Image may contain: Crowd, Vehicle, Car, Transportation, Automobile, Pedestrian, Banner, Text, Human, Person

Confirmed: Bristol Uni staff to go on strike for three days in early December

Bristol UCU members will go on strike between 1-3rd December

Bristol Uni staff will go on strike for three days next month over pay and pension cuts.

Staff who are members of the University and College Union (UCU) will take part in three days of action between Wednesday 1st and Friday 3rd December as part of nationwide action also taking place at 58 other universities.

UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, has threatened there could be more strikes next term unless “employers get round the table and take staff concerns over pensions cuts, pay and working conditions seriously”.

In a statement on their website, Bristol SU said it was “disappointed” the dispute had resulted in strikes. They recognised the impact and “frustrations” this would cause students but respected “the right of university staff to pursue industrial action”.

Image may contain: Urban, Town, Building, City, Outdoors, Parade, Smoke, Clothing, Apparel, Festival, Crowd, Person, Human

Why are Bristol Uni staff striking?

Bristol UCU members are striking over cuts to both their pensions and pay, equality pay gaps, casualisation and unsafe workloads.

The UCU claim that staff pay has fallen by 20 per cent on average in real terms since 2009. A third of academic staff are on “insecure” contracts and that the gender pay gap is at 15 per cent.

It argues that cuts to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), the principal pension scheme provided by UK universities, will see the average guaranteed pension of staff drop by 35 per cent.

Bristol UCU members want pension cuts to be overturned and are calling on Bristol Uni to improve its pay offer and commit to “meaningful agreements and action” over insecure contracts, workload and equality pay gaps.

The union does not see the December strikes as an end to the dispute. “If employers do not make improved offers, further industrial action is likely to continue into the spring”, the organisation said.

What does this mean for students?

Teaching will be severely disrupted between 1st-3rd December. While not all staff are part of UCU, those that are will not be present for your lectures, seminars or tutorials.

Staff who are striking do not have to inform the university or students in advance. You may turn up to your class not knowing whether it is going ahead or not.

While staff are currently only set to strike for three days in December, staff have gone on strike over pay and pensions on four separate occasions in the past three years. A swift resolution to the dispute seems unlikely with The Universities and College Employers Association (UCEA) already denouncing the strikes as an “unrealistic attempt” to reopen pay negotiations.

Two years ago, staff held two periods of strike action, initially going on strike in November for nine days and then again for 14 days between February and March 2020.

Previously, in 2018, industrial action caused teaching disruption for over four weeks.

What have the university said?

Bristol Uni argue that in regards to pay, they are part of a national bargaining arrangement and therefore do not have individual control over the pay of staff. They understand the decision to strike was not an easy one and respect the right of staff to strike.

The uni also said providing teaching to students is their priority and it is “well-prepared to mitigate the impact of industrial action”.

In a full statement, a spokesperson for Bristol Uni said: “Regrettably, the University and College Union (UCU) has announced further industrial action at the University of Bristol and other UK universities in the continued dispute over the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – staff pensions, and the national pay award for 2021/22.

“Industrial action is part of a complex national dispute. These are important issues and we respect the right of our staff to strike, which we know was not an easy decision to make.

“As a university, we have worked collaboratively with our staff and the local UCU branch to put our collective views forward and have argued for higher employer contributions to help ensure the USS Pension scheme is sustainable in the future.

“It goes without saying that our priority as a university is providing teaching and learning for our students, many of whom have already faced severe disruption due to the pandemic. We’re well-prepared to mitigate the impact of industrial action and will be doing all that we can to keep any impact on our students to a minimum in the coming weeks.

“With reference to the annual pay award, the university is part of a national bargaining arrangement, and we have to act in accordance with the scheme and the positions of other members.

“As a university, we are proud of the way that we have worked with the local branch of UCU and the other trade unions to make things better for staff. We are open to continuing the conversation and being pro-active in addressing their concerns.”

In a statement on their website, Bristol SU said: “It is disappointing that disputes remain ongoing, and that strike action has now been deemed as necessary.

“We recognise the different frustrations currently being experienced within the student body. We know that this is an important subject which will impact students in different ways, and that there may be a divided opinion on it.

“We’re aware that this will affect the university experience of many, and we also respect the right of university staff to pursue industrial action.

“We will continue our attempts with relevant stakeholders – the University, UUK (Universities UK) and UCEA (The Universities and Colleges Employers Association) – to re-open negotiations and end the dispute, and to minimise the impact of strike action on your educational experience.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Thousands sign petition against Bristol Uni decision to move graduation to local football stadium

Bristol Uni makes face masks mandatory for all staff and students indoors

Sick of single use plastics? You’ve got to visit the SU’s excellent new zero-waste shop