By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
The University of Bristol has made a fresh offer in a bid to resolve the ongoing Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) led by the members of University and College Union (UCU).
The new offer includes capping the number of days that the University withholds pay for staff who have not yet provided marks to ten days at 50 per cent from April 20 to June 19.
The MAB, which has caused disruption to assessment and examination processes, has been a point of contention between the University administration and UCU members for several weeks. It culminated in a joint strike action led by UCU Bristol Branch and UNISON Bristol on Friday, June 16, coinciding with the University open day.
In an effort to find common ground and address the concerns raised by UCU members, the University management presented a new set of proposals aimed at resolving the dispute surrounding the marking boycott. The offer, which was put forward on Tuesday, June 20th, outlines possible ways to remedy the current crisis.
The University management proposed to cap the number of days that it will withhold pay for staff who have not yet provided marks to ten days at 50 per cent of pay, covering two months from April 20 to June 19. Those staff whose marking has been reallocated will still be subject to the same deduction for the period.
A University spokesperson pointed out that this is an improved offer for those staff members who have participated in the boycott to date but at the same time recognises that the University does not accept partial performance of duties.
In addition, to ease further pressure, The University management has proposed a ‘firebreak’ in terms of pay deductions from June 20 to June 30 which will allow staff to return to marking without any further penalties.
The offer outlines that where marks have not been returned, deductions will start again from July 3 at the previously agreed rate of 50 per cent per day until any outstanding marks are returned or the boycott is concluded. This is important not only in terms of the marks for first sits but also for re-sits.
The marking boycott, which began on April 20, 2023, will see UCU members and University of Bristol staff not undertake any marking and assessment duties until the University meets the demands of the UCU on pay, pensions and work load.
Following the UCU members’ decision to involve in the marking boycott, the University laid out 50 per cent pay deductions which were condemned by UCU as punitive measures.
Due to the marking boycott, questions were raised by students on whether their work will be marked in time for graduation, or in time to progress to the next year of study.
Charlie Gairsford, a final year Politics and International Relations student, penned an open letter to the Senior Leadership Team at the University of Bristol in May urging to resolve the current marking boycott.
Not all students have been affected by the Marking and Assessment Boycott as some faculties continue to function as usual in terms of marking.
On the new offer from the University management, Dr. Jamie Melrose, President of UCU Bristol Branch said:
'The University has made a welcome change to MAB pay deductions policy...In short, the total number of days on which pay would have been withheld has been cut by 50 to 10.
'The University has asked that this positive change in policy, this goodwill gesture, be considered as grounds to rule out any further targeted strike action in our local branch dispute over pay docking, before the end of our current mandate.
'Although a welcome step, the question for branch members vis-à-vis our local dispute over punitive pay docking is whether this positive change in policy is sufficient to suspend our local dispute and call off further strike action before September. Reps and the Branch Executive Committee meet Tuesday next week( June 27) to discuss. Any final decision will be a decision of branch members.'
'It is important to reiterate that what has changed, in essence, is that there is now a 10-day cap*0.5 for MAB participation from the start of the MAB to July 3rd. Our prosecution of the Boycott, in our UK-wide dispute, continues for the time being.'
A University of Bristol spokesperson said:
‘We know that the effects of the marking and assessment boycott are causing significant anxiety for our students, a small number of whom do not know if their work will be marked or if they can graduate with a classification.
‘We also recognise the impact on our staff, with the financial deductions and associated stress that come with taking part in the boycott and industrial action more generally.
‘We think it is in everyone’s best interest to find a resolution to this issue which is why we have put forward a new offer to our local UCU representatives today that we believe will support staff at the same time as safeguarding our students’ success and university experience.
‘As such we propose to cap the number of days that we will withhold pay for staff who have not yet provided marks to ten days at 50% of pay, covering two months from 20 April to 19 June. Those staff whose marking has been reallocated will still be subject to the same deduction for the period.
‘This is an improved offer for those who have participated in the boycott to date but at the same time recognises that we do not accept partial performance of duties. In addition, to further ease pressure, we have proposed a ‘firebreak’ in terms of pay deductions from 20 June to 30 June which will allow staff to return to marking without any further penalties.
‘But where marks have not been returned, deductions will start again from 3 July at the previously agreed rate of 50% per day until any outstanding marks are returned or the boycott is concluded. This is important not only in terms of the marks for first sits but also for re-sits.
‘We sincerely hope this offer will be accepted by Bristol UCU members until the national dispute can be resolved.’
Have you been affected by the Marking and Assesment Boycott (MAB)?