Industrial action

Further national strike action has been announced at UK universities, including here at the University of Bristol.

Industrial action dates

UCU Strike days

Thursday 24 November, Friday 25 November, and Wednesday 30 November - Pay, pensions and conditions

UCU Action short of strike (ASOS)

Starting from 23 November. 

ASOS is defined as only working contracted hours and carrying out normal duties, not volunteering to do more. 

UNISON Strike days

Thursday 24 November and Wednesday 30 November - Pay 

Members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) voted in support of strike action or Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) over salaries, proposed changes to the largest university pension scheme (Universities Superannuation Scheme - USS), workload and the gender pay gap.

Following a ballot of members at the University of Bristol, UNISON colleagues have a mandate to take strike action over the pay award, which is being implemented in the September pay and backdated to August 2022. 

We respect the right of our union member colleagues to act where they feel strongly about the issues that affect them. We also appreciate that the dispute may cause anxiety for our students. We are doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of industrial action on your student experience.

Impact on teaching

Please do not assume that teaching is cancelled. You should attend classes as normal unless you hear otherwise. 

Contacts

We want to help you access information in as many ways as possible. You can:

Industrial action reimbursement fund 

Students who experience disruption due to the industrial action are eligible to claim from the Industrial action reimbursement fund for costs incurred, for example childcare, subsistence and travel.

Apply for industrial action reimbursement.

Support for you

If you're feeling any impact on your health or wellbeing, you can access wellbeing support

Bristol's position

Pay

The University participates in a national bargaining arrangement to agree the annual pay award and is obliged to act in accordance with the scheme. We argued for a larger increment this year, but it was clear that most institutions considered this unaffordable.

However, with our union colleagues, we have made progress on issues like closing the gender pay gap and reducing casualisation in our workforce. We will also continue to support national negotiations to bring this issue to resolution.

USS pension scheme

The USS Trustee proposed significantly increased contribution rates based on a valuation of the scheme made in March 2020. The increased contribution rates would make the scheme unaffordable for many members and university employers. The valuation of the scheme and the subsequent recommendations from the USS Trustee are disputed by UCU.

We have had direct conversations with the USS Trustee and lobbied hard through UUK, who sit on the Joint Negotiating Committee alongside UCU and the USS Trustee, to keep the scheme affordable and to challenge the scheme governance and seek reform. 

We supported the proposal put forward by Universities UK (UUK) which recommended lower contribution rates for members than those proposed by the USS Trustees, and we were supportive of employers paying a higher share of contribution increases to help conclude the current scheme valuation. The UUK proposal was legally accepted by the USS Trustee in March 2022.

However, the proposal included cuts to pension benefits for USS members. UCU rejected the proposal and put forward an alternative plan which was not supported by the Joint Negotiating Committee.

We are one of 340 organisations that are part of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), so any changes would need to be agreed by USS and the Pensions Regulator. For Bristol, every 1% additional contribution to the scheme would cost around £1.5m.

We continue to protect staff benefits by working with our Staff Pension Working Group and the local UCU branch to advocate keeping cost increases to an absolute minimum, and only where necessary.

How industrial impact may impact upon your studies

Impact on services

We expect all University services to remain open including libraries, student support, Residential Life and wellbeing services. If individual appointments have to be cancelled, we will let you know in advance. 

Possible cancellation of teaching

We will tell you as soon as possible of any cancelled teaching, but we will not always be informed by staff in advance that they are taking strike action. They are under no legal obligation to inform us ahead of time, so there may be occasions when we can’t provide advance notice of cancellations. Please attend as usual, unless you hear otherwise. Don’t assume teaching is cancelled.

We will keep you informed via your University of Bristol email.

Picket lines

Staff who are members of a trade union, and who have had a lawful vote to take strike action, create a picket line by standing outside buildings and explaining to people why they are on strike. They hope to persuade fellow union members not to cross the picket line, so that as many members as possible take strike action. You won’t be prevented from entering any buildings.

There is an expectation that you will attend teaching and assessment activities as normal unless you hear that these have been cancelled or rescheduled. If you choose not to cross a picket line, you’ll need to take personal responsibility for the teaching and learning that you will be missing.

Lost teaching time

It is possible that some teaching can be rescheduled, but this can't be guaranteed. We have an agreement with UCU that we will not be asking UCU members to make up for lost teaching time. We appreciate that some colleagues may choose to do so to support their students. 

