By Milan Perera, Deputy Editor
In an open letter sent to Professor Evelyn Welch, the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol, members of University and College Union (UCU) Bristol Branch urged the University Leadership Team to ‘settle, not escalate’ the current industrial dispute.
The letter was sent nearly a week after the University of Bristol Leadership made a fresh offer to UCU Bristol members in a bid to resolve the ongoing Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB).
In the letter, members of UCU Bristol Branch expressed their disappointment at the University management for not joining other universities in making a public statement to restart negotiations with University College Employers Association (UCEA) in the ongoing pay and conditions dispute.
In a survey carried out by UCEA, 70 of the 144 institutions it represents responded how graduations were being affected by the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB). According to the survey, 50 universities said fewer than 2 per cent of students would be unable to graduate due to the marking boycott.
However, Jenny Sherrard, head of policy at UCU, accused UCEA of ‘trying to downplay the impact’ of the boycott. Jo Grady, General Secretary of UCU pointed out that the figures shown by UCEA account for less than half of the universities hit by the industrial action.
UCU Bristol pointed out the need to adopt far-reaching measures to address the concerns raised by its membership to avoid annual industrial action:
‘Bristol UCU and the University of Bristol leadership should be as one: acknowledging that staff deserve to be paid more; that universities need money to be able to do so; that longer-term thinking about pay is needed.’
UCU Bristol branch expressed its disappointment at the temporary academic regulations that came in to force from May 11 as a contingency measure against the marking boycott. In the letter, UCU Bristol accused the University of ‘academic vandalism’:
‘We find the University of Bristol, or rather University management, the Industrial Action Task Force, and their willing managerial acolytes engaging and devoting their time and energy to an unprecedented act of academic vandalism in their current awarding and progressing of undergraduate and postgraduate ‘degrees’.’
UCU Bristol further reiterated that it will not flinch from publicising ‘every outrage’ of the contingency measures unless the current dispute is resolved promptly:
‘Unless our Bristol temporary academic regulations are revoked, and unless the University mitigates its approach to punitive pay docking, our branch will not flinch from publicising every ‘outrage’, every exam board cancelled at the last minute, every parent exam board’s oligarchic overruling of the board below,... every skewing of a final classification because of the non-counting of marks affected by industrial action, every degree that is not a degree.’
The new offer extended by the University management 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 letter came a day after the Representatives and the Branch Executive Committee of UCU Bristol met on Tuesday, June 27 to discuss whether the fresh offer by the University is sufficient to suspend the local dispute and call off further strike action before September.
Speaking exclusively to Epigram, A University of Bristol spokesperson said:
‘We have written to UCU to acknowledge yesterday’s (June 28) email, saying we would be very happy to discuss this at our next meeting with them or to schedule an additional meeting.
‘As previously reported by Epigram we have already moderated our approach to pay docking and this has been communicated to UCU members.
‘In addition, last week’s special meeting of Senate did not support the request to revoke the temporary regulations introduced to help examination boards make sound and robust decisions that will maintain the quality and high standards associated with a Bristol degree.’