1) Relationships Policy
The University are currently trying to introduce a new Sexual Misconduct or Relationships Policy. Campus unions have objected to the wording of the Staff-Staff Relationship section of the Policy. Bristol UCU reps, for example, consider the current draft to place too much of a burden on staff to report an ‘intimate relationship’ when it is not materially relevant.
Existing University Conflict of Interest Regulations spell out when a staff member should recuse themselves from a decision-making process – such as promotion, remuneration, discipline or grievance – if they are in an intimate relationship (a family member; in a sexual relationship) with a member of staff party to that process.
Properly policed, and perhaps with other examples of employment-related processes for clarity added to the Regulations, there are grounds enough to prevent any intimate relationship prejudicing work-related decision-making. In the present Relationships Policy draft, there is an emphasis on reporting an intimate relationship because of the very fact of the intimate relationship. Bristol UCU reps cannot support. Staff have a right to a private life.
2) Branch Meeting, Wednesday, 3rd October, Enderby Room, Physics Building, 13:00-14:00 & University USS Sessions
Date for the diary: all Bristol UCU members are invited to a branch meeting on Wednesday, 3rd October in the Enderby Room, Physics Building, 13:00-14:00 to a) discuss the Joint Evaluation Report (JEP) on the USS valuation (see below for more details), to b) elect delegates to the UCU Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC) in Manchester called to discuss UCU’s response to the JEP and to c) raise other pressing matters of business – for example, the current Get The Vote Campaign for the Pay and Equality Ballot.
Nominations for HESC delegates are open. We currently have two nominees: Lucy Langley-Palmer (Equality Officer) and Jamie Melrose (Branch Secretary). Bristol UCU has three delegate places in total.
Please note the University’s USS sessions, starting next week with a session, Tuesday 25th September, 12.15 – 13.45 , E29, Biomedical Sciences Building.
3) After the USS JEP Report
Members may have noted the publication of the Joint Evaluation Panel (JEP) report. The JEP was ‘charged with examining the contested USS valuation and the alleged £7.5 billion deficit, the main driver for current detrimental proposals to our USS pension benefits and contributions’, following UCU members’ vote to suspend industrial action and set up the JEP before the summer. To download the full report and/or the executive summary, please go to ‘Report of the Joint Expert Panel’:
UCU and Bristol UCU branch officers welcome the JEP report. UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt welcomed ‘the JEP’s proposal that the valuation should be adjusted’. She was ‘also encouraged that the panel now wishes to look in detail at alternative methods for future valuations. There is no doubt that we have come a long way from this time last year when we faced plans to impose a defined contribution benefit package that would have seen some members lose around £200,000 in retirement’.
There are many positives in the Report. many a picket line talking point therein. The JEP Report points out that the infamous Test 1 has had too important a role, it further notes that USS is a unique, multi-employer scheme with a long-term ‘strong future – hardly in crisis – and criticises the disreputable USS employers’ consultations: these ‘produced misleading results’.
Critically, the Report calls for a re-evaluation of the USS pension scheme, and recommends an interim way forward based on the September (not November) USS valuation: a 3.2% rise in contributions (2.1% employer; 1.1% employee) and maintenance of existing benefit package (except for 1% DC employer match). This deal is materially a much better deal than both the ‘Defined Contribution or nothing’ offer of January this year and the current steep rise in contributions starting April 2019.
One member wrote to Bristol UCU officers ‘… it would appear that the action was fully justified …strikers should not be penalised for bringing benefit to the whole university (sector)’, pointing out that the University should foot the bill for an unnecessary strike – there was no USS crisis of epic proportions.
Members may want to pose such a question at one of the University’s USS sessions!
4) Gender Pay Claim Negotiations & November ‘Women Work For Free’ Day
As promised in last week’s Newsflash, please read the Bristol UCU statement/blog post on the current state of our Gender Pay Claim Negotiations:
Another date for the diary: this 1st of November is a very significant date; it’s the date on which the University of Bristol effectively stops paying women, as a result of the 16.2% gender pay gap across the institution as a whole.
We will be marking the occasion with an evening event celebrating women working at the University. Poetry, performance and…pay gap chat promised. If anyone is interested in helping to organise this event please get in touch with email@example.com
5) Democracy Commision
Don’t forget to vote: members should have received an email yesterday titled ‘UCU – University College Union – Democracy Commission Election’ from ‘Online Voting <firstname.lastname@example.org>’