Impact on assessments

You should expect that all assessments and exams will take place as planned and submission dates for assessments will not be changed.  

Impacts on PhD or research degree vivas

If you have a viva that is scheduled for a strike day, you should assume that your viva will go ahead unless you hear otherwise.

Student visa holders

The industrial action should not affect your Student Visa. Unless you are told that a specific class or contact point has been cancelled, you should attend as normal. Any classes or contact points which are cancelled as the result of industrial action will be recorded as an authorised absence with a note to say that this is due to industrial action.

If you have concerns about impact of the industrial action on your visa, contact our International Student Visa Advisers.

Mitigating the impact of industrial action on your studies

Your school will monitor any teaching or assessment activities that are affected by strike action and make the necessary arrangements to minimise the impact upon you as much as possible.

We will only have a full picture of the impact after strike action has ended and can then consider appropriate measures in mitigation. The impact will vary across schools, programmes and even between individual students taking the same unit. As a result, mitigations can take various forms:

  • Providing alternative learning opportunities;
  • Substituting teaching activities;
  • Revising the format and/or content of your assessments;
  • Extending coursework and project deadlines;
  • Changing the weighting of a particular assessment in your overall results.

Anything we put in place needs to be fair to all our students, practically feasible and in keeping with the standards that underpin the quality of your degree.

The Board of Examiners will know the full details of the impact of the strike and will ensure that any mitigation is fair and reasonable in its decision making. The Board can also apply further mitigation if necessary. Your school will inform you of any measures as soon as they have been agreed. Your academic outcomes will be safeguarded.

If you have further concerns, contact your school office.

Extension requests for PGR students

If you are nearing your final submission deadline and your supervisor is not able to provide support on your final draft because of strike action, you may request an extension in the normal way. Extensions linked to the strike will be automatically approved for an appropriate length, considering funding body or visa requirements. This will be treated separately from any two-week extension requests allowed to cover unforeseen circumstances near the final submission deadline.

Extenuating circumstances

If any courses are affected by strike action, we will address this on a unit-by-unit basis, not via individual extenuating circumstances claims.

If you’re already in touch with your school (via a personal tutor, senior tutor, school office, wellbeing adviser etc), continue to seek their support and advice. If you believe that the current situation has exacerbated your circumstances, you should seek advice about submitting additional evidence to support your extenuating circumstances through your school or department. This will ensure that the Board of Examiners are fully aware and can act accordingly.

All students can access our online wellbeing resources or get in touch with wellbeing support.

Student complaints

Withholding fees

Tuition fees

Student fees cover all aspects of the provision to students (not just a ‘cost per class’) and are based on delivery of the overall learning outcomes for students in any given programme. These education outcomes are delivered and accessed in a variety of ways. They also contribute to other areas including, pastoral, social and extracurricular provision, buildings, facilities, research, technology and software and libraries. If you withhold tuition fees, then you will not be able to graduate while the debt is outstanding. We would follow our standard processes to pursue payment.

Residential fees

Residential fees are not the same as tuition fees; they may include all gas, electricity and water rates, plus internet and a bus pass. If payment for residences is withheld, we will put in place our standard measures to enforce repayment. You will still be able to graduate.

Raising concerns

We aim to resolve complaints informally wherever possible, so before making a formal complaint, contact your school office to find out what mitigations have been put in place for any lost teaching/education, or to find out when the mitigations are likely to be known. We may not be able to advise you about mitigations immediately as first, we will assess the impact the industrial action has had, which may take some time.

Formal complaints

If you have contacted your school and found out what mitigation is, or will be put in place, and you feel that your concern or complaint cannot be resolved by the school, please complete the Industrial Action Complaint form. If you have further queries about the complaints process, email uob-ia-complaints@bristol.ac.uk so we can help you. 

Formal complaints will be considered in accordance with the usual timelines as set out in the Student Complaints Procedure (PDF, 179 KB).

You can also seek independent support from the SU's Academic Advice service

Academic appeals

Appeals should be submitted in the normal way after notification of an Examination Board outcome in accordance with the provisions of Sections 10 and 11 of the Examination Regulations (PDF, 265 KB).  Under the Examination Regulations, you can graduate if you have an appeal outstanding.

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