, Bristol SU says the following:

“We will also work with the University to ensure that any money they do save from the salaries of striking lecturers is reinvested to support the experience of current students…”

On the same webpage, they have committed to ensuring that “students aren’t disadvantaged” by the strikes, and will ensure that the university makes up for the “lost educational experience”.

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Soooo, it’s all a bit up in the air then?

Basically, yes. Staff do not have to tell students or the uni whether or not they are striking, you will not get a refund for any missed lectures, and the university and the SU have committed to ensuring that students are not disadvantaged by the strikes.

That being said, assessments that are due or are taking place during the period of industrial action may well be affected, and missed teaching will not necessarily be made up by staff who are taking “action short of a strike”.

So instead of dragging yourself out of bed for your Monday 9am next week, you may as well just stay in bed…

For further information regarding the industrial action, please see the following webpages:

Bristol Uni Industrial Action Info

Bristol SU FAQs

UCU Website