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Claire Buchanan’s email to all staff 12 Feb 2018 regarding industrial action

Important: UCU industrial action

Dear colleague

This is an important message for all staff about industrial action being planned by UCU (University and College Union) but it is particularly important that UCU members read it.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has a significant deficit and UCU are in dispute about proposed changes aimed at recovering the shortfall and achieving a sustainable scheme for the future. National-level talks are continuing and more information about the proposals and the potential impact on pensions can be found on the UUK website.

Following a successful ballot in January 2018, UCU has now asked its members to initiate discontinuous strike action on the following days:

    22, 23 February
    26, 27, 28 February
    5, 6, 7, 8 March
    12, 13, 14, 15, 16 March

In addition, continuous action short of strike will also commence on 22 February and will terminate no later than 19 June 2018. The action short of strike will consist of working to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action and not undertaking voluntary duties.

We are writing to all staff because we need to let everyone know about the industrial action; we do not know which staff are UCU members and we do not know which UCU members will decide to take part in the action. We also need to seek to minimise the impact of the action on our students and we need to make sure that UCU members who are considering taking part in the action are aware of the consequences of breaching their contracts of employment.

Only members of UCU are legally entitled to take part in the proposed strike action and action short of strike. If you are a member of UCU and you are considering participation in the industrial action, please read the following carefully because it relates to your pay.

If you are a member of UCU and you intend to strike or take action short of a strike:

We regard this action called by UCU as going to the heart of the contract of employment for academic and other staff involved in student learning and teaching, and it therefore affects the fundamental duties of such staff. The action has the potential to have a serious adverse effect on our students and the reputation of our institution. We also consider that this impact would increase over time, particularly if the action continues for several weeks.

We have been advised to inform you that the University will not accept the partial performance of the contract of any member of staff and that it is the policy of the University to withhold pay from staff who participate in industrial action. If you decide to take part in the strike you will be in breach of your contract and you will consequently not be entitled to your contractual pay for the dates you participate in the action. Where a breach does occur, the University has the right withhold 100% of pay, at a daily rate of 1/365th of annual salary, and we reserve the right to do so.

In the case of action short of strike, and in the interest of trying to minimise the impact on our students, we have determined that we will initially withhold less than 100%. We will instead withhold 25% of pay at a daily rate of 1/365 of annual salary from the date on which the individual begins to take part in the industrial action short of a strike. The payment of the remaining 75% of salary is discretionary and is conditional on all other contractual responsibilities and attendance commitments being met.

As stated above, we reserve the right to increase the percentage withheld up to 100% and we will periodically review the effect of the action on our students. We may, at institutional level, decide to increase the level of pay withheld if it is judged that the action is having an even more serious effect. Staff members, either individually or collectively, will be advised if and when this is the case and the level of any increased deduction that will be made.

Employer and employee pension contributions during strike action

Please note that the University will need to know if you are taking part in industrial action before the industrial action starts in order to ensure that we have your agreement that you wish to continue to pay your USS employee contributions whilst on strike. The University has agreed to maintain employer contributions but can only do so if the employee maintains their contribution. The alternative is that you are just covered for death in service and incapacity retirement whilst taking strike action. Please inform us by emailing industrial-action-response@bristol.ac.uk no later than noon on 21 February of any days that you intend to take strike action. We can then make the necessary arrangements for cover. Thank you.

If you intend to take industrial action, please notify HR by emailing industrial-action-response@bristol.ac.uk and making clear:

    your name and School;
    that you are confirming that you will be/are taking part in industrial action or action short of a strike;
    from what date your participation in the action will start;
    the forms of action you will be involved in.

Please remember that although the pay to be withheld for taking part in a strike or in action short of a strike may relate to one or more particular month’s payroll run, it may not be possible to process adjustments to pay by the payroll cut-off point for that month. This means that the proportion of pay withheld may fall into the subsequent month and, due to the proposed implementation of the new ERP system in April 2018, may be later than the subsequent month.

Any individual who takes part in the action being called by UCU and, at a later stage, decides to resume working normally should email industrial-action-response@bristol.ac.uk immediately. The normal contractual salary would then be reinstated from the date on which return to normal working occurs. Pay withheld will not be reinstated.

It is with considerable regret that I write this letter, but I hope you appreciate that the University must respond to the UCU action to mitigate the impact of the planned action on students and the University. It is also important that UCU members are made aware of the implications for them if they take part.

We will be setting up a website to keep you up to date. If you have any queries about this letter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Claire Buchanan
Director of Human Resources