Bristol Uni staff demand Hugh Brady ‘gets on the phone’ to negotiate an end to strikes
Bristol Uni staff are taking part in the first of three days of strikes against cuts to pay and pensions
A Bristol Uni staff member has called on Hugh Brady to “get on the phone” to UUK (Universities UK) and the UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association) and negotiate an end to the strikes.
Today marks the first of three days of industrial action as Bristol Uni staff who are members of the UCU walk out over pay and pension cuts.
The remarks came at a rally held outside the Victoria Rooms attended by staff and students as well as local politicians including Green party co-leader, Carla Denyer and Labour Mayor of the West of England, Dan Norris.
Addressing the crowd of protestors, Kit Fotheringham, a teaching associate in the Law School turned towards the nearby Beacon House, inside of which is Hugh Brady’s office, and called out the Vice-Chancellors “inaction” to demand better working conditions for his staff.
He went on to demand Hugh Brady “picked up the phone” to the UUK and UCEA to lobby the organisations to reverse their decision that would see the average guaranteed pension of staff cut by 35 per cent, bring an end to these disputes and end the strikes.
Bristol UCU are protesting over the “Four Fights” which include cuts to their pension scheme, the fall in real wages, working conditions and staff overload.
The union argue that 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.
A spokesperson for Bristol Uni said: “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.”
Speaking alongside staff and students at the rally, Green party co-leader, Carla Denyer, told protestors she was there to “stand with you against pension cuts, against insufficient pay, against the gender and ethnic pay gap, against the casualisation of workforce and against unrealistic workloads”.
“I don’t work at the university myself but a great number of my friends do and have done, some of them having left because of the conditions so I know exactly what it’s like.”
She went on to say: “It was fantastic to see so many staff come out in support of the student rent strikes and it is fantastic today to see the solidarity be returned as so many students come out in support of the staff”.
The strikes this week become the fourth time in three years Bristol Uni staff have gone on strike over pay and pension disputes.
Polling by The Bristol Tab taken by 710 people showed the student population had mixed feelings surrounding the strikes with 58 per cent supporting the action taken by staff.
While third year Biochemistry student Luke supported the strikes arguing “staff are set to lose far more than we are”, fellow third year student Emily questioned the success of the strikes.
“I’d rather lecturers refused to mark any work for a term and did something as drastic as that. Obviously that wouldn’t happen but it would massively escalate the issue and force the university to act, then carry on with this repeated striking like we saw in 2018, 2019 and 2020 which doesn’t lead to anything and just punishes students.
“The strikes are damaging enough that they impact our learning but not damaging enough that enough students actually engage and turn their anger towards the university so we keep going on the merry-go-round of perpetual strikes.”
In a full statement, a spokesperson for Bristol Uni said: “Regrettably, the University and College Union (UCU) is undertaking 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 this week.
“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.